If you are underprepared, you lose. Overpreparation means taking steps beyond what may be deemed necessary or reasonable. Preparing the client involves taking on an extreme (and sometimes uncomfortable) role to get your client ready with embarrassing and difficult questions that can come up in deposition or negotiation. You must expect that the opposing party knows what buttons to push and will attack relentlessly. Failing to address every aspect of your client’s potential testimony is not providing your client with the best possible representation.
As our founders and lawyers Justin and Larry say, “Try to throw as much as you can at them,” and by ‘them,’ they mean your clients. Many attorneys are nervous about going too far in order to maintain trust with their clients. However, Justin takes a different approach by warning his clients that the practice will get “ugly” for a while because overpreparation is necessary. Hard-hitting sensitive topics that clients are not ready to talk about will arise. This role-play is essential in helping clients know what to expect once they’re in the courtroom.
During deposition or negotiations, weaknesses or embarrassing topics will surface. Becoming comfortable with these situations requires thorough preparation to effectively defend them, reframe the narrative, find ways to work around them, and ultimately make peace with them.
If the client is not prepared for these topics, then it reflects poorly on you as their lawyer. Sensitive topics often arise in medical malpractice and personal injury cases such as sexual matters, illnesses, certain conditions, family history, and or any issue related to the claim.
Justin shares a story from his early years as a lawyer during their podcast titled, “Trials and Tribulations” episode 10: (Over)Preparedness. The opposing party asked the couple he was representing If the injury had affected their sexual life. Justin objected, but it was overruled. The opposition proceeded to ask various invasive questions. Justin couldn’t believe that such questions were being asked, but they were relevant to the case. From that experience, Justin learned the importance of preparing his clients for hard-hitting questions.
“If I do this to you, which ultimately might feel abusive, in preparation for the deposition, then the real one will be a cakewalk.”
If you find a question to be even a little inappropriate or embarrassing, then that is exactly what you need to focus on because you can guarantee that your client will be prepared when the opposing counsel asks it. Make sure your client feels comfortable with these topics to facilitate a smoother deposition.
Justin and Larry talk more about role-playing techniques on their podcast, “Trial and Tribulations,” episode (Over)Preparation, and how you can implement them into your own deposition strategy. Listen to how itall went down on any of your favorite podcast streaming platforms.