Recognizing the value of his insight as a seasoned counselor and litigator, LAW360.com asked SDV partner Gregory Podolak on how lawyers can best communicate with their clients. In an interesting turn, Greg suggested that sometimes the best form of communication is silence…
Attorneys who have been practicing in a certain area for many years may become complacent and assume they know precisely how cases will unfold. Unfortunately, lawyers possessing that mindset may fail to listen attentively and pursue thoughtful lines of questioning during witness interviews, experts say.
“When dealing with witnesses, whether in the informal discovery process or in the course of a deposition, you really need to understand and process what’s being said so that you can thoughtfully respond to it,” said Saxe Doernberger & Vita PC partner Greg Podolak.
Oftentimes, the most effective depositions are taken when an attorney works off a loose game plan and probes deeply into a witness’s responses, according to Podolak. Taking the time to listen to and process a witness’s statements can lead to “new, unanticipated pieces of information,” he said.
“If someone spins off and starts telling a story that may include information helpful to your case, you can’t shut that down,” Podolak said. “If you get stuck inside of a box, that can undercut your strategy.”
If a witness falls silent during an interview, an attorney may be tempted to immediately move onto the next question to avoid an awkward pause. But waiting out periods of silence can yield unexpected rewards.
“A dialogue can be like a fine wine — you have to let it breathe,” Podolak said. “You shouldn’t be afraid of silence. If you’re examining a witness, it can be silence that elicits surprising testimony.”
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Jul 08, 2016
Gregory D. Podolak