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Testimony Is Teaching

expert testimony

It’s very easy for a testifying expert to look at an expert testimony presentation as engaging in a medieval tournament, trying to remain firmly in the saddle while the Black Knight of opposing counsel attempts to knock him or her off the horse. After all, the historic origin of the trial is trial by combat. But there is a better model.

Before finding honest employment, I was an Assistant Professor of theoretical physics at Duke University. While opposing counsel is certainly not your friend, I try to think of him or her as the intellectually aggressive kid in the back row who has studied like mad and delights in trying to make the Professor look dumb. I never viewed that kid as my audience. My audience was always the quiet kid in the front row who was interested in learning what the point was.

Testimony is teaching.

To return for a moment to the tournament analogy, you can fly the battle flags of wonderful credentials as high as you want. But it’s never just a battle of credentials. What matters is whether you can explain the essence of the issue to an audience (the jury or the court) that is not terribly interested in the fancy mathematics underlying what you have to say. But the audience is extremely interested in understanding what your analysis means. The arcana of the trade has little place in the courtroom or hearing room. Fancy jargon doesn’t do a thing for you.

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