What New Attorneys Should Know About Depositions

April 26, 2019

As a new attorney entering the world of taking depositions, you’re probably anxious about your performance – asking the right questions, not mumbling, and covering all of the material you need to cover. When your client is the deponent, though, be sure to focus a great deal of your preparation time on them.

Knowledge is Power

While you’re understandably nervous about your upcoming deposition, your client (unless they’re a seasoned expert witness) is probably 10 times as nervous. Giving a deposition isn’t an everyday occurrence, and the more your client knows about the procedures, the participants, and what to expect, the more comfortable they will be.

By spending some time conducting a mock deposition with your client, you’ll both be more prepared for the big day. Your client will gain confidence and you’ll be able to see any potential pitfalls before they occur. During the mock deposition, emphasize the importance of listening closely to questions and pausing before giving the answer. Ask the client questions you expect opposing counsel to ask, even “gotcha” questions, paying attention to your client’s reaction and demeanor.

A large part of preparing your witness for their deposition is helping them understand deposition procedure. Explain that they will be placed under oath, and the process of direct and cross-examination. The witness should also understand who all of the deposition participants are and the role they play.

It’s a Trap!

You never want to hear your witness say, “Can I add to that?” The best answers are always yes, no, I don’t know, and I don’t recall – and they’re effective in avoiding traps that opposing counsel has set. Be sure to tell your client that if there are times they feel they should elaborate on a yes or no answer (and opposing counsel doesn’t ask for any clarification) that they can talk to you about the issue privately during a break in the deposition and you might revisit the issue during cross-examination.

Your client should be prepared to hear you object to opposing counsel’s questions and how to handle them.
It is crucial to stress the importance of sticking to the truth. The witness should know not to guess or reach for the answers they believe the opposing counsel wants to hear.

It Isn’t About Winning

Depositions are an opportunity for the client to tell their side of events and to discuss the facts of the case, not to win or lose. Depositions should be used to gather and share information, and your clients should be instructed to keep their answers as short and direct as possible.

It’s Not Off the Record   

Your client should know that nothing surrounding a deposition is off the record. This includes any conversations or interactions you or your client may have with opposing counsel or their client before or after the deposition. They should know that anything they say or do can be used by opposing counsel to craft their case or present it during trial.

The Bottom Line

Depositions can help clarify questions and diffuse potential challenges to your client’s claims and should never be taken lightly. Time spent preparing yourself and your client for the process will ensure a better outcome.

Call Winston-Salem Court Reporting for your next deposition in  the Piedmont Triad area.  We have experienced court reporters and legal videographers.  Remember, our conference rooms are ALWAYS free.  Call now to set up your next deposition (336) 923-7429 or book online now!