Quick Tips

Pretrial Interviews for Paralegals
guest author: Jon Eric Stuebner, J.D., M.A.

Pretrial interviews provide the opportunity to determine whether a witness should be called for trial and to find out what a potential witness may be able to testify about at trial. As a paralegal, if you are conducting a pretrial interview, the attorney may be relying on your ability to get as much information as possible so the attorney can make informed decisions about the witness and what types of questions to ask at trial. The approach to pretrial interviews may vary depending on the type of witness, i.e. client, lay witness, or exert witness. Below are general tips for conducting pre-trial interviews:

  • Greet the witness in a friendly manner.
  • Interviews can be conducted in-person or by phone but in-person is preferable to observe mannerisms and facial expressions not perceivable by phone.
  • Explain who you are and why you have reached out to them.
  • Having a list of questions or topics is helpful, but don't be wedded to what's on the list.
  • Before going into your specific questions and topics, start with a very broad introduction that requires a narrative response.
  • Take notes as you listen.
  • After the witness has given their narrative, ask follow up questions like "what happened before/after that?" or "Why do you think she did that?"
  • Don't worry about asking questions that couldn't be asked at trial, you are just gathering information during the pretrial interview.
  • Start broad and then narrow in on specific topics or facts.  
  • If the potential witness references a document, ask them to provide a copy.
  • Keep an eye out for inconsistencies, and if you notice any, ask the witness to explain what you noticed.

In addition to conducting interviews for witnesses that your side intends to call, you may also be asked to conduct interviews of witnesses disclosed by the other side. It is less likely that witnesses for the other side will be willing to talk to you, but if they are, the same tips above are applicable. Always be polite when interviewing an adverse witness. You do not need permission from opposing counsel to speak with a witness that has been disclosed, but check with your attorney about whether it might be beneficial to reach out to opposing counsel before contacting adverse witnesses. You cannot force a witness to speak with you before trial, but if you are polite and friendly, you have a better chance of getting the witness to open up and talk. If an adverse is reluctant to speak with you, try appealing to their sense of justice and making sure that both sides have all the information available to help ensure the right outcome at trial.


Jon Eric Stuebner, J.D., M.A. is an attorney with Gutterman Griffiths PC. His law practice is comprised of all areas of family law, including dissolution cases, allocation of parental rights, post-decree disputes and he has become actively involved in many of the firm's appellate cases. Mr. Stuebner earned his M.A. degree in education from Regis University. He earned his B.A. degree from the University of Colorado. Mr. Stuebner earned his J.D. degree from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. While attending law school, he worked as a legal assistant for a local non-profit organization advocating for individuals with disabilities. He then joined Gutterman Griffiths as a paralegal while finishing law school. Prior to law school, he spent a number of years working as an educator in the Cherry Creek School District. Mr. Stuebner is a member of the Colorado Bar Association and has previously been a lecturer at paralegal education programs.

Institute for Paralegal Education • 1218 McCann Drive • Altoona, WI 54720 • © 2017, Institute for Paralegal Education, a division of NBI, Inc. All Rights Reserved.