| by Heather Duncan, Esq.
At some point, all new associates in litigation firms find themselves tasked with taking their first deposition of an adverse party. In an effort to help ease anxiety and make that first deposition a success, we asked five seasoned litigators for some simple tips. Below are their responses.
- Listen carefully to the answer to the question you asked before asking the next question. (Brian Burchett, Esq.)
- Know what you want to get from the deposition before you schedule it. (Brian Burchett, Esq.)
- Identify whether the case is in state or federal court and read the rules, particularly the rules for a read-and-sign. (Allison Jones, Esq.)
- Look at any pertinent records beforehand and know what needs to be authenticated. For example, if you are defending a personal injury case, go through the medical records carefully beforehand and use the deposition to have the plaintiff authenticate anything he or she signed. (Allison Jones, Esq.)
- Before attempting to actually take a deposition, sit in on someone else taking a deposition and read through at least one transcript of a deposition taken in a similar case. (Catherine Evans, Esq.)
- Create a detailed outline for your first deposition. As you get more experienced your outline will get less detailed. Eventually, you may not need an outline at all. (Catherine Evans, Esq.)
- Use simple language. Even if the witness understands big words, the jury might not. For example use “before” and “after” instead of “prior” and “subsequent.” (Scott Bonesteel, Esq.)
- If you are taking the deposition of an expert witness, talk to your own expert beforehand. Your expert will help you frame what you need to know and what needs to be asked. (Scott Bonesteel, Esq.)
- Some of the best questions are just statements and then “agree” or “correct” at the end. So, get the story first and then do not be afraid to go through it all over again until the deponent agrees you have it correct. (Brian Beecher, Esq.)
- Collect “agreements”. The deponent will not agree with you every time and on everything. But try to collect as many agreements as you can. Even the most villainous defense expert will often agree with large portions of your theory of the case. (Brian Beecher, Esq.)
Many thanks to our deposition masters, Brian Burchett, Allison Jones, Catherine Evans, Scott Bonesteel and Brian Beecher.