Deposition Composure

Demystifying Valuation, Economic Damages + Forensic Accounting

The court reporter had a foreboding sense that the deposition was not going to go well.  Mr. Kruft, who was pushing 80 years, was being deposed.  And, he was clearly expressing a great deal of annoyance at the questions being fired at him by the examining attorney.  He also did not like the smug demeanor of his questioner.

Mr. Jones’ eyes became fixed on a pitcher of ice water setting in the middle of the conference room’s table.  He no longer was focusing on the examining attorney.  Then it happened.  Mr. Kruft stood up, walked around the table next to the attorney, reached across the table for the pitcher of ice water, and promptly deposited its contents squarely on the lap of his now stunned antagonist.

This is a true story – one related to me a few years ago by a court reporter who was present at this particular deposition.  Typically, court reporters do word processing of pretty much the spoken word in a deposition.  But, on the other hand, they will also make careful typed note of really unusual actions while the deposition is in process.  Purposefully dropping a load of ice water on one’s lap in the deposition room is stuff that is sure to make it to the deposition transcript.

Can you imagine how the description of this scenario would read to a judge or jury?  You can almost bet it would bring out a few giggles.  Would it make Mr. Kruft’s testimony appear less truthful?  Probably not.  However, with the deposing attorney now knowing that Mr. Kruft has some hot buttons that are easy to push, what better place to push them than in the courtroom?

What about you?  What will you do if ever you are deposed?   A good common sense approach to consider is this:  At a deposition, you need to keep your cool – period.  The old saying that “Composure is power” is true here.  If you are deposed you must try as best you can to remain unflappable.  Don’t allow yourself to be so intimidated that you start volunteering information about which you were not asked;  or, arguing with the deposing attorney.  Be comfortable with answering only what you were asked- nothing more.

Opposing attorneys will judge how you respond to their questioning.  They will consider this as they envision how you will come across in the courtroom to a judge, or a jury.  They will like to know if you will be a calm and persuasive witness.  Or, one that gets easily flustered when asked to state the truth.  Or, one that likes to argue with the cross-examining attorney.

By the way, if you are deposed by an ornery, bad-mannered attorney, don’t take it personal.  Most of the attorneys who have ever deposed me that I thought were of this ilk turned out to be pretty decent folks outside of the deposition room.  They are merely doing their job, even if it requires a bit of “tough-guy” theatrics.

Don Bays, CPA, ABV, CVA, CFF