Defending Depositions

The first rule in any deposition is to tell the truth. The second rule is: do not let opposing counsel get under your skin. They are trying to get under your skin, and if you let it happen, you are letting them win.

Managing Your Cool In A Deposition

Let’s look at the best ways to keep cool during a deposition. The best way to deal with this is to be as present, and “in the moment” as possible. Listen actively to every single question. Take a deep breath before you answer. Think about your answer before you say anything. Do not answer a question you are unclear on or that is confusing. If you need it ask for clarification, ask for it.

It is important that you let the other attorney finish speaking before you answer. In the same vein, it is important that they let you finish your answer before they begin talking. Inevitably, there is going to be a point where the two of you talk over each other.

This is problematic is because it interferes with the court reporter’s ability to provide an accurate record. But also, it is important that you answer every question with a verbal answer. The court reporter cannot transcribe non-verbal answers or gestures.

Don’t Give Too Much Information

Opposing counsel is entitled to complete answers to their questions. That does not mean you have to give them more information than they ask for.

For example, if they ask you what you had for breakfast, and you had bacon, eggs, and toast, you should answer, “bacon, eggs, and toast.” It would not be accurate to say that you just had bacon and eggs. It would also not be appropriate to respond with what you had for lunch, even if that was the more interesting meal. Do not do opposing counsel any favors.

Make him work to get the information he wants. Your attorney will have the opportunity at the end of the deposition to ask clarifying questions. It is important that you realize this because your attorney will be taking notes, and to the extent that you want to provide clarification on a particular point, chances are your attorney will ask you about at the end of the deposition. Knowing this can help you honor rule number two.

No Ifs, Ands Or Buts

Opposing counsel is likely to ask you “yes” or “no” questions or question. In this case, you may find yourself wanting to answer, “yes, but…” or, “no, but. . .” Do not do this. Trying to over explain your answer can actually make you look defensive.

It is much better just to answer “yes” or “no”. Remember, you will be given the opportunity for clarification. Let’s say for example opposing counsel hands you a piece of paper and he points to a sentence that hurts your case when read out of context by itself. If opposing counsel asks you to read the sentence, read it. If he asks you a follow up question trying to get to admit the out of context conclusion, simply deny the conclusion.

If you are unsure of an answer, make sure you state that you are unsure. If you aren’t sure but you know where you can find the information, say, “I don’t know, but you can get the information [insert place].”

If you are unsure because you don’t remember, say that you don’t remember. If you are unsure, but you have an estimate, say that you have an estimate. The more information you can provide the better. The important part is to frame any partial or uncertain answers you provide.

Raising Objections

Objections during depositions are limited. Your attorney can object to the form of questions. Objections based on form the question are valid when the question is unclear or compound. Objections case also be made on the basis of privilege.

You, as the privilege holder, must raise the objection on your own. All your attorney can do is advise you that can object. Common privileged relationships include attorney-client, patient-doctor, patient-therapist, and parishioner-clergy.

Click to learn more about depositions