Less Stress, More Success: 8 Strategies for Effective Probation, Parole or Pretrial Court Testimony

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If you work as a probation, parole or pretrial services officer, one of your core job duties may be testifying in court. For those unfamiliar with a judicial court environment, the concept of having to provide court testimony can be terrifying. But there’s no need to dread court appearances. With a little preparation and coaching in court etiquette, you can minimize stress and find more success whenever court testimony is necessary.

8 Tips for Stress-Free and Successful Court Testimony

1. Maintain a professional appearance/demeanor— When testifying in court, you will be interacting with other judicial professionals, including the presiding judge and prosecutor and defense attorneys. Demonstrate that you are a professional by wearing appropriate business clothing (business suits are normally best). Leave your casual clothing and flashy jewelry at home. Address the presiding judge as ‘Your Honor’ and use appropriate titles for all other court officers.
2. Leave your street English/slang at the door— Avoid using slang words, profanity or incorrect grammar during your court testimony and any related interactions with court officials. The only exception is if you are directly quoting a conversation. Keep your language formal, explicit and concise.
3. Preparation is key— Do not head to court without completing the proper preparation. Take some time to review your file prior to the hearing so that you will be able to answer any questions asked of you. Remember that all testimony is under oath, so you should not guess if you do not have the answer to a question. Consult your file if you can quickly find an answer to the question (it may be a good idea to tag areas of the file that you may have to reference) or ask if you can report back on that issue after reviewing your paperwork. Worst case scenario, respond honestly by saying you are unsure about the answer to that question.
4. Remember KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)— When you get nervous, it’s common to start talking excessively. Make sure to only answer the question asked and nothing more. Keep answers short, clear and relevant. Resist the urge to volunteer information or veer off-topic by over explaining. Speak only when you are spoken to and do not interrupt others in the courtroom.
5. Just be natural and be yourself— Don’t feel the need to put on airs or act unnatural. Take comfort and find confidence in the fact that you are likely the most knowledgeable person when it comes to your client’s file and that’s what matters.
6. Don’t let your ego get the best of you— Remember the confidence that we just mentioned? Well, don’t let it go to your head. Just because you may be the most knowledgeable individual regarding your client’s probation file does not mean you are an expert on everything. Don’t allow your desire to be correct lead you down the road to losing your objectivity and neutrality.
7. Be proactive about problems— Did you find a problem in your client’s file? Don’t wait until the court hearing to bring it up. Disclose any potential issues you may find in the file prior to the hearing. Remember no one likes surprises or having their time wasted by having to dismiss and reschedule a court hearing. Do your due diligence to avoid any potential snags or delays.
8. Take a chill pill— Check your emotions and subjectivity at the door. The court is no place for feeling insulted or getting offended. Refuse to take anything personal that is asked or said by an attorney or judge. Allowing yourself to be provoked will cause you to lose your credibility and objectivity on the stand, which could compromise your client’s case and make future court hearings even more difficult. Remember that you may interact with the same judicial professionals repeatedly, so strive to be even-keeled, courteous and composed during all interactions.

Less Stress = More Success

As you become more comfortable with testifying in court, adhering to the strategies presented here will become more innate. Reducing the stress and anxiety caused by having to provide court testimony will allow you to experience a higher level of productivity and success during court hearings. As your testimonial skills improve, you will find yourself being regarded as a vital and well-respected professional participant in the judicial process.

Make sure to bookmark this helpful blog post for future reference and to share it with others who may find it useful.

Have you ever had to provide court testimony? How did it go?
What did you learn from the experience?

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