Take a Great Deposition by Following These 3 Rules
Taking a deposition can feel intimidating, especially if you don’t have a great deal of experience. Deposition testimony can be extremely useful in settlement negotiations, so it’s important to ensure you enter the room well-prepared. Aside from spending time with discovery materials and ensuring that you know the existing evidence of the case inside and out, there are several strategies that can prove helpful in eliciting useful testimony during your deposition. Read on to learn three ways to get the testimony you need during a depo.
Determine what you want from the deposition
Before writing the questions you want to ask, figure out what you can realistically get from the deposition. Yes, the deposition might be a great way to simply find out, for example, what a lay witness observed at the scene of an accident. Most depositions aren’t this straightforward, however. Perhaps the deposition would be most helpful as a way to pin the deponent to a particular version of events. It may be an opportunity to determine whether you should make an offer to settle or move forward toward trial. You might also use a deposition as a means of gathering testimony with which to later impeach the witness. Make sure you design your questions with the correct goal in mind.
Craft a strong outline
Your outline should help you stay on track and ensure that you don’t conclude the deposition before you’ve covered all the most important topics. Divide the outline into topics, and start with open-ended questions that will guide your inquiry. If you’re trying to lock the witness into a particular version of events, include leading questions that will be difficult to qualify. After writing a question, make sure it gets at the information you need. Try to reread your questions from the perspective of the witness and opposing counsel, to anticipate how you might avoid answering the question if you were the witness.
Stay flexible, and remember to listen to the deponent’s answers
Rather than assume you know what they’ll say, or get lost preparing the next question you plan to ask, always listen carefully to the deponent’s answer to your questions—you never know what you’ll hear. Sometimes the best answers are the ones that you couldn’t have anticipated receiving. If the witness veers away from the topic of your question, you may end up being presented with a valuable new vein of information, and remaining stuck to your outline could cause you to miss an opportunity to pursue these topics.
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