Deposition Pointers for the Nervous Witness

Family law litigants pursue depositions for a variety of reasons—to dig for deeply hidden information, to intimidate the opposing party, and to try to uncover the opposing party’s legal strategy.  Like trial, depositions can be stressful, scary, and expensive.  Here are some tips on how to stay calm—and successful—while being deposed:

1) Pause after every question.  This gives your attorney an opportunity to object.  While you’ll likely have to answer the question after your attorney’s objection, the objection may help you know what your attorney is worried you’ll accidentally say in your answer.

2) When you answer each question, look at the stenographer rather than opposing counsel.  Opposing counsel’s goal is create a fluid conversation with you, in which you’ll become comfortable and say more than necessary.  If you make eye contact with the stenographer instead, it’s challenging for opposing counsel to create a chatty environment.

3) Answer the question, and only the question.  Think about the briefest way to answer the question.  It may be a simple yes or no.  Do not provide a narrative response or superfluous detail unless absolutely necessary.

4) If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification. 

5) If you are not certain of the answer, say “I’m not certain” or “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”  Your answer will be memorialized in a transcript, and opposing counsel will look for inconsistencies between your comments at trial and at deposition.  It’s harder to find inconsistencies when you only provide answers that you are certain are accurate.