Have you heard of witness training (also known as familiarisation) courses in construction disputes? For our colleagues practising in the UK it's commonplace however it's really only just starting to gain traction in Australia with the entry of Loquitur to the local market.
The witness training and familiarisation courses are pitched at experts and lay witnesses who are earmarked to take the stand in high stakes litigation. Witness training/familiarisation courses are independent courses that aim to, as the name suggests, familiarise witnesses with the various subtleties of what to expect when their day in the stand arrives. Loquitur, through experienced barrister trainers who are separate to the facts and matters of the proceedings themselves, teach prospective witnesses on court processes and procedures, and using mock scenarios, cross-examine prospective witnesses and assess their performance under pressure. All valuable information and practice for a witness who has never been in the box or seen the strategies deployed by counsel in cross-examination. The training also gives witnesses some techniques of their own to use to counter those used by advocates in cross-examination, and enables witnesses to most effectively deliver their own evidence.
Construction disputes can be mightily complex, often involving numerous expert and lay witnesses and various parties, depending on the issues in dispute. Typically the programming and quantum experts are accustomed to appearing as an expert witness in court hearings. On the other hand, technical experts often usually have a more discrete remit and therefore have often had less exposure to court process compared to the programming and quantum experts. Lay witnesses equally have rarely appeared in a court room and are an obvious choice for the witness familiarisation program.
This service complements what is offered by a party's retained counsel, usually done in an informal manner and at various stages leading up to a hearing and on the evidence itself. Loquitur has a curriculum and provides the structure that is sometimes lost in preparing for a hearing. Crucially, as an independent third party, Loquitur can undertake an extra degree of preparation of witnesses which cannot be done by the legal team for obvious ethical reasons. Feedback from participants is that it has been insightful and assisted with their preparation to give evidence. In bet-the-company litigation, the costs of this kind of service are a fraction of total legal spend and a fraction of what is on the line. It can also help limit reputational risk associated with high-profile executives being rigorously cross-examined in open proceedings.
Loquitur has recently been briefed on a major Supreme Court of New South Wales action in the construction context, and by various industry professionals to provide training for their experts. I predict these will be the start of many engagements for them.
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