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TOP TEN TIPS FOR PREPARING CLIENTS FOR ARBITRATION

Take the time to explain to your client what to expect in arbitration. Remember that this is probably the first time the client has ever been through something like this. In the client’s mind, arbitration is akin to going to court. What is routine for the lawyer, is nerve-wracking for the client. Nervous, edgy clients tend to make mistakes while testifying. This may adversely impact their credibility. You want your client to be able to make their very best “appearance” as a witness.

Take the time to go over the complaint (or answer) allegations with your client. All too often, clients have no idea what their lawyers alleged on their behalf. They get very confused when they are asked on cross-examination: “Isn’t it a fact you are alleging…?” Your client should know what “their” position is before the hearing. (By going over the allegations ahead of time, you might even discover that your position varies from your client’s.)

Be sure your client has a copy of his/her deposition prior to the hearing and has reviewed it. Explain how the deposition is likely to be used by the other side’s lawyer. Prepare them for any inconsistencies in their testimony that you expect to be elicited by opposing counsel.

If you represent a client in a personal injury action, go over their medical records with them ahead of time. Be sure to point out the “problem” issues in the records that you expect to be elicited by opposing counsel.

Arrive at the hearing at least ten minutes ahead of time. Give your client the opportunity to settle in and get used to the surroundings before the hearing starts. If you arrive late or right when the hearing is scheduled to begin, you have not only inconvenienced the arbitrator but you have also flustered your client right from the start. Remember, you want your client to be able to make their very best “appearance” as a witness.

Give some thought to how you position your client at the hearing. Your client’s back should not be turned to the arbitrator.

Instruct your client to direct their testimony to the arbitrator as much as possible. Eye contact is important for establishing credibility.

Be sure your client understands that engaging in a verbal battle with opposing counsel during cross-examination will not inure to their benefit.

Advise your client to stop testifying if opposing counsel raises an objection. Explain that the arbitrator will make a ruling and the client will be advised as to whether s/he can complete their response.

Inform your client that the arbitrator may ask him/her questions. Explain that an evasive response given to a question propounded by the arbitrator is a major faux pas.

 
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