For most clients, being questioned in a deposition is a new and frightening experience. The more you can do to prepare your client, the better he or she will feel and perform. When it comes to instructing your client on how to respond to questions in a deposition, use this handy checklist to be sure you don’t miss anything—some of this may seem obvious to you, but probably not to your client.
___ Explain that the deponent needs to:
- Listen carefully to the question;
- Wait until the question is completed; and
- Answer the question carefully, if it’s understood; if it’s confusing, ask the examiner to rephrase the question.
___ Encourage the deponent to:
- Give the shortest possible answer, e.g., “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know,” if they are fair and accurate answers;
- Not to volunteer any information, but to give an explanation if the question requires one; and
- Speak as though dictating to the court reporter.
___ Point out that if the deponent doesn’t know the answer, he or she should say so. Explain that no one is required to answer a question unless he or she has personal knowledge of the facts and can provide an accurate answer.
___ Advise the deponent to answer based on his or her knowledge of the facts and not to offer estimates or opinions unless there’s good reason.
___ Call the deponent’s attention to the fact that sometimes examining counsel’s questions may really be statements or arguments. Instruct the deponent not to respond in that situation, but to wait for you to object.
___ Explain that if the question contains mistakes or incorrect premises, the deponent should say so politely.
___ Tell the deponent that if a question can’t be answered without qualifications, he or she should begin the answer by saying so and then waiting for examining counsel to qualify the question.
Get the complete Checklist of Instructions for Preparing Client for Deposition, along with practical step-by-step guidance on all aspect of depositions, in CEB’s Handling Depositions Action Guide. Also check out CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chaps 5-6.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- 5 Tips for Preparing Your Witness for Video Deposition
- Avoid Using Trial Objections When Defending a Deposition
- 5 Steps to Preparing an Expert Witness to Do Battle
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