70 / 100

What is Witness Familiarisation?

Witness familiarisation is part of the process of assisting a witness who is to provide oral evidence (also known as testimony) at court, arbitration hearings or inquiries. Often called witness training courses, witness familiarisation training courses are part of the broader witness preparation process used to help prepare witnesses to give evidence during cross examination.

Expert evidence training

Witness familiarisation is an educational and training process which helps the witness provide their trial evidence most effectively. It does this through specially designed courses which explain to witnesses what to expect when providing their evidence, and provide strategies, tips and mechanisms as to how to do this. The specialist courses also seek to practically apply these learnings through a series of rigorous mock cross examinations of the witness. In this way witness familiarisation courses help a witness overcome the nerves, stress and pressure of trial and cross examination, and to deal with the nuances and hurdles faced by those providing evidence in the courtroom.

Loquitur’s witness familiarisation training is available to expert witness and witnesses of fact (lay witnesses) who will be providing their evidence in person. The witness training provided has an emphasis on practical methods of providing evidence while in the witness box and provides an opportunity to apply those steps during repeated mock cross-examinations. Courses are specifically tailored to expert witnesses and factual witnesses.

The training courses are available to all witnesses who will be giving testimony and training is available for all types of legal forums: Court trials, arbitrations and tribunals, commissions of inquiry and investigations, and other legal (and quasi-legal) hearings.

Witness familiarisation training is available to any witnesses who will be providing testimony under cross examination. It is available to law firms and solicitors for their clients and witnesses, direct to companies and other organisations whose staff will provide witness evidence, and to members of professional bodies and organisations who regularly, or are likely to, provide evidence in court. We are able to provide training courses direct to potential witnesses, or via their company, employer, organisation or solicitors / legal team.

Witness familiarisation and training services
Strategies and tips to deliver evidence

With specialist barrister-trainers based in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, Loquitur is readily able to offer witness familiarisation courses in all of these cities. In-person courses can also be arranged by appointment throughout NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT and other Australian states and territories, and abroad. Virtual courses can also be arranged.

Witness familiarisation is best practice for hearings in similar Common Law jurisdictions, such as in England & Wales. It is also commonly conducted by lawyers and attorneys in the US, albeit with slightly different ethical boundaries compared to the English law (and Australian law) model. However, it is a recent addition to the Australian legal landscape, and Loquitur has been instrumental in bringing this innovative concept to Australia.

Expert instructors

All courses are conducted by very experienced practising local barristers. Loquitur’s barristers have undertaken the cross-examinations of many witnesses over their careers. They are also experienced educators to the legal profession, with many of them having taught advocacy courses at universities, or bar practice courses in various states in Australia, and overseas. Our trainers regularly conduct such training sessions and are uniquely well placed to provide this support and training to our candidates.
Training instructors for expert and lay witnesses
Independent and ethical instructors

Completely Independent

Loquitur and its barrister-trainer instructors are completely independent of the facts and matters of the underlying proceedings. This is essential as it ensures that there can be no suggestion of coaching of witnesses by lawyers, while still allowing us to provide rigorous instruction, advice, training and practice on cross examination techniques and strategies.

What it is not: Witness Coaching

Witness coaching is telling a witness what to say (or what not say) – in other words, telling a witness how to answer the questions asked. Witness coaching is unethical and is prohibited by the various Australian legal professional regulatory bodies and the courts. As a third party, and by ensuring that our expert trainers and instructors are wholly independent of the facts and issues of the underlying proceedings, there can be no suggestion of witness coaching by Loquitur and our courses fall safely within these strict ethical boundaries.

Such courses allow a witness’ solicitors and barristers time to focus on the issues and procedure relevant to the hearing, while allowing for additional and rigorous preparation of the witness without the risk of unethical witness coaching by the legal team.

Witness training not coaching

What it is not: Witness proofing

Witness proofing is the process whereby a witness’ lawyer (sometimes their solicitor, or often their barrister) tests the person on the evidence they will provide at court under oath. It seeks to ensure that the witness knows their evidence, and is able to respond intelligently to challenges to their evidence. Witness proofing requires a detailed understanding of the facts and issues of the relevant case on behalf of both the lawyer, and the witness.

Witness familiarisation complements, rather than replaces, the witness proofing process by the solicitor or barrister. It allows witnesses to undergo a series of detailed, exacting and rigorous simulated cross examination in addition to the witness proofing by their legal team, without the risk (either real or perceived) of witness coaching.

How is witness familiarisation different from unethical witness coaching?