How to prepare your client for deposition

first_imgHow to prepare your client for deposition How to prepare your client for deposition Francisco Ramos, Jr. The most important deposition in your case is not one you will take. Rather, it is one you will defend, namely the deposition of your client. What he says in deposition may help you win the case or may cause you to lose it. Accordingly, great care and patience must be exercised to prepare your client for his deposition. When preparing him, keep the following in mind: • Address your client’s anxiety. No matter how calm your client appears, he probably has some apprehension about being deposed. A deposition can be a nerve racking experience. Acknowledge your client’s fear and help him deal with it. Thorough preparation will serve to relieve his anxiety. • Review all the relevant documents with your client. Most cases involve documents. Locate all the relevant documents and review them carefully with your client. Particularly, review any documents your client prepared, drafted, or signed. Also review with your client the complaint, all written discovery, and the deposition transcripts of other witnesses in the case. • Take time to prepare your client. It will take time to prepare your client for his deposition. The more time you take with him, the more smoothly his deposition will go. • Go through a dry run of the deposition. Put your client through a dry run of the deposition. This may take a couple of hours or more, but there is no better way to prepare your client than by asking him every conceivable question you expect him to be asked at his deposition and hearing his responses to those questions. You don’t want your client to be surprised by any question at deposition and you don’t want to be surprised by any of his answers. • Make sure your client knows the basics. Don’t overlook the obvious when preparing your client. Make sure your client knows where to go, when to go, how to get there, where to park, what to bring, what not to bring, what to wear, who will attend, what the court reporter will do, what a transcript is, what objections you’ll make, what they mean, and so on.In preparing your client for his deposition, make sure he understands the ground rules. Instruct him as follows: • Tell the truth. The first rule is to tell the truth. Don’t exaggerate, don’t mislead. • Listen to the question. Listen to the questions carefully. Make sure to answer the question that was asked and not the one you think was asked. Don’t answer a question you don’t understand. Ask that it be rephrased. • Don’t volunteer information. Simply answer the question. If the question calls for a yes or no answer, limit it to that. volunteering information, you’re only inviting more questions and possibly revealing information you’d prefer not to disclose. • Take your time. Take your time formulating the answers to the questions. Don’t blurt out answers without thinking them through first. • Don’t let the other attorney testify for you. The attorney deposing you is going to try to put words in your mouth. Don’t let him. • Don’t let your guard down. The attorney deposing you will try to come across as your friend. Don’t fall for it. He’s only there for one reason, to get you to say something harmful about your case in order to strengthen his case. • Take breaks. From time to time ask for a break. Go to the restroom, drink some water, and stretch your legs. Your deposition can last all day. Without breaks, you’re likely to make a mistake. • If you’re asked to discuss a document, review it first. If you’re asked about a document, ask to see it first and read it carefully. Don’t answer any questions about it until you’ve read it thoroughly and understood its contents. • If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer to a question. A deposition isn’t a memory game. You’re going to be asked a lot of questions you don’t know the answer to. If you don’t know, say so. • Don’t guess. As a follow-up to the last piece of advice, never guess. You may guess wrong. • Stick to your answers. The attorney may not be happy with the answer you give and may ask the question over, perhaps several times, slightly differently each time, in hopes you’ll change your answer. Remain steadfast. • Everything you say becomes part of the transcript. Remember that the court reporter takes down everything you say and makes it part of the transcript. Therefore, think before you speak. Errant comments will be recorded forever for all to see. Avoid using slang and never resort to profanity. • Ignore the silence. Another trick is for a lawyer to remain silent after you answer a question in hopes that you’ll feel like you have to say something more, and continue testifying. Once you’ve answered the question, stop. Don’t feel pressured to keep talking.The most important thing you can do in litigation is to properly prepare your client for his deposition. Absent this preparation, your client’s deposition and his case have the potential of going very badly. Francisco Ramos, Jr., is a senior associate with Clarke Silverglate Campbell Williams & Montgomery, in Miami, practicing in the areas of commercial and personal injury litigation. He can be reached at (305) 377-0700 or [email protected] May 15, 2004 Regular Newslast_img

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