How to Prepare for a Deposition
June 2, 2022
By Gabrielle K. Shaulis
It can be intimidating and even scary to be deposed. Being prepared is the best way to calm your nerves. Knowing what will happen and what is expected of you in a deposition will not only help you feel more confident but may also help to strengthen your case. The following instructions have been compiled to guide you.
Keep your deposition answers short and to the point
First, stick to what you are asked. When the other side’s attorney asks you a question, you can limit yourself to whatever the actual answer is. You should never feel pressured to give more information than was exactly what was asked. Depositions are not meant for you to convince anyone of your story. You can’t win or lose a case in a deposition. Opposing counsel will want to get as much information as possible. Your only job is to answer the questions honestly but you have no obligation to provide additional information. Beware of the silence technique – it is a natural inclination for humans to fill up silences and opposing counsel may use silence to unwittingly get you to say more. While it may feel uncomfortable, give your answer and say nothing more.
Always be truthful in a deposition
Give your best effort to answering the question. Take your time and be honest. If you need to, you can take a pause to think about your answer. It is better to take a moment than to give an answer that you aren’t sure is correct or one that could be damaging later. If you don’t understand a question, ask the attorney to clarify or repeat. If you still do not know the answer, it is best to say that you do not know or cannot remember. There are times when your answer may be embarrassing, angered, or painful. Take your time, be truthful, and do your best.
Channel your Zen
Do your best to stay calm and focused. Your goal is to make sure you answer all the questions honestly. Sometimes, it can feel like the opposing attorney is goading you by asking something that sounds accusatory or argumentative, but it is important that you stay calm. Getting angry or defensive can lead to saying something you didn’t mean to say or paint you as an unprepared witness. Some people try to cope with stress by using humor but this is not the time to crack jokes or make light. Keep it professional – stay focused on the attorney(s) and what they are asking you. If you are getting overwhelmed or agitated, ask your attorney if you can take a short break in between questions.
If your attorney objects, stop your answer. When an attorney objects, it is for a reason. Once you hear this, you should pause and wait for the objection to be finished. Then, your attorney will let you know if it is okay to answer the question. Do not assume that you can answer anyway. If you’re not sure if you should continue with your answer, you can ask your attorney.
Client Confidentiality is, well, Confidential
No matter what you are asked, do not reveal what you and your attorney have discussed. Conversations between you and your attorney should be privileged and confidential. Everything your attorney, paralegal, and legal assistants have said or written to you is subject to attorney-client privilege and the other side should not have that information. During the deposition, you might be asked a question such as “did you talk with anyone about X?” or “Did your lawyer tell you to do Y?”. You do not need to volunteer information about conversations you had with your attorney. Your attorney will usually instruct you not to answer if they feel it would be a violation of client confidentiality.
Being deposed can be stressful but follow these guidelines and you should do a fine job.