Four Tips on Taking a Successful Deposition
You have the date chosen, the court reporter selected, and the conference room booked for your upcoming deposition. Now it’s time to ensure that you’re as prepared as possible to conduct your deposition. Below you’ll find some guidelines on eliciting helpful testimony at your upcoming deposition.
- Figure out your goals for the deposition: In theory, depositions are interviews in which the witness gives complete and accurate answers to all your questions. In practice, this isn’t often the case. Before you craft the outline and questions you plan to ask, determine what would be the ideal and realistic result of the deposition. Are you attempting to show inconsistencies in the deponent’s story? Do you want to show the judge and jury that the witness is stonewalling and withholding facts they clearly know? Do you believe that the witness’s credibility is questionable, and want testimony you can use to impeach them at trial? Use your ultimate goal as a guidepost in crafting your outline.
- Create an outline: You might find it helpful to make an outline that is categorized according to topics of testimony. List broad, open-ended questions first, so that you can gain a sense of how the deponent will testify at trial. Follow those with more detailed questions, but be sure to end with a catch-all, such as, “Is there anything else about [topic] that we haven’t yet discussed?” Even if you don’t end up relying on the outline, you’ll be glad to have a list of topic areas to ensure that you’ve covered everything before you conclude the deposition.
- …but stay flexible and attentive: In the midst of a deposition, the deponent may reveal a fact that catches you by surprise, falling totally outside your existing theory of the case. If you aren’t listening carefully to the deponent’s answers, you could miss these golden opportunities to learn critical information. Likewise, if you remain glued to your outline, you may permanently lose the chance to learn more about a fact that the deponent let slip.
- Be respectful but persistent: Don’t be deterred when a witness declines to answer a reasonable question, or the defending attorney proffers objection after objection aimed at throwing you off. Remain unflustered and restate the question, reminding the witness that they are allowed to answer if they understand what you’re asking. That said, don’t let yourself be pulled into a protracted argument with the deponent or opposing counsel. You’ll only waste valuable time and create an unusable portion of the transcript.