If you are going to be testifying on a litigation matter for the first time, say at a deposition, and you have a pulse, you are probably experiencing a large amount of stress. Here are a few tips that may alleviate some of that stress and make the going a little easier for you. The tips are for persons designated as testifying experts, but many will be applicable to just about anyone giving testimony for the first time at a deposition.
If you will be accompanied by an attorney at your deposition, it is a good idea to meet with the attorney beforehand and discuss some likely questions you will be asked at the deposition. If you have prepared notes or schedules in support of your testimony, make sure you study them before you testify. If you bring these items with you to the deposition and pull them out of a folder as you are being asked questions, count on the questioning attorney to want to make copies of your documents.
The deposition is likely going to take place in a conference room at the office of the attorney requesting your testimony. No judge will be present. I have found that appearing at the deposition conference room several minutes before the start of my deposition puts me a little more at ease as I survey my surroundings and the proposed seating arrangement.
Typical deposition room seating
You will be seated on either side of the end of the conference room table, assuming it is of a rectangular form. The court reporter, who will be transcribing your every word – and anyone else’s who speaks during your deposition, will sit at the end of the conference room table. The court reporter will be between you and the questioning attorney who will be sitting directly across from you. Your client’s attorney will typically be sitting right at your side, ready to object to any questioning from the opposing attorney that he or she believes is out of line.
Your first words
There are a few opening questions you will be asked that are standard and should be easy for you to answer. The court reporter will swear you in by asking if you swear to tell the truth, etc. – Just like on TV. However, you will not be asked to place your hand on a Bible as you recite your answer. By the way, if your answer is “no,” your deposition is effectively over.
The opposing attorney will then ask you some really easy stuff. Despite what you may think, these questions are not designed to put you at ease but to get information on the written record that you are who you are supposed to be and to find out something about your background. The questions, however, will actually take some stress out of you because of their nature. For example, you will be asked to state your full name. This will be a piece of cake for you. If you are unable to answer this question, here again, your deposition will conclude within the time it takes the questioning attorney’s eyes to stop rolling.
Don Bays, CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF