So many of the pitfalls we experience in depositions occur because our client or witness is nervous or intimidated. And, when you think about it, that’s pretty understandable. Bright lights, disapproving glares. To some, the deposition room may feel like something out of a spy movie. As litigators, we’ve become relatively immune to a lot of the pressures that arise in these situations, but we must always remember to be sensitive of our clients’ possible inexperience.
That’s a big part of why we do what we do here at The Perfect Witness. The number one cause of all fear could arguably be said to be uncertainty, and we firmly believe that careful preparation goes a long way to achieving results. When we give shape to our fears, we are better equipped to face them.
But that doesn’t mean that if we describe the room and the process to the client, that all of those nerves related to depositions will just evaporate. We also have to inform them of how it all works, and how they can approach a deposition most effectively. Above all, we also need to ensure we give the client practical, useful advice for how to cope with opposing counsel, the questions they ask, and the manner in which they ask them.
Loose Lips Sink Ships.
Hold up! Before you object, we’re definitely not counseling perjury here! Instead, what we mean is we must emphasize to our client that it’s very important that they approach each question with care and deliberation.
Here, we highlight Rule of the Room #3: Use the Purposeful Pause. Everything that our client says at a deposition will enter the record, and by pausing a moment before beginning their answer, our client can make certain that they, (1) fully understand the question, and (2) answer that question (and only that question!) effectively, completely, and clearly.
The Purposeful Pause also establishes a rhythm for the deposition that is more beneficial to the deposed. If opposing counsel is more… ahem… aggressive, in their approach to their line of questioning, the Pause will allow our client to take back some control of the room and may eliminate the feeling of “backpedaling” or “off-guardedness” that the opposing counsel may be trying to elicit.
The Question and the Answer, and not much else.
A deposition is not a conversation. This is something that needs to be absolutely clear to the client, and forms the basis for two more Rules of the Room: Only Answer the Question Asked and Never Guess. Remind your client that it’s never a good idea to volunteer information outside of the scope of the question. In a similar vein, as a deposition is about the facts, a guess is never appropriate. A client should feel comfortable saying “I don’t know.”
The client may feel the pressure to provide the most complete information he or she can, and they need your help to understand that it is not beneficial to their situation to offer information that either wasn’t asked for or has the potential to be inaccurate.
The Tools To Succeed.
If we work to not only inform our client of what to expect, but how to best respond to it, we can give them the means to mount an effective deposition defense and work towards a positive resolution.
To learn more about how The Perfect Witness can prepare your witnesses for deposition, request your free attorney review.