As a trial lawyer, you know what to expect at a deposition—but does your client?
It’s every lawyer’s worst fear: after months of prep work, evidence collection, and research, your client (or witness) says something in their deposition that costs you the case. We have all watched clients destroy cases before our eyes, both in deposition and on the stand in trial.
In Preparing for Depositions, decorated trial attorney and seasoned Trial Guides presenter Karen Koehler instructs your clients and witnesses on how to testify successfully. Through short, digestible, mock-deposition scenarios, Koehler shows what to do—and what not to do, guiding your witnesses away from the pitfalls of a poor deposition.
How to use this product: This short video can be shown to your clients or witnesses as part of your deposition preparation routine. This tool will help non-lawyers navigate the deposition process with ease and confidence.
The lessons are broken down into ten short pieces of legal advice, outlined below (this blog may also be useful for your clients or witnesses to review):
- Tell the truth: This may seem obvious, but it is essential to tell the truth during your deposition. Lying under oath can have severe consequences, and the truth will ultimately come out. Stick to the facts as you remember them, and don't try to exaggerate or minimize anything to opposing counsel.
- Be prepared: Preparation is key to a successful deposition. Review any documents or records related to the case, and make sure you understand the events and circumstances surrounding the case. Take time to think about potential questions you may be asked, and practice your answers beforehand.
- Own your deposition: Remember that you are in control of your deposition. Answer the opposing attorney’s questions honestly, completely, and to the best of your ability—but don't feel pressured to provide more information than necessary.
- Breathe: It's natural to feel nervous during a deposition, but taking a few deep breaths before answering a question can help you stay calm and focused. It’s your job to simply state your case; it’s your attorney’s job to prove your case.
- Make sure you understand the question: Lawyers may try to trick or confuse you with their questions, so take the time to make sure you understand what is being asked. Listen to the question carefully, and if you are unsure, always ask for clarification.
- Think before you speak: Answer each question with care and take the time to think about your response before speaking. This will help you avoid providing inaccurate or misleading information.
- Answer the question: If you understand the question, answer it directly and concisely. Avoid providing additional information that is not requested, and never volunteer information that is irrelevant to the case.
- The interrogator is not your friend: Remember that the lawyer conducting the deposition is not on your side. They are simply trying to gather information to build their case. As they prepare for trial, they will be looking closely at every one of your answers—and when you are testifying at trial, they will be looking for any inconsistencies, however small, to call out on their cross-examination.
- Only tell what you know: Stick to the facts and only provide information that you are certain about. You are not required to guess or speculate about anything. Remember, your deposition testimony is being recorded by a court reporter; speculations can, and likely will, be used against you.
- Never say never: Avoid using absolute language like "never" or "always." It's okay to admit that you don't remember or aren't sure about something. Being honest and transparent is more important than trying to appear certain about everything.
As an added bonus, Koelher also briefly touches on the dos and don’t of video depositions:
- Don't look like a slob, or be overdressed.
- Do wear a decent outfit from the waist up.
- Don't wear excessive jewelry. Minimize accessories.
- Don't stare at the camera and psych yourself out. Look at the attorney asking questions.
- Don't be fake. Be real.
- Don't lose your temper. Try to behave pleasantly, even when grilled.
- Don't be overly dramatic. Do watch your body language.
- Don't wave your hands around. Keep your hands in your lap.
- Don't roll your eyes or shift them. (Don't think with your eyes up; think with your eyes down.)
- Don't relax until the camera is turned off. Always remember that the camera is on.
Preparing for a personal injury deposition can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if your client has never been through one before. Karen Koehler’s timeless Preparing for Depositions video should be a staple in every attorney's office that you can play over and over again.