A deposition is an important part of the discovery process in lawsuits. It involves taking the sworn testimony of a potential witness in a court case. It is used to avoid surprises during trial and for the preservation of testimony while it is fresh. It may also be used to impeach a witness when their testimony is different from their original assertions. Here are some tips that lawyers and witnesses need to bear in mind during depositions.
Deposition Tips For Lawyers
- Identify What You Want to Accomplish
Begin your deposition by compiling a list of all the things you want to get from the witness. List at least five important things you need the witness to concede or admit. You can contract or expand the list based on how complex the case is and the facts involved.
- Be Clear When Questioning the Witness
As a personal injury lawyer, you should avoid asking the witness unclear or overly complex questions. Instead, be clear and concise. For instance, a question like, “You sent the letter, did you not?” can confuse the witness and could also produce an unclear answer. A confusing question results in a confusing answer.
3. Avoid Reading Too Much Information
During deposition services, lawyers spend lots of time reading out documents to witnesses. There are instances where a lawyer reads entire paragraphs from a contract only to ask their witness if they got it correctly. This wastes a lot of time for the witness, lawyers, and the client who is being represented. Instead, if time is of the essence, focus on getting to the point and asking direct questions or seeking direct answers.
- Be an Attentive Listener
Listen carefully to how the witness responds to your questions. Note whether they answered the question or whether they left something out. Be careful to note potential weaknesses and any new information.
Deposition Tips For Witnesses
- Keep Answers Clear and Honest
As a witness you need to bear in mind that you can easily ruin your credibility and your case through offering inconsistent testimony. You need to remember that if your case makes it to trial, your deposition transcripts from a court reporting company will be compared to your answers at trial.
- Take Time When Responding to Questions
Being a witness can be quite an emotional experience. Witnesses are known to blurt out a response even before the cross-examining lawyer has time to object or even before they carefully consider their response. Lawyers often encourage witnesses to pause before responding to each question.
Practice sessions are some of the best defenses against making regrettable mistakes in a deposition. To start, go through sample exhibits. Practice how you are going to respond to questions that your lawyer expects to hear from opposing counsel. Practice pausing between the end of a question and at the start of an answer. Also, practice how you are going to review documents.
- Do Not Assume, Guess, or Speculate
While this can come in handy in daily conversations, in a deposition, conjecture could ruin your credibility. If you guess wrong, the opposing lawyer might deem you to be unreliable; if you guess right, they could say it was a wild guess and this will minimize the benefit of your statement.
Summing It Up
Depositions are part of the journey towards a court trial. The way a lawyer or witness acts during a deposition is a precursor of the outcome of their case. The following tips can be helpful to lawyers and witnesses facing a deposition.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Veritext for their insight into practical deposition tips for lawyers and witnesses.