Depositions can be very intimidating to parties. Depositions are an opportunity for opposing counsel to ask you tons of questions and record your every answer in hopes that they will learn new information that will make or break their case. Here are five tips for deposition success.
- Answer the question, and only the question. If the question is a yes/no question, then your answer should only be “yes” or “no.” If the question is open-ended, answer it as concisely as possible. A colleague likes to use this example—if opposing counsel asks you, “Do you know what time it is?” you should not answer “Yes, 4:45.” Instead, you should only answer, “Yes.”
- Don’t fill the silence. Opposing counsel may deliberately take a long pause in hopes that you will have the human instinct to fill the silence. Do not fill the silence.
- “That is all I remember as I sit here.” Opposing counsel is going to try to lock in your testimony. In other words, they may ask you to list every vacation you took during the marriage, and then ask, “Have you now told me every vacation you took during the marriage?” Instead of saying you listed every single thing, since your memory may not be perfect, answer something like, “That is all I remember as I sit here.”
- Take a break if you need one. If you are feeling stressed or exhausted, don’t be afraid to ask for a break. Opposing counsel won’t let you take a break before you’ve answered a question, but they should allow you to take a break once the question is answered.
- “I don’t remember.” Opposing counsel may try to trip you up with complicated factual questions. For example, “In what month, did you roll over your 401k?” If you can’t remember, you can say, “I don’t remember” or “I’m not certain.” It’s better to say that you don’t remember than to state an untrue answer that will be later used to impeach your credibility.