Whether you’re a seasoned attorney or just starting out, managing a witness can be tricky. Furthermore, attorneys are facing pressure of their own during a deposition, because improper conduct could result in sanctions. For that reason, we’ve put together a few tips and advice to help you prepare for your deposition.
#1 – Practice with the witness
Most witnesses are unfamiliar with courtroom procedures. They may find the deposition process stressful and imposing, so it’s important that you help them understand their role. While you should always avoid coaching the witness, it is equally important that you adequately prepare them to give testimony. For example, you might provide examples of the kinds of questions they might expect and explain how the deposition will impact the litigation as a whole.
#2 – Review court rules and share them with the witness
Remember, your witness doesn’t know what to expect! When you review the relevant court rules and the guidelines for deposition scope, take the time to explain them to the witness. Carefully explain what kind of objections and motions you would be allowed to make during the proceeding and give them an idea of the scope of the inquiry.
Lastly, let the witness know about any rules for conferencing during a deposition. Although it is unlikely that your witness would want to speak with you during the deposition in order to hide the truth, you should make them aware of the guidelines for private conferences as well as the general distrust surrounding them. Typically, witnesses who want to conference with you during the deposition are just feeling unsure. If you think that your witness might want to speak to you during the deposition, be sure to let them know ahead of time whether that conduct will be permitted. This will help you avoid any unexpected conference requests during testimony.
#3 – Maintain your integrity
In rare cases, it is possible that your witness could make a statement that you know to be untrue. If you are faced with false testimony, the law requires you to “remonstrate with the client confidentially, advise the client of the lawyer’s duty of candor to the tribunal and seek the client’s cooperation with respect to the withdrawal or correction of the false statements or evidence.” While you are unlikely to face this problem, it can be helpful to speak with your witness before the deposition to clarify your obligations to be truthful and candid, regardless of their testimony.