How to Prepare for a Deposition

Prepare for a deposition by knowing the facts and arguments of your case, as much as you can about the witness, the court rules relevant to depositions and evidence, and if the witness is a proponent of your position, prepare him well. Whether the witness is a fact witness or an expert witness will determine the level of preparation required. If the witness is an expert witness, not only is knowing the facts required, but also knowing the subject matter of expertise.

One of the first matters to address is the subpoena and its form and requirements. If there is an objection to the form or requirements of the subpoena, put that on the record at the time the deposition begins. If the requirements are valid, do what is necessary to procure the records or other items subpoenaed along with the witness. This is something that often times must be taken care of well in advance so that the client or witness can assist you in obtaining the requested information. For example, if the subpoenaed material is the original medical chart, contact the hospital or office risk manager well in advance. Odds are that unless it is the risk manager subpoenaed, he will need advanced notice to schedule the deposition so that he can bring the original medical chart. Hospitals do not ordinarily allow the original medical chart out of the possession of the hospital, even if it is the attorney who is bringing it to the deposition.

As for line of questioning, appropriate preparation demands knowing the facts and arguments including strengths and weaknesses of each side’s position. Interrogatories should have already been prepared and served with the responses received well in advance. The responses should be sufficient to reveal the opposition’s arguments and the opinions of their expert witnesses, and allow further research into those arguments and opinions. If they were not, reschedule the deposition and file a motion to compel if appropriate. Do not go through with the deposition if ill prepared as it is a waste of time and revealing of weakness. Once the facts, arguments, and opinions are known, follow-up conferences with your experts can be made in order to further prepare and possibly impeach the expert for example.

Once the strengths and weaknesses are assessed, outline them in bullet points so that a quick reference can be made to them while conducting the deposition. If they have been adequately discussed, cross them out so that they are obviously highlighted as a covered topic which needs no further discussion. In a separate area adjacent to the bullet point, make notes to address in follow-up. The bullet system should allow the interrogator to take off down a tangent without losing the train of thought of the larger picture.

Final matters to point out include the need to be courteous and respectful as this speaks to credibility. Also, do not be late and do not take too much longer than the scheduled length of the deposition. Tardiness and unnecessary delay will set the tardy individual on the wrong key. Obtain directions in advance and keep a cell phone at hand in order to call to forewarn of any delays as this will keep the control in the appropriate court.

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