How to calm the anxiety of a client before a trial or deposition
All the lawyers have passed, they have a case in which compensation for damages is requested and the testimony of the plaintiff is essential. You as a lawyer, you appointment, prepares and presents the various scenarios that will face in the deposition. The client indicates that he understands everything, he has no doubts and that although nervous, and he feels prepared. “I’ll just tell the truth”, his client tells him, thinking that that will be enough. There is no doubt that, very likely, it will be fine.
However, at the time of deposition or testimony, the picture is very different. Your client gets confused, answers the opposite of what is asked, does not wait for the lawyer to finish his question to answer and what he answers, and hurts him. Worse yet, it offers irrelevant information and alludes to facts that you never discussed with you.
Frustrated, you wonder what you could have done differently to make your client better. Let’s discuss some aspects that can help you prepare your client for a deposition or testimony in court.
The client’s preparation should begin by putting the important aspect of stress and anxiety in perspective. For this, it is important to talk with the client about their fears and apprehensions about what awaits them, asking about their health history and asking them directly if they feel nervous about the testimony they will offer. Asking about this information is important, because some clients are naturally anxious, while others have “ice in their veins” and uncomfortable situations do not cause them any stress. A naturally optimistic client will have a better execution than the one who is pessimistic and anxious and is predisposed to doing badly.
If your client is anxious and stressed, the first step will be to prepare him substantively for what will happen to him. This involves explaining in a general way what will happen and what will be the role of the lawyer of the other party. Explain that it is normal to be nervous. Nothing benefits the client, if it is not indicated that the event of a deposition or trial is in itself stressful and that it is normal to feel anxious. However, also tell him that there is no deposition that cannot be overcome with proper preparation.
After anticipating the stressful event…
Practice: Think about the process, not the results. When a person focuses on the process and not on the consequences, it tends to execute better. In that sense, preparation will be important. Therefore, let your client know that it is you who should be concerned about how his answers affect the case. Sometimes clients are obsessed with answering the way they understand that their lawyers want.
Go to the place where the deposition will be held: Important, if you are a plaintiff, check the deposition for your office or a place where you can take your client, prior to the deposition. If the testimony will be offered at a hearing, go with your client to the room where it will be held. The practice must be carried out in that place. The client’s anxiety can dramatically reduce if he feels comfortable or accustomed to the environment where the deposition will take place. If this is not possible, show him some video of a deposition simulation, so he can understand what will be exposed.
Before the simulation, read and discuss the lawsuit with your client, as well as any other important documents they can show you during the deposition. Anticipate the dynamics of the deposition. Explain how the questions will be asked and emphasize that time and space should be taken to answer. Also that it is valid not to remember the answer of some and that likewise it must answer; and that if he does not know any answer, he should be frank.
Finally, remember that even if you fully prepare your client and do your work “perfectly”, that is not a guarantee that your client will act or execute ideally. There are many factors that operate at the time of exposing a person to “bequeath” in this kind of event; and most of those factors are beyond your control. All you can do as a lawyer is to prepare you to take the process in an informed manner, which will reduce the risk of your client getting stuck during the process.