Preparing for your deposition is a stressful time. A deposition is not an everyday type of conversation. You will testifying under oath, responding to questions that may be uncomfortable and even combative. Every word you say can and will be used against you, if possible. Here’s how to keep yourself out of trouble.
First, be prepared for the location. You will likely be giving your deposition in enemy territory — a conference room in the offices of your opponent’s lawyer. You will be seated by a court reporter who will write down verbatim every word that is spoken in that room. Facing you will be your opponent’s lawyer. To your side will be your own lawyer. Don’t be intimidated. It’s just a room like any other, and you are not alone.
Second, dress to be comfortable, but don’t be casual. It sends the wrong message. You are coming to the deposition with a mission: to answer the questions asked truthfully, and to leave as soon as possible. Your demeanor should be professional, and your clothes should reflect that persona.
Third, understand your role at the deposition. You are not there to have a conversation with your opponent’s lawyer. You are there to dictate answers to questions you are asked. That’s all. You are not there to “tell your side of the story.” You are not there to explain yourself. You are not there to clarify things for your opponent, or to convince his lawyer you are right.
Inexperienced litigants often believe they can end the lawsuit if they can just explain everything to the opposing lawyer. If that thought has even crossed your mind, BANISH it. It. will. not. happen. Thinking like that is dangerous. Lawyers love talkative witnesses. In fact, the most effective interrogators do not criticize, berate, talk down to, or browbeat you. They get you nice and comfortable. They speak soothingly, and say things that sound rational, reasonable and just right. Before you know it, your guard is down. You start thinking that this lawyer is a nice guy who just wants to hear you out. You delude yourself into thinking that once he hears your side of the story, he’ll tell his client to just drop the lawsuit or abandon his defenses. Suddenly you’re talking and all kinds of useful information tumbles out. And you can count on this: all of it will be used against you.
So, just remember: you are on a mission. You are at the deposition to dictate answers to questions asked, and leave as soon as possible. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the next installment, we’ll talk about the red meat of deposition preparation — how to answer the questions you will be asked.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Preparing for Your Deposition #1, or any other litigation matter, please feel free to contact us at 480.461.5300, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.