Be a good expert witness.

Tips for Testifying

CPAs often act as expert witnesses, testifying in court or in a deposition. The key to being perceived as a credible expert witness is to be prepared. For example, a CPA who testifies should be well versed in the opposing experts analysis, able to state opinions in a clear and concise manner and trained to answer only the questions asked. The following advice will help you be a better expert witness.


Spend enough time with your sides attorney to prepare adequately for your testimony.

For court, dress conservatively and in accordance with local custom.

Make sure you are well-rested and alert.

Be prepared to say when, how and why you were engaged in the matter.

Be able to state the number of hours you have spent on the matter to date, including the fees that have been billed.

Be prepared to provide the names of any client personnel you interviewed to obtain information.

At a deposition, say that your opinion may change, prior to testifying at the trial, pending receipt of additional information, the testimony of others and rulings by the judge.


Be ready to enumerate your credentials as an expert in your field.

Tell the truth, no matter what.

Act naturally—be yourself.

Maintain your composure. Be polite, but not deferential.

Answer with words, not gestures.

Face the judge or jury when responding, not the examiner.

Consider all remarks to be on the record.

Listen carefully to each question.

Take your time and think before answering.

Read thoroughly the document about which the examiner is asking a question.

Say "I dont know" if unsure of an answer.

Respond only to questions, not statements.

If necessary, tell the examiner that you will respond only to appropriate questioning and not to shouting or abusive language.

Ask for clarification if unsure of the meaning of the question. Ask that a question be restated if it is long, confusing or unclear.

Look out for catch-all questions. Ask the examiner to separate questions requiring multiple answers.

Keep the key issues of the case in mind at all times.

Clearly articulate the basis for your opinion when asked.

State conclusions based on adequate information; otherwise, say that the analysis is incomplete.

Let any requests for specific details come from the examiner.

Respond to a hypothetical question only if the grounds on which it is based are reasonable and realistic, and indicate that your answer, too, is hypothetical and based on assumptions that may differ from the facts.

Source: William E. Simpson, CPA, JD, Simpson & Co., LLP, Los Angeles.


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