If you have never testified at a deposition involving a civil litigation matter but you soon will, it’s possible you will have some of the feelings I had the first time I had to testify.
Just before the hour of your testimony arrives, you may end up experiencing (pick one): a) stress; b) fear; c) anxiety; d) sweaty palms; e) a desire to be out of the country; f) an inability to recall just about anything having to do with the case being litigated; or, g) all of the above.
I’ve been through a fair number of depositions but I will admit, I still get a tad stressed before my testimony starts. It’s mostly because I don’t want to say anything that will come back later to haunt me in the courtroom when the trial is in process.
Every now and then, some opposing attorneys will attempt to “try” the case in my deposition; others, will only ask pertinent questions so that they can come back at me in the courtroom and win the case there.
I have found that some of the attorneys who attempt to try the case during my deposition often times will harass, harangue, berate, intimidate, belittle, ridicule, and badger me.
To take some of the stress out of you prior to your deposition there are some things you can do:
• Make sure you meet with the attorney who represents you (or your client if you are providing expert witness services) before you go into your deposition. The attorney will give you an idea of the types of questions the opposing attorney will be asking you.
• If you are going to be asked questions about a report or document you prepared, make sure you are thoroughly familiar with the report or document before your deposition.
• Plan beforehand on answering questions with as many “no” or “yes” answers as you can. In other words, answer only the question that you will be asked without volunteering an expansion of your answer.
• You will always be given some soft questions at the outset of your deposition that will help you relax – that is, unless you cannot remember your name or where you work.
• Expect the opposing attorney to try to make you feel inadequate. Some won’t but others certainly will (see above). If you are being unduly harassed by the opposing attorney, you have the right to terminate the deposition. If you do, however, the opposing side may ask that you be excluded from being a witness in the case because you were not deposed. On the other hand, your attorney can tell the court that you were harassed and intimated to the extent it was not possible for you to properly focus and concentrate on the deposition questions.
• Get to your deposition a few extra minutes early. Go into the deposition room (usually a conference room at the deposing attorney’s office) and say hello to the court reporter. Look around the room and start to get comfortable with your surroundings. I do this and it actually helps relieve some of my stress. Check out where the court reporter will want you to sit (this will be somewhere very close to the court reporter so that he/she can plainly hear your testimony).
• Your attorney (yours or your client’s) will typically be seated next to you at your deposition. If they sense you are having trouble answering a question they will immediately “object” to the question for some reason that only attorneys understand. This will allow you time to think about what you are going to say.
• Know before your deposition starts that you can ask for a short restroom break just about any time you want. You cannot ask to go home, however.
This list is certainly not all inclusive of things to expect and what you can do prior to your deposition in order to put you more at ease. Being well prepared, however, will do more to relieve you of your stress, and make you tougher mentally, than anything.