We all know that the deposition needs a good preparation phase. As it is often said, “the law is made on a lawyer’s desk.” This is true when it comes to deposition. You need to spend a lot more time reviewing the documents and doing other prep work than you spend on actual testimony. Here are some tips on how a lawyer prepares to take a deposition.
“Turn Every Goddamn Page”
As Maxwell S. Kennerly at Litigation and Trial puts it, “Real cases are won through dogged investigation and by relentlessly investigating until you have both found and turned every goddamn page.” You need to do that prior to deposition.
Do you know the applicable law? Will there be an expert involved in the case? Are there any documents at the disposal of the witness? You need to turn every page to have a clear picture in mind.
Know About the Facts
The more you know about your case, the higher are the chances that you will ask the right questions. Jot down some basic facts you already know about the case. Review the pleadings and jury instructions. Review prior discovery. Try to find out as much information about the witness prior to deposition. Public records and social media are a good source of information for a start. You may need to verify some information already claimed by the witness, like certificates or licenses.
Prepare a Good Outline
If you don’t prepare an outline, you will never see the picture from the bottom to the top. This is when you put down what you have discovered on the paper. You may build your outline chronologically or by subject matter. You may use the strategy of writing all the claims and defenses in your case and listing the information that you can obtain from the witness on the topics. You may write in bullet points, identify concepts or just write topics.
Yet, your outline should be flexible. You should be able to shape it according to the situation any time at the deposition when unexpected issues arise. Avoid keeping to outline at the expense of natural flow of events. You may ask for a 5-minute break any time, review your outline and cover the items that were not voiced.
Deposition: Prepare Some Basic Questions
Your role is to get as much information from the witness as possible. Asking the right questions at the right moment will help you get the most. Jotting down some questions in your outline will help you cover everything you need to know. Practice your own questions. Are you really asking what you mean? If you were the witness, how would you interpret that? When you are actually at the deposition, you need to listen more than talk.
Use Professional Judgment
No matter how many “How to” books you have read, you need to keep your mind open at the deposition. Don’t blindly rely on a set of rules that you have read somewhere. You may appear in unexpected situations that you have never known before. Keep your mind open.
Your hard work at preparation will be rewarding. Consider most of the work completed if you do diligent prep work. You may always feel anxiety when you are at the actual deposition. Having done the preparation work, however, will keep you focused so that you can effectively question the deponent. If you still need guidance, consider FindLaw’s article “Guidelines for Giving Deposition.”
And since you are interested in a deposition, here is an app that can help you find lots of deposition jobs. The web and mobile app called AppearMe has helped thousands of lawyers to post and accept deposition offers on a daily basis. The real-time on-demand app is absolutely free to join. Contact the staff for more info.