Monday 22 May 2017

'Witness preparation' a growing industry

Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Now that most of the country's biggest businessmen are fighting to save their assets and reputation in the courts, a new industry in "witness preparation" has sprung up around commercial litigation.

The huge increase in caseloads at the Commercial Court has seen many former directors and executives going into the witness box to dispute who is to blame for the failure of their business ventures -- and who is going to pick up the bill.

"Very often the outcome of these cases can depend on the integrity and evidence of one or two witnesses," said communications expert Rory Egan. "For those who have to give evidence it's a daunting prospect -- and not knowing what you're doing in the witness box can cost you dearly," he said.

Mr Egan, the son of former Supreme Court judge Seamus Egan, is now running a 'witness preparation course' through Limelight Communications.

"Companies that used to do media training for key executives are now taking these courses, knowing that key people will end up as witness in commercial or employment disputes," he said.

"We bring witnesses through the best way to present a story and help them judge for themselves what unnecessary detail is and what may be crucial evidence," he said.

"Often the most crucial part of your case is your own witnesses's time in the stand. If that goes badly, you're always struggling," said senior counsel Joe Revington.

He doesn't agree with the American way of "coaching" witnesses, but does believe that preparation is very important.

"How can we, in all conscience, allow a client be cross-examined by a seasoned professional barrister without any preparation whatsoever? No matter how strong your case is, it just doesn't make any sense," Mr Revington said.

Mr Egan has trained CEOs, consultants, politicians, public servants, senior counsel and solicitors.

Sunday Independent

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