Lawyers should take the time to properly prepare their clients for depositions. Too many times attorneys treat their clients’ depositions as informal matters and do little to assist their clients in preparing. These depositions will be conducted by your opponent to hurt your case. They will be used to obtain impeachment and cross-examination information. They will be used to evaluate the strengths of your client’s case and evaluate your client as a witness. In order to maximize your client’s success at the deposition, make sure to conduct a pre-deposition conference well before the scheduled deposition date. This will give your client an opportunity to be mentally ready for the deposition. Instruct your secretary that you should not be disturbed during the conference and that no telephone calls should be taken while you are with your client. Constant interruptions will adversely affect the quality of the pre-deposition preparation and may make the client believe that she is not important to you. During the pre-deposition conference, allow the client to tell you all relevant facts without interruption. Afterwards, go over all facts with him or her emphasizing what is important in the case. Remember to discuss the theme of the case, the elements of what needs to be proven and what deposition traps to avoid. Review your client’s interrogatory answers, medical records with her at that time. It is important that you show your client relevant photographs, charts, demonstrative materials and other essential documents in the case. Consider role playing with your clients so that they will achieve familiarity with the process before they are actually questioned by the other side. Ask both open ended and leading questions during the mock deposition to see how the client responds. Many times clients find it difficult to communicate their true story through deposition questions. It is important that you counsel your client on how to best present the testimony in the case so that the truth is reflected in the manner most favorable to your side. Explain how a deposition is conducted to your client. Tell the client what opposing counsel’s role will be in the deposition. Describe what a court reporter does and why the reporter will be present. Advise your client to not volunteer more information than what is sought by the deponent; listen carefully to each question asked; answer the specific question asked; not guess the answer to any question; and that it is perfectly acceptable to say “I do not know.” Remind your client to request that questions she does not understand be clarified. Notwithstanding the above, remind your client to immediately explain or clarify the answer to a question that sounds inaccurate. There should be no questions or confusion about what was meant by the client in the deposition. Advise your client that she has the right to ask that a question be rephrased when she does not understand the question. Tell her that you are there to protect her interest and to preserve the record by raising certain objections throughout the course of the deposition. Inform your client that certain objections will still require an answer to the question unless you advise her not to answer in order to preserve a privilege. Tell your client that there is a difference between objecting to the form and objecting based on a privilege. If you raise an objection based on a privilege, explain that you will be instructing her not to answer the question. Tell the client how to dress for the deposition. Make sure that the client’s attire is consistent with the client’s profession, employment or role in the case. Do everything possible to have your client appear credible. If the questioning attorney likes your client, it is probable that the evaluation of your client’s case will be favorable. This in turn will increase the likelihood of a good recommendation for settlement. A second but brief deposition conference should be held immediately before the deposition. During the follow-up pre-deposition conference, you should remind your client of what occurred during the initial pre-deposition conference. You should also be available to answer any last minute questions that your client may have. Take the time to discuss the most important facts and matters in the case one more time.
Your client should feel fully prepared, informed, and confident before a deposition. This can only be achieved by proper pre-deposition preparation. Make sure to take the time necessary to effectively assist your client in preparing for the deposition.