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Do’s and Don’ts of Depositions

Business people and lawyers talk and contract together. Signing of a contract in the presence of an attorney.

Depositions can make or break a case. You can elicit testimony that will get you the settlement you want, you can unearth evidence that seriously undermines your claims, or you can waste time and miss out on your chance to get the facts you need from that witness. Below, we offer some tips on what to do and what not to do in a deposition. Contact our seasoned and professional Phoenix court reporters for deposition services throughout the state of Arizona.

Do be very prepared

Depositions take time and preparation. Do not try to just “wing it,” even for what might seem like a minor witness. Deposition testimony (whether for or against your side) can be devastating to your case. Know what your witness knows ahead of time, know what you want to ask, know what information you need to elicit for your motion or case, and know what topics you want to avoid. Prepare for your responses to any objections.

Do bring documents with you

Depositions help you get focus on the case and get a handle on the most important documents for your side. Bring them to the deposition, and be prepared to respond to objections as to their admissibility. Bring at least three copies so that you do not waste time sharing documents among the parties. Having your own copy also allows you to mark it up with notes and questions, so you have a reference for points to bring up later in the deposition or after it ends. Have your exhibits labeled and tabbed so that you can find them easily when necessary. You have a limited amount of time with your witness, and you do not want to waste it shuffling for documents.

Don’t threaten to call the judge at every disagreement

Depositions are taken outside of court. While the witness is sworn in just like a court proceeding, depositions are generally less formal than in-court testimony. The judge is not present to rule on your objections, which means that your main purpose for objecting is to get your objection on the record, not to actually prevent the testimony from occurring. The judge does not want to be bothered by every little disagreement. Call the judge only where absolutely necessary to resolve a matter of some importance, or you risk turning the judge against you.

Do have an outline; don’t stick to a script

Being prepared is important, but being rigid is ineffective. Know what you want to cover, but also know that unexpected testimony can arise, a witness may say something that requires elaboration, or a witness might bring up very important information that is news to you. Be flexible and go with what happens, but still keep in mind the important points you want to cover and facts you want to get into evidence.

Do ask open-ended questions; don’t make your questions equivocal

During a deposition, you can ask open-ended questions that allow your witness to answer broadly to the best of their ability. You will get more information, and you will avoid the appearance of witness-leading or coaching. Be careful with your questions, however. Lawyers love to say things like “You didn’t have to drive to the store, did you?” If the witness answers “yes,” it is now unclear whether they are saying “yes that’s correct” or “yes I had to drive to the store.” Make sure your questions naturally lead to a clear, unequivocal answer.

If you need qualified, experienced, and detail-oriented court reporting services in Arizona, contact the Phoenix offices of Ottmar & Associates at 602-485-1488.