A deposition is an out-of-court testimony of a witness. The information gathered during the deposition is used in the discovery process and, in limited circumstances, at trial. It takes times for an attorney to prepare for a deposition. It’s better to have a 15-minute deposition and 2 hours of office work than vice versa.
Here are some tips on how to prepare for a deposition:
Tip 1: Research the information and statutes relating to the case beforehand
You may need to spend a couple of hours in front of your desk reading all the information available. In addition to reading the available documents, you may need to research some of the legal aspects of the case. This may be the hardest part of the job.
Tip 2: Think of some of the questions to ask
Always start with general questions. Get some background information. You may need to ask questions about education, military background, hobbies, family background, education, employment.
After you collect all the background information, you may proceed to questions specific to the case. Some of the questions you may need to use are: “What happened next?” “Tell me more.”
It is a good strategy to ask the same questions by rephrasing them. You will have more accurate information with a double check.
Be as specific as possible. For example, instead of asking “How many times did you talk before signing the contract,” it’s better to say “How many times did you communicate using any means of communication before signing the contract.”
Be aware of asking “coaching questions,” i.e., questions that signal the witness how you want the question to be answered. If you do that, your opponent may object to your questions.
Tip 3: Prepare an outline
It’s a good idea to prepare an outline so that you don’t forget anything. It does not mean you have to follow the outline word by word. Sometimes you need to follow up what people say. If you focus on your outline too much, you may be missing important information that is being said. The witness may come up with new information that you have to develop on. For example, if someone says that his sister was at the place of incident, instead of going to the next question in the outline, you can develop this topic more. You can always go back to your prepared questions after the topic is covered. If you want, you can ask for a few minutes break to review your outline and get back to questions that were not asked.
Tip 4: Make sure to take all the documents relating to the case with you
Sometimes a deponent may forget something. It is a good idea to refresh their memory by showing some documents. For example, if a deponent does not remember when the accident took place, you can show him/her the police record and ask to think at the time of the accident again. Or, if you ask a deponent if he or she has a criminal record and he/she says “no,” you can pull out the criminal record and show to the deponent if he or she has ever been charged. This way you will keep on the right track and will not be cheated.
Taking documents to the deposition is a good idea to authenticate the documents as well. You may ask if the signature is authentic or whether she has written or signed this or that document.
Tip 5: Ask the deponent to bring any documents with her/him
The witness may come up with documents that are crucial for the discovery of the case.
Sometimes they may bring some unimportant pieces but asking them to bring anything they think relates to the case is a good strategy.
If you follow these steps, you are assured half of the success of your deposition. The other half depends on how well you listen to your deponent and how you follow up.
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