5 Essential Corporate Representative Qualities
The role of a corporate representative is to speak on behalf of the company, acting as the organization's face and voice during legal proceedings. However, picking the right corporate representative can often be difficult for both in-house and trial counsel. Companies need someone strong, knowledgeable, and well-trained to thwart a plaintiff attorney’s attack on the defendant’s policies, procedures, and internal correspondence at deposition.
Often, the individual many may see as the “most knowledgeable” is frequently not the best witness at deposition. To have the best chance at selecting the right corporate representative to testify on behalf of the company, look for these five essential corporate representative qualities.
Which corporate representative qualities are most valuable during testimony?
Attributes such as humility, patience, emotional poise, confidence, open-mindedness, and focus are valuable for individuals serving as corporate representatives. When a corporate representative displays these essential qualities, they will likely be well-equipped to successfully navigate the challenges of deposition and trial testimony.
A corporate representative must feel comfortable saying, "I don't know," when faced with questions outside their designated scope. Generally, when selecting a corporate representative, a company would receive a list of specific designated topics from opposing counsel and choose an individual who could confidently speak on those topics. However, it’s not uncommon for opposing counsel to attempt to elicit information beyond that scope, encouraging the witness to begin to speculate or assume, potentially damaging the case.
While a representative should be knowledgeable about the specific topics they were chosen to speak on, they should not feel compelled to have all the answers, and they should understand the boundaries of their knowledge and have the humility to admit when they lack information.
Rushing to answer opposing counsel’s questions can easily lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or even falling into a trap. Instead, a corporate representative should be the type of self-possessed person who can remain calm and composed as they wait for the questioner to finish and then be able to process the question and think about it carefully before responding. By taking a moment or more to process the question, the corporate representative can provide more accurate and considered responses, contributing to a stronger case.
#3: Emotional Poise
Legal proceedings can be emotionally charged, and opposing counsel may frequently attempt to provoke emotional reactions in a witness. An effective representative must remain composed and not let their emotions cloud their judgment or responses. Witnesses make many mistakes that stem from them becoming frustrated or upset. Often, when a witness gets flustered, they start wanting to explain, and this can cause them to appear argumentative during their testimony. Whether dealing with anger, frustration, or confusion, maintaining emotional poise can ensure that the witness testimony proceeds smoothly.
A confident representative is less likely to pivot, evade questions, or become defensive during a deposition. Rather than manifesting as arrogance, confidence in a corporate representative should look like the ability to stand firm and have confidence in their intellectually honest and accurate answer, even when being questioned aggressively by opposing counsel. Corporate representatives need to have the confidence to say, “I disagree.” “It depends.” or “That is correct.” despite opposing counsel often being skeptical of the response. A confident witness can provide straightforward answers and maintain the credibility of their statements.
A corporate representative should trust the process and be receptive to training and deposition preparation. During witness training, there may be some areas that an individual may view as a waste of time. However, an open-minded individual can appreciate the process and understand that their actions are preparing them to be a more effective witness. Even if they have served as a witness previously, an open-minded approach can allow them to be receptive to feedback and constructive criticism, helping them to adapt and continuously improve their skills as a witness.
During witness preparation, distractions can abound, from phones ringing to work-related interruptions, but a lack of focus can lead to missteps, misunderstandings, and a less effective deposition. Frequently, corporate representatives are higher up in an organization, and trying to get them to stay off their phones, minimize interruptions, and block out time for training can be incredibly difficult. An effective corporate representative needs to be able to prioritize the witness training, shutting out these distractions to maintain a sharp focus on the process and the question at hand.
Selecting the right corporate representative is a critical decision that can significantly impact the outcome of a case. Courtroom Sciences knows that witness training is crucial to ensuring positive outcomes. Our neuropsychology experts evaluate and train corporate representative candidates to serve in that role, ensuring their testimony performance is well-received. Speak with one of our experts to get started.
● Attributes such as humility, patience, emotional poise, confidence, open-mindedness, and focus are valuable corporate representative qualities.
● An effective corporate representative should be comfortable admitting when they don't know the answer to a question.
● A composed corporate representative can prevent emotional mistakes.
● Confidence ensures the corporate representative can provide credible responses without evading or becoming defensive.
● Being open-minded about witness preparation, even for experienced representatives, is essential for continuous improvement.
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