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What You Need To Know About Depositions

Courtroom dramas are the stuff of entertainment and interest for so many of us. You, like us, enjoy watching television programs and movies that involve key courtroom or deposition scenes. It gives you a feeling that you understand what it’s like to be in the courtroom, without ever having set foot in one.

Well, now it’s your turn and you have to give a legal deposition. It’s normal to be nervous and to feel a bit stressed. After all, this is not television, this is real life and you want to make sure you say the right thing and don’t make any mistakes.

We’re here to help you out and put you at ease as you prepare for your deposition. Remember to ask your lawyer any and all questions you have about the deposition – this is your right.

What is a Deposition?

A deposition is pre-trial testimony that is used by both legal teams to learn more about the case. During the deposition, the opposing lawyer or examiner will ask you a range of questions about the issue at hand as a means to collect evidence and build their case. There is no judge present during a deposition.

Where Does the Deposition Take Place?

Contrary to what most of us have watched on television and in movies, depositions do not take place in courtrooms. Typically, your deposition will be held at a law office or at independent court reporting firm that is fully equipped to support the deposition. For example, in major cities such as San Francisco, lawyers will take advantage of San Francisco court reporting firms to host the deposition.

These court reporting firms have specialized deposition suites that can handle services such as videoconferencing for the deposition or other legal proceedings. These court reporting firms ensure the deposition suites have everything you and your lawyer need including providing in-house court reporters, legal videographers, and transcription services. This ensures the entire deposition proceeding is fully recorded and transcribed. 

How Do I Prepare For a Deposition?

Your attorney should prepare you for your upcoming deposition, however we want to remind you of these key ways to prepare for your deposition.

  • Be honest. Always tell the truth and never ever lie. If you are caught in a lie, you can be charged with perjury.
  • Listen carefully. Only answer the question when you’re 100% confident that you have heard the question in its entirety. Don’t rush your answer or start talking before the question is over. You can ask the court reporter to repeat the question.
  • Understand the question. If you don’t understand the question, don’t take your best guess at what you think the question means. Ask for clarification and ask for the question to be rephrased.
  • If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t remember the details or know the answer to the question, say so. Don’t guess or say what you think happened. This is not a test, you do not pass or fail a deposition.
  • You can talk to your lawyer. Your lawyer should remind you of this, but you do have the right to talk to your lawyer at any point during the deposition.
  • Answer don’t elaborate. Stick to answering the question being asked. It’s easy when nervous to start rambling and saying more than was asked.
  • Remember the legal transcript. Do your best to speak clearly and slowly so that the court reporter can easily do his or her job. It’s important to remember that this legal transcript might be used later in the courtroom so if you rush your answer or make a mistake when answering, this can hurt you later on.
  • Stay calm. Being questioned during a deposition can be stressful, do your best to stay calm. The examiner may ask questions that you believe are positioned to upset you, do your best to ignore this and simply answer the question. Do not raise your voice. If you need to take a break, do talk to your lawyer.
  • Ask to see any exhibits. If the examiner references an exhibit such as a police report, contract, or other document – remember that you can see these exhibits. It can be hard to remember all the details of an incident so do ask to see the exhibits before answering.

We don’t want you to be nervous about giving your deposition, but we cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be honest and calm through-out the deposition. Many a lawyer and client has faced unexpected legal issues due to unnecessary deposition disasters, as this presentation by the American Bar Association highlights.

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