A deposition is used to obtain pre-trial sworn testimony from potential witnesses in a lawsuit as part of the discovery process. A lawyer will usually lead the deposition in question-answer format to gather necessary information for the case. Testimony can provide the basis for trial, or may even lead straight to a settlement. Because of the importance of a deposition, the lawyer and witness should be as prepared as possible. Below are some tips to keep in mind when approaching a deposition.
- Determine Goals
Before the deposition, determine your expectations of the witness. You should begin the deposition by listing what you want the witness to admit or provide information about. A complex case with more facts may require an expansive list.
- Ask Questions in a Clear Manner
When questioning the witness, you should be clear and specific about what exactly you are asking. A court reporter such as the court reporter San Francisco locals are familiar with are logging everything verbatim. Your goal is to make it easy for the witness to provide a direct answer. Using a double negative question or asking multiple questions in one can create confusion. This can cause an unclear and confusing response. Try and keep the questions short and direct to produce the most effective answers.
- Listen Closely
It’s important that a lawyer listens closely to a witness’s response. Sometimes a witness may not fully answer a question, or may leave out vital information. Try and determine any missing or new information, as well as any weaknesses presented by the witness or in their answers.
- Avoid Excessive Information
During a deposition, a lawyer reads documents, and other information regarding the case, to the witnesses. Sometimes the information read can be excessive, taking up too much time. This can be an issue for all parties involved if time is limited. Instead, it would be efficient to pick out key points of a document to read off. Direct information, questions and answers are likely to result in an overall more effective and efficient deposition.
- Answer clearly and honestly
Your answers in a deposition have a huge impact on the entire case, especially because they will often be used if the case goes to trial. Even if by accident, if you are not careful with how you answer a question, your answers can be deemed as inconsistent testimony, and ruin your credibility in the case. It is, therefore, extremely important to answer as clear as possible, and with complete honesty. Remember, you are under oath, even in a deposition.
- Don’t Rush Your Answers
Because a deposition can cause a lot of pressure and be a very emotional experience, it is common for witnesses to blurt out an answer. Nervous and impulsive responses can be harmful to your testimony. Following a question, it is advised to take a moment to carefully think over the question and your response.
- Avoid Speculation
Questions in a deposition may require speculation, assumptions or guessing. If you cannot answer a question with certainty, it is okay to answer with ‘I don’t know.’ Conjecture in a deposition can ruin credibility, especially if it is wrong, because then you may be deemed unreliable by the opposing lawyer. Even a correct assumption can reduce the credibility of the statement.
- Practice and Prepare
The best way to avoid mistakes in a deposition is to have a practice deposition beforehand. You can review questions that might be asked and rehearse the way in which you will answer them. When doing so, you should practice pausing after every question, as well as keeping composure throughout the entirety of the deposition. Practice is the best way to build confidence, which is vital to a successful testimony.
Thanks to authors at Capital Reporting Company for their insight into Deposition.