Tips for You at Depositions

Attorney Spear

26th Jul, 2022


This is not a sexy news-worthy post but it must be done. Frequently in civil matters, people get deposed, or have a deposition. It's a …

This is not a sexy news-worthy post but it must be done. Frequently in civil matters, people get deposed, or have a deposition. It’s a fancy way of being asked questions in front of your attorney by opposing counsel and its usually recorded. The recording means it will be an official record of the hearing and you will be sworn in under oath to tell the truth. Your attorney can object to the questions for various reasons. Here are some helpful hints for you to survive a deposition:

  1. As always, tell the truth. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth. <- that leads me to…
  2. Answer the question and only the question. Do not provide information that was not asked of you, do not begin to tell a story, do not try to elaborate. “Was the grass green?” Correct answer: “Yes.” INCORRECT ANSWER: “well yeah sort of. It wasn’t like forest green, or Kentucky blue grass. It was kind of like a crab grass green but we had a drought so it was also more orange….”
  3. More words mean more chances that attorney to twist those words around. Less words = less opportunity to twist your words.
  4. After a question is asked, take a deep breath before answering. This allows (1) you time to think about your VERY BRIEF answer, and (2) your attorney time to object as needed.
  5. Try to remain calm. I know, all these legal things make people become riddled with anxiety, develop insomnia, and just become generally unwell. Here’s the thing: the opposing counsel wants you rattled and they want to rattle you. They want to see what buttons they can push in case you take the stand. They want you to fly off the handle so they can show the judge and jury how emotionally unstable you are, and how prone to rage you can be. They are going to ask things that they know are going to irritate you. Sometimes they even lie, or misstate the facts. IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO CORRECT THEM. Remember, in depositions- less is more. Less talking, fewer words. Whatever Zen calming meditation you need to get yourself in check, do it!
  6. If you do not know the answer, just say you do not know. Now is NOT the time for pride about your intelligence level. If you don’t understand, say you don’t understand. DO NOT GUESS (also called speculation). You are allowed (and in my book encouraged) to ask questions like “I’m sorry, could you rephrase that?” as often as you need. If you need something to help you remember what the attorney is referencing, ask for it. “I’m sorry but I don’t remember. Do you have the incident report about that?” If your contract was made on a cocktail napkin, ask for the napkin.
  7. Again, with words less is more so don’t interrupt. Don’t interrupt any question or any answer. You may guess or hear the question incorrectly, or offer evidence/testimony that would have been irrelevant had you not blurted it out a moment ago.
  8. Sometimes these things can go all day. You read that right, ALL DAY. If you need a break for water or to just calm down, ask for it.
  9. Your attorney should be right there assisting you. If you have questions, if you want a clearer direction, if you feel something should be put into context and explained, turn and ask them.
  10. Dress professionally, be clean and neat. Khakis, dresses, polo shirts, etc. This is like mini-court so address appropriately. You don’t need to be Easter service pretty, but keep it nice and professional.
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