Depending on your client’s experience with the discovery process and the purpose of a deposition, it may be helpful to go through the procedures well in advance of the scheduled deposition. It’s also a good idea to review the location and time of the deposition, including the location of the room in which the deposition will take place. Clients are often (understandably) nervous before a deposition, so having complete information for the location and time of the deposition ensures that they won’t get lost just trying to arrive.
There are other tips that clients will appreciate and which will contribute towards a successful deposition. For example, if the deposition is to be videotaped, it may be helpful to suggest appropriate clothing to the client as clients may not realize that their appearance will contribute to the overall impression of credibility.
Once you have gone over the basics of the deposition procedure, it’s helpful to review the following guidelines with your client. While this list is not exhaustive, and it should be tailored for the specifics of your case, it touches on guideline points that are applicable to almost all depositions.
- Tell the truth.
- Speak slowly and audibly.
- Think before you answer.
- Answer only the question that is asked. Do not volunteer information.
- Be professional and polite.
- Don’t get upset by opposing counsel’s questions. Remember, his job is to undermine your testimony.
- If you do not understand the question, then ask for clarification.
- Do not speculate.
- “I don’t know” and “I don’t recall” are acceptable answers if truthful.
- Do not block the opportunity for further testimony. (For example, if asked for a list (e.g., people, documents, job duties), testify to everything you recall, but do not testify that your list is complete unless you are certain.)
- Beware of leading questions such as:
“Would it be fair to say that . . . .”
• “Isn’t it true that . . . .”
• “So you’re saying that . . . .”
- Don’t be confused if opposing counsel asks the same question more than once, in a different way. Stick to your original answer, e.g. “As I just said. . . .”
- If testifying to the authenticity of documents
Review the document.
• Pay attention to the date, author(s), recipient(s), and signatory, if any.
• Evaluate whether the document is a complete copy.
• Remember that email chains are chronologically in reverse.
- Do not bring anything with you to the deposition, unless specifically advised to do so.
- Take breaks as necessary.
Preparing a client for a deposition is a part of trial preparation that shouldn’t be rushed. You may even want to print off a copy of this list (or prepare your own version) and give it to the client to review at home before the scheduled deposition. There’s no reason not to take every opportunity to prepare your case for success!