Taking a deposition may not be as easy as you think. Successful attorneys always learn about deposition best practices before they make their first appearance. The golden rule to remember is that depositions always take time to prepare. Lawyers normally spend three hours for every one hour of work at the session room. So, give yourself ample time to be truly ready for your appearance. However, make sure that your client has realistic expectations and does not get a shock when he/she sees your invoice.
Preparation Starts with Research
Before you even start formulating your outline and questions, be sure to read, read and read. You need to know the key legal points and “critical” documents you need to use at the trial. While you are reviewing the documents, you can make notes like what kind of objections the opponent can raise against these documents.
Knowing the facts of the case is as important as knowing the letter of the law. When you are already at the deposition session, you can stop the witness from tricking you when you show knowledge of the case. For example, instead of asking “where did you work?”, you can ask “did you work at a law office, Mr. Jones?” Or instead of asking “how long did you work?”, you can ask “did you work for seven years, Mr. Jones?”. Mr. Jones will be less like to avoid the answers if he sees that you are aware of the facts.
Outlines are Good, but Maybe Dangerous
When you prepare for your session, normally you write an outline to cover all the topics that you need to raise. A good outline gives structure to your deposition and ensures that you don’t miss out anything.
However, experienced lawyers suggest avoiding writing questions. Naturally, you want to sound sharp with ready-made questions, but there is a danger to that. Rather than listening to the answer of the witness and addressing a follow-up question, there may be a temptation to read out your next question. Such a strategy prevents from getting into in-depth interrogation, and many questions that could be raised on the spot are left out.
Experienced attorneys suggest writing a thin outline rather than in-depth questions. For example, instead of writing “What time did you meet Mr. Jones?”, you’d better jot down “time: Mr. Jones: meeting”. You can formulate the question the way you want right at the session without the fear of missing anything.
Having said that, you should not underestimate outlines. You can take a break during the deposition session to see if you have covered everything. The natural flow of the interrogation may have taken you far away, and you may have missed important information. Taking a break and reviewing the outline is a good strategy.
Deposition Best Practices: Prepare Your Client
Deposition is a big shock for a lot of people especially if they have no prior litigation experience. It is a good idea to speak to them and explain the discovery process and the process of the deposition itself. Explain that he or she will be put under oath and that the truth is what is expected from him or her.
Act Naturally at the Session
When you are at the session, the most important thing is to be natural. If you have done all the preparation and know the case fully, you have done most of the work. Now you need to take the lead and keep on doing your job with full confidence.
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