Depositions are one of the tools that lawyers use in preparing a case for trial to gather more facts about the case. The non-legalese word for deposition might be “interview”. In a deposition, the “deposing lawyer” interviews the “deponent”. The deponent is a witness who knows something about the underlying facts of the case or about some specialized field that is relevant to the case. If the deponent has his own lawyer, the deponent’s lawyer should prepare the deponent on what to expect. The deponent’s lawyer also has the opportunity to ask the deponent follow-up questions after the deposing lawyer has finished.
In the fall 2009 South Carolina Justice Bulletin attorney Don Keenan published an article about witness preparation and how important witness preparation is to the cases that we handle for our clients and the outcome of these cases. Mr. Keenan highlights a five point deposition preparation method that he uses for each client.
- Client Misconception. Inform the client of the deposition process. Advise them that the court rules protect them and that they will be able to tell their truth in a clear way.
- Client Guilt. Defense attorneys attempt to prey on client guilt. Prepare the client for this ahead of time.
- Client Major Truths. Figure out the defense’s best five to seven points of attack against your client’s case. Then during deposition preparation have the client recite every fact that disproves the defense point. Then at deposition the client can rely on his or her major truths to answer any question. This will avoid rambling and confusing or angry answers at the deposition by the client.
- Mock Deposition Drills. Prepare the client prior to the deposition by asking the client the questions that you believe that the defense will ask them. This allows the client to become confident in answering questions.
- The Promise. Promise the client that when the day of deposition comes, that if the client does not feel well or fully prepared, the deposition will be postponed. This gives the client confidence to know that you would not go forward if the client was not ready to do so.
Mr. Keenan also stresses asking open ended questions and the discipline of silence especially in wrongful death claims. Let the client sit and think and the client will eventually give more detail and more depth of emotion in answering the question.
With regard to clients with injuries it is important to run through a list of what the client cannot do anymore due to the injuries the client suffered in the accident . However it is also important for the client to spend time examining what the life that remains for the client is.
For our practice it is important to meet with and prepare clients for deposition or trial testimony. All clients are nervous and some are scared by the thought of giving sworn testimony. It is important to spend time with them, and by following the above outline we can do our clients a great service that will strengthen their case and build a bond between the attorney and the client .
The information relayed in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The cases referenced and explained by the blog’s author(s) are for informational purposes only and are not intended to imply that certain, or similar, results may be achieved in each client’s case.