A deposition can be one of the most significant elements of a lawsuit, dispute, or resolution. If you’re charged with conducting a deposition, you may feel nervous, anxious, or uncertain of how to proceed. However, with the right preparation, you can seize the opportunity and get the results you desire.
5 Tips for a Proper Deposition
The thought of conducting your first deposition is enough to induce anxiety in even the most confident individual. It’s especially nerve-wracking for someone who isn’t a lawyer. (But even if you are an attorney, you probably didn’t receive a ton of deposition training in law school. It’s simply not something that gets a lot of focus.)
However, it’s something you can get better with over time. Here are a few tips to help you get better results the first time around:
1. Prepare in Advance
“It goes without saying that young litigators are workhorses, who usually know the case details inside and out,” American Bar Association mentions. “But, prior to a deposition, it’s important to reexamine key discovery, study your file thoroughly, and consider any facts that may require additional development through testimony. Additionally, it is helpful to consider your case strategy as you prepare. Your theory of the case will help to guide your course of questions.”
Preparation is obviously important. Once you think you’ve prepared enough, spend another two or three days preparing more. And then, when you’re finally convinced that you’re ready, another day of preparation should help you get to where you need to be.
2. Choose the Right Court Reporters
When conducting a deposition, you have to choose a court reporter to help document the deposition and make it official. And while there’s a wide cost spectrum, try not to base your entire decision on cost.
“A cheaper court reporting firm isn’t such a cost-saving measure when they leave attorneys scrambling for specific deposition services,” The Cooper Group explains. “Choose a firm that offers the services you and your clients require at a fair price. A reputable firm will provide an open and honest fee structure upfront – quickly, not within days.”
The best way to find a good court reporter is to ask around. Referrals and word of mouth are great for helping you form a shortlist of candidates.
3. Use the Right Questioning Strategy
The bulk of your preparation should revolve around developing a questioning strategy. In addition to asking the right questions, you need to be smart about your ordering of the questions.
Experts agree that it’s best to start off with some “softball” questions to help the witness (and you) calm the nerves. This may include simple questions about education, employment, family life, etc. You can then lay the groundwork for the deposition by asking basic questions that set the stage for the most important ones.
If possible, save the most important questions for the “witching hour” – or the time at which witnesses get exhausted and let down their guard. If you start a deposition in the morning, the witching hour typically comes around 4 p.m.
4. Follow All Court Rules
Make sure you conduct thorough research on all applicable court rules regarding depositions. This may include rules about how long you can question a witness, when objections are allowed, how many people can be present in the room, who can ask questions, etc. A failure to follow these rules could render the deposition inadmissible in a court of law.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
If you’ve never conducted a deposition before, practice is your best resource. You should practice mock depositions over and over again, until you feel like you can do it in your sleep. It’s best to practice with a variety of mock witnesses, including ones who are brash and uncooperative.
Learn From the Experience
Your first deposition will come with quite the learning curve. However, if you make it a point to learn from the experience, you’ll discover that the second and third depositions are considerably easier.
To get the most out of the experience, take notes, ask for help, gather feedback, and look for important areas where you can improve. It won’t take long before you can claim a degree of expertise.