- Review the scope of the deposition. Keep in mind that the scope of your questions in a depo may be broader than might be admissible at trial. Under CCP §2017.010, you may examine the deponent on any issue that (1) is not privileged and (2) is relevant to the subject matter of the action or to determination of any motion to be made (e.g., for summary judgment) and is either admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence.
- Develop a chronology. To help you understand the case and prepare for the deposition, develop a chronology of your case, using e.g., pleadings, interview notes, and consultant or investigator reports.
- Prepare a checklist. Prepare a deposition checklist that covers all of the important topics relating to your deposition goals.
- Organize your presentation. Organize the chronology, relevant documents, and checklist in a way that will be most helpful for you to develop questions or topic areas before the deposition, as well as find and use documents, questions, or topic areas during the deposition. For example, distill your checklist until you have only one page of topics to use during the deposition, or create checklists for each major topic and put each checklist with the relevant documents in a notebook separated by tabs for easy reference.
- Review the pleadings and other documents. Review the pleadings and other documents relevant to your deposition goals as you prepare the deposition chronology and checklist. For example, if you’re deposing a plaintiff or cross-complainant, examine the complaint or cross-complaint for the major allegations, particularly vague or generalized allegations.
- Add informally discovered information. Add information you got through informal discovery to the chronology and checklist.
- Conduct relevant research. Research the applicable law and evidentiary rules, e.g., rules on privacy and trade secret protections.
- Consult with an expert. If your case involves technical elements or the deponent is an expert witness, ask a consultant to assist you by reviewing materials you’ve obtained in the case (don’t give your consultant expert your notes, summaries, or other work product, because they may be discoverable (see CCP §§2025.280(a), 2034.210-2034.270)). Then discuss (orally) the consultant’s opinions on the case’s strengths and weaknesses. Consultants can also familiarize you with the technical aspects of case, assist you in preparing the deposition examination, and help you prepare hypotheticals for questioning a deponent expert.
- Designate and coordinate physical evidence. Identify each document or physical object you expect to introduce at deposition and assign a letter or number to it. Retain one unmarked original set of documents and make copies of exhibits for the deponent and opposing counsel. Review all your exhibits and coordinate your checklist with the exhibits so you can easily refer to them at deposition. Consider marking on your copy of documents the topic or parts you want to ask about to facilitate your examination.
- Prepare deposition questions or topics. Prepare separate outline of questions or topics designed to develop deposition testimony to use at trial (Evid C §§1270-1272), e.g., to authenticate documents or establish a foundation for their introduction under the business records exception to the hearsay rule.
You’ll get more details and practical tips on each of these steps in CEB’s Handling Depositions. For everything you need to know about preparing for and taking depositions, turn to CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chapter 6. Also check out CEB’s program Preparing for, Taking & Defending Depositions, available On Demand.
Related CEB blog posts:
- Admonishing a Deponent: 10 Points You Need to Make
- 5 Ways to Defeat Deposition Abuse
- Organizing Discovery
- 12 Tips for Direct Examination in Depo or at Trial
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