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Don’t try to outsmart the other lawyer – Deposition Preparation Tip #2

Posted by Brigham A. Cluff | Jan 06, 2015 | 0 Comments

Don't try to outsmart the other lawyer – Deposition Preparation Tip #2

Start Transcript Don't try to outsmart the other lawyer

My second tip for how to give an effective deposition is don't try to outsmart the lawyers. When you are giving a deposition it can be very intimidating. You're usually in a conference room. At that conference room table there will be several lawyers, your lawyer, lawyers for the defendants, there will be a court reporter, sometimes there will be other people in the room, and all of the focus is directly on you. That can be very intimidating. Sometimes people, as a defense mechanism because of the intimidation they feel, will attempt to prove their intelligence to the lawyer who is questioning them. This really is not an IQ test. It is very unproductive to try to outsmart the lawyers that are questioning you.
First of all, as a general rule, the lawyers that I'm coming up against in these cases are extremely bright people, they're very intelligent. There is a lot of native intelligence there, but in addition to that they are pros. They have done this hundreds and hundreds of times. This is your first rodeo, in most cases, when you're giving a deposition. Don't try to outsmart the lawyer who is questioning you. It can lead to disaster. Instead, be truthful, answer the questions that are being asked of you by that lawyer. I can tell very quickly, when I get into a deposition, whether I have a deponent who is going to try to outsmart me, and I love it when they do. I love it because it allows me to go so many places. It just opens a whole world of possibilities to me.
Remember, this is not an IQ contest. You are here to answer the lawyer's questions. People, clients, often ask me, and not just clients, people who are required to give deposition testimony sometimes under a subpoena will ask me why do I have to do this? What is the point of this deposition? Well, there's a very short answer to that and then there's also a more elaborate answer. The short answer is you're there because you have to be there. You are compelled to be there. The court is ordering that you be there. It is part of the case. If you are a plaintiff and you are bringing a lawsuit, giving a deposition is something that you are required to do. That's the short answer. Why are you doing this? Because you have to. Well, why do you have to? Why are the rules set up in such a way that you have to go through this process? A deposition is a tremendously effective tool and discovery device for getting at the truth. It is used by the attorney's on both sides of the case to find out what really happened, to find out what are the witnesses going to testify to if this case goes to trial.
The attorneys are given quite a bit of latitude in the questioning that goes on in a deposition. In a deposition usually you are meeting in the conference room of one of the attorneys, usually whichever attorney sent out the notice of deposition, whoever initiated the deposition, you'll be meeting at that attorney's conference room. The judge is not going to be present for that deposition. The judge will not be there to rule on questions that your attorney might find objectionable. Instead you have a court reporter and a court reporter is going to transcribe objections that are made, and, if necessary, those objections can be brought to the attention of the judge at a later time and the judge can rule on those objections then. While you are in the deposition there's no judge and you have to answer those questions in general. There have been occasions where I've instructed my clients, don't answer that question. Sometimes it's because of the question invades some privileged area of communication between me and the client, or sometimes the question invades some other type of privilege. There's a few other reason why it's sometimes appropriate to object to a deposition question and not answer.
As a … Ninety-nine percent of the time whenever I make an objection at a deposition I will object and I'll make a very simple objection. I'll say something like, “Objection for” or “Objection foundation” and then I will tell my client, “Go ahead and answer.” That is how the depositions go forward. You will frequently run into a deponent who questions why am I having to answer this question? This doesn't seem really relevant to my case. As I mentioned, attorneys have a lot of latitude in the questions that they get to ask in depositions. It is not productive to argue with the attorney who is asking you that question about the relevance of his question. It will only encourage the attorney to dig deeper on the questioning. If I start into a line of questioning and I can see that my deponent doesn't want to go there, is uncomfortable with answering questions in that area, I want to go deeper, I want to ask more questions. Usually it's counterproductive to try to steer the attorney away from an area of questioning. That is my synopsis of my second tip for giving an effective deposition. Do not try to outsmart the lawyers. Please view my other videos on my Top 7 Tips for Giving an Effective Deposition. Click through on any of these options that you see on your screen right now and you'll find me going into greater detail and analysis.
The client will begin our meeting by telling me, “Hey, don't worry, there's really no preparation required for me because I'm just going to tell the truth.”
People, as a defense mechanism, because of the intimidation they feel, will attempt to prove their intelligence
how the events unfolded that caused your injury. That's difficult for people to talk about sometimes, even under ideal circumstances.
This is a little more complicated than it might seem. It's okay to estimate, it's not okay to guess. Let me define those terms for you. This is an example that attorneys frequently use when they're asking their question.
We just jump right in with our answer because we already know what they're saying. It is really hard to turn that off.
Do not volunteer information that you don't have to volunteer. Make the attorney ask the question.
I can't tell you how many times I have seen a witness who starts out strong in the deposition wear down.

End Transcript

Don't try to outsmart the other lawyer

In summary, always remember – don't try to outsmart the other lawyer. Stay away from an ego war with the other side and your case will go much smoother.
Please view my other videos on my top seven tips for giving an effective deposition. Click through on any of these options and you'll find me going into greater detail and analysis:

Cluff Law

About the Author

Brigham A. Cluff

My law practice is focused exclusively on helping people who have suffered serious personal injuries, or the wrongful death of a family member.


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