Getting the Client Ready for a Deposition
Unless your client is a highly-experienced party to litigation, a deposition can be an intimidating experience. When deponents become nervous in a deposition, they might panic and say things that aren’t true, or provide answers to questions that were never asked. Make sure your clients understand the process, know what to expect, and feel prepared when heading into their deposition.
Explain how a deposition begins and what your client should expect to hear. The admonishment given at the beginning of a deposition can make some clients feel uneasy, even if they have no intention of answering dishonestly. Read an example of an admonishment and explain how the deposition is likely to proceed. Be sure that your clients know what an objection to a question will sound like, and that they should answer questions to which you have objected unless you have instructed them against it.
Give examples of good and bad answers to questions. Clients may be eager to show their cooperativeness or prove their truthfulness by providing rambling answers to questions, offering even more information than was asked. Make sure clients understand that the deposition isn’t the right time to convince the opposing side of how much they know, that their version of events is the correct one, or to tell their story. Make sure they do not feel ashamed to admit that they don’t remember how an event transpired or don’t know the answer to a question. Explain that, in fact, the best answers are almost always either “yes,” “no,” “I can’t remember,” or “I don’t know,” and that they should never answer a question that they don’t fully understand.
Review documents and statements that have been produced previously. Go over any documents with your client that you’ve produced and that your client should recognize. Make sure your client has reviewed his or her prior statements, so as to avoid incongruous testimony that could be extremely problematic later in the case.
Conduct practice questions. Subjecting your clients to sample questioning will help them feel more confident responding to these questions during the deposition itself. It may be useful to enlist a fellow attorney to subject your client to challenging questions if you expect the deposition to be contentious.
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