By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
A significant chunk of a witness's preparation for deposition is going to be case-specific, and an even larger portion should focus on direct practice. But at least some of it will nearly always involve conveying the basic principles of good testimony: the do's and don't's that apply to all deponents. To handle that basic and common phase of the preparation process, a new company is offering a quick online course. The Perfect Witness allows attorneys to register online, and then send invitations to a witness to complete a video course laying out the basic deposition rules and providing examples of good and bad communication behaviors. The attorney is able to check whether witnesses have completed the roughly 60-minute, eight-segment series, and can see how they did on the comprehension checks that appear after each segment.
The site has been mentioned recently in a couple of high-profile blogs. Robert Ambrogi's LawSites blog post titled "Website Promises to Prep Your Witnesses for You" suggests that the idea is good in theory, but notes that there are other resources available for free on YouTube. Scott Greenfield in his Simple Justice blog is considerably more hostile to the idea, calling it "a gimmick" and a purported "magic bullet video." Because Ambrogi says he hasn't seen the video, and it seems likely that Greenfield hasn't either, I decided to reach into the Persuasion Strategies coffers to pony up the $119 to check it out. After viewing it, I can say the skepticism isn't warranted. The video series is clear, extremely well-executed, and effective in quickly but thoroughly covering nearly all of the basics I typically share with an inexperienced deponent. No gimmicks involved. Ambrogi's title notwithstanding, the video also includes the clear advice for deponents to not just rely on an understanding of the rules, but to practice with their own lawyer as well. Unlike the free resources on the internet, The Perfect Witness allows attorneys to check the witness's completion, and unlike a DVD, the online resource adds interaction by embedding multiple-choice and true/false questions along the way.
After going through all eight segments (and getting a perfect score on the questions, I might add) I am ready to endorse The Perfect Witness. As long as a few commonsense rules are followed -- like not using the training as a substitute for in-person meetings -- the online training resource is a solid and useful addition to any litigator's or consultant's toolbox.