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The secret to asking questions like a lawyer.

Posted by Andrew Segal | Sep 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

A good lawyer can question someone until they're beaten like an egg.

The secret is that we are really not asking questions at all.

What we are doing, is telling our story but using a person who may not agree with us to do so.

We do this by making a series of statements that the person needs to agree with.

Let me give you an example from a drunk driving case.

Here the officer testified he believed the accused person is guilty of drunk driving in part because the person did not successfully perform the " walk the line test."

Officer, your testimony is that in trying to determine if my client was intoxicated, you asked him to walk a line.

There was no actual line on the pavement.

You asked him to walk an imaginary line.

And the line you imagined may not be the same line, my client imagined.

So, while my client may have been stepping off of the line you imagined in your head, he may have been staying on the line he imagined in his head.

If you listened carefully to what I did, you would notice, I wasn't asking questions. I was making statements the witness had to agree with. The only thing that made it sound like a question was the inflection in my voice.

Now that you know the secret, let me give you the three rules you need to accomplish this technique.

Once you get the basics down, it is not difficult.

The three rules are as follows:

First, make statements you know the other person must agree with.

This is probably the hardest part of the technique. Just think carefully about what you're going to ask in advance so as to make sure you're asking questions the person must agree with.

 Second, you need to have specific goals for your questions.  For example, this could be something like establishing someone is biased. It could be they couldn't see things well enough to give an accurate description.

Your goal will depend on what you're trying to accomplish but, it's critical to know where you want to go with the questions and what you're trying to prove...

Let's face it, if you have no idea where you're going, how will you know if you got there?

So be sure to make statements that are leading to whatever goal you have set

The third rule is to make sure that you have no more than one fact per statement. For example, you wouldn't ask "Did you have a red ball?" You would ask "Did you have a ball?" "Was the ball red? 

There are three reasons we limit questions to one fact question.

Number one we want to control the person in question.

Number two we want to make sure that if that person doesn't agree with what we're trying to get them to say, we have limited our damage to just that one question. Hopefully, we can have an opportunity to repair any damage 

Number three if you ask “questions” that have multiple facts and the person doesn't agree with you, you won't know what they're not agreeing with.

So, it's better to ask questions and only one fact in them: 

You had an object. 

That object was round.

The object was spherical.

That object was used in games.

The object was something that was tossed back-and-forth.

Most people call that object a ball.

By limiting questions to one fact, we are maintaining control and better able to keep people from varying from the script we want them to follow. 

About the Author

Andrew Segal

Andrew Segal is a former prosecutor who now represents the accused as a criminal defense attorney in Huntsville, Alabama area courts. Andrew graduated cum laude from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 1982. During his time at Washington College of Law at American University, he discovered hi...

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