How to prepare a witness for a civil deposition

| Jun 14, 2021 | Civil Litigation |

If you have been through a few depositions as an attorney, you probably already know how unpredictable they can be. After all, much of what unfolds at a deposition depends on the temperaments and personalities of the attorneys. How your witness responds to the deposition, though, may make a considerable difference in the outcome of your case.

Preparing a witness for deposition in a civil matter is somewhat of an art form. Consequently, perfecting your craft may require both practice and mentoring. Here are some straightforward ways you can improve your deponent’s chances of providing useful testimony in a civil deposition.

Recognize your witness’s style

No two deponents are exactly the same. When preparing your witness for deposition, you must recognize his or her personal style. Whether your client is bold, timid, gregarious or anything else, you should look for ways to use your deponent’s personality to your advantage. To help you become comfortable with your deponent initially, you may want to start by explaining a few general guidelines.

Focus on brevity and accuracy

Deponents often cause problems by saying too much or making spontaneous statements. Early in your preparation, you may want to impress upon your witness the importance of being brief and accurate. Encourage him or her only to respond to direct questions. Also, tell your deponent to pause before answering questions to give you sufficient time to object.

Empower your deponent

Depositions can be intimidating, especially if a deponent has never gone through one. Out of nervousness, your witness may ramble or be inaccurate or evasive. If you can empower your witness, he or she may have more control over the deposition. Encouraging your deponent to take regular breaks may have a significant benefit.

How you choose to prepare a deponent for a deposition may depend on both the facts of the case and the information your witness has to offer. Ultimately, you may need to arrange more than one preparation session to ensure your deponent is ready to go.

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