As we enter 2019, many young attorneys will soon run their first deposition. This can be a daunting task for the newly initiated. How exactly do you depose an opposing party? What clothing is appropriate? Which objections are permitted? At First Legal, we’ve provided deposition services for hundreds of law firms and managed thousands of individual depositions. Today, we’re putting our experience to work for you by answering three of the most common questions from new attorneys!
How do I manage the witness?
The truth is, every witness is different, and there’s no definitive strategy that will work every time. That being said, it’s important to remember that most witnesses want to cooperate. Your opposing counsel has most likely explained the purpose of the deposition and the importance of their testimony. Be polite and maintain formality, but don’t be afraid to adopt a conversational style if that feels most natural.
If you feel that the witness is not being responsive to your questions, keep a level head. Most unresponsive witnesses are simply trying to figure out how to ensure they communicate all the information they think is relevant. If the witness hesitates to respond to your question, they may just be processing potential responses.
To avoid unnecessary delay, address evasive responses directly. Let the witness know that they will have the opportunity to speak freely at the end of the deposition, should they feel they have left something unsaid. Then, be sure to offer an open-ended question that fulfills your promise at the end of the deposition. Many young attorneys do not want to give the witness an unstructured question, but you should remember that the rules of the deposition still apply. The witness cannot introduce information outside the scope of the deposition. By allowing reluctant witnesses the chance to speak freely, you may even uncover new information that is useful to your argument.
Can I bring another attorney with me?
Depending on the type of case you are litigating, you may attend your first deposition with another attorney or involved individual. For example, federal law allows for multiple people to attend the depositions in corporate cases. This means that you could have two attorneys present. You could also bring someone else involved with the case, such as an individual who witnessed the incident or situation in question. While this person would not be asking questions of the deponent, you could easily refer to their experiences of the case in your own line of questioning.
After I’ve asked all my questions, how should I close the deposition?
This question is surprisingly common. After deposing your first witness, it’s natural that you would want to formally acknowledge the end of the deposition proceedings. There is no set procedure for closing a deposition, which gives you the freedom to adapt to your personal experience. For example, if your deponent gave detailed testimony and cooperated fully, you might thank them for their participation and professional conduct. On the other hand, if the witness was belligerent, your closing question might remind them of their responsibility to pay your client’s legal fees if the court rules in your favor.