Depositions play an important role in the litigation process. With the COVID-19 pandemic, remote depositions became a feasible option to move things forward. Preparing for, taking, and defending depositions can be challenging for new attorneys. Mastering examination techniques and sharpening your skills to handle problems that may arise is essential to conduct effective depositions. As a legal transcription company, we put together expert tips from various sources to help new associates taking depositions.
- Prepare well: Preparing well for a deposition means researching the law to know what questions to ask, says the American Bar Association (ABA). Referencing experts, the ABA points out that as the nuances in the law may guide the entire litigation, the team should know the law to build a theory of the case and guide questions. Before the deposition, new litigators should revisit the case details, study them thoroughly, and work to discover new evidence to support the theory. Being flexible is important to incorporate any new facts that are discovered during the testimony. Learn which objections are permitted. It’s also important to review the pertinent court rules on depositions, which may include time limits for witness examination, and much more.
- Write the outline but be flexible: Keep the outline short, preferably as bulleted points indicating the questions in the proper order. The idea is to keep to the script so that you don’t miss out on anything. However, being flexible and going off the outline can actually yield valuable information. When you ask a question, pay attention to the witness’s answer and give them time to get comfortable and speak freely. Evaluate the details and nuances of the witness’ testimony. Not following up may result in missing vital testimony that could significantly help your case. According to the ABA, you can get more information by turning the deposition into a conversation and ensuring that all the main points are covered.
- Take your time and stay calm: Stay calm and don’t be bullied. Young attorneys can be pushed around with objections, warns Coulter Reporting. If you are well-prepared, you are likely to be too thorough with questioning, which can lengthen the deposition and lead to some negative responses from more experienced attorneys. Stay calm if you interrupted and indicate that you want to finish what you’re saying. Don’t let the opposing counsel sway you. “A creative compromise is to offer everyone a short break if you feel rattled or pressured”, says the ABA.
- Select and use exhibits well: Exhibits are anything other than testimony such as a physical or electronic item that can be presented at the trial or hearing. If an exhibit that is important to your case is presented by any attorney, ensure that you offer it into evidence. Have have the court reporter mark it as an exhibit before you make your offer. If the opposing counsel raises a general objection to a testimony of exhibit that is favorable to you, always say: “Please be more specific” (lawyertrialforms.com). Read our blog for expert recommendations on using exhibits in a remote deposition.
- Review the transcript: Reviewing your work can help you improve dialogue delivery. Everybody uses distinctive verbal utterances like yeah,” “right,” “um-huh,” “huh,” or “okay.” A verbatim deposition transcript would include all these utterances. Reviewing the transcripts provided by your legal transcription service provider will make you aware of usages and habits you want to avoid during your next deposition.
- Be confident: Last but not least, be confident. This is the most important advice that experts give young attorneys conducting depositions. As the ABA points out, a deposition is a discovery tool and not the actual trial. A single deposition cannot determine the outcome of as case. Be well prepared, maintain your composure and project confidence.
Over time, every attorney develops their own deposition style. Your goal should be to continue improving on your abilities and to learn new skills.