Preparing your Client for a Deposition
Even if your client has been involved in prior litigation, being deposed can be nerve-racking. Without adequate preparation, a deponent can seem defensive, dishonest, or, worse still, overly chatty. If you’re defending your client’s deposition, take the time to prepare the client following the suggestions below.
Provide a rundown of events and what they’ll hear
Let your clients know how a deposition starts and the sorts of things they’ll hear along the way. Read a sample admonishment so that the client doesn’t feel uneasy hearing it for the first time at the deposition table. Make sure your clients know that the deposing attorney is likely to ask whether they’re on any medications so that they are not caught off guard. Clients should know that, unless you have instructed them otherwise, they should answer questions even if you object.
Explain what makes a good answer
Many clients feel as though they’re speaking to someone in authority during a deposition, so they are eager to please that person and provide helpful answers. This can result in a client providing more information than was requested by the question. Even clients experienced with litigation might reflexively answer the question they assume that opposing counsel meant to ask rather than the one that was actually asked. Explain that the client does not need to be concerned with answering the questions as fully as possible. Let them know that the best answer is almost always the shortest one possible and that they should not be reluctant to say that they don’t know, can’t remember, or don’t understand the question.
Go over produced documents and prior statements
It can be an embarrassing moment when clients don’t recognize it when their own words are read back to them, or when they blatantly contradict a prior statement without explanation. Be sure that your clients have time to review their prior statements and any documents with which they’re expected to be familiar.
Conduct sample questioning
Depositions can be long and grueling, and for clients who have never experienced one, it’s easy to become worn down and become loose-lipped. Deponents often find it jarring to hear objections when attempting to answer, and they may lose their train of thought or feel like they shouldn’t answer the question fully or honestly after hearing you object. Run through practice questions with the help of another attorney to offer an authentic recreation of the deposition experience, so that they are not thrown when experiencing it in the deposition itself.