We continue with more tips for the first-time deposition testifier. Read Part I here.
More Easy Questions – You will be asked some more really easy questions related to such topics as the name of your employer, and a bit about your work history including your current position. You may also be asked whether you are experiencing any health issues or taking medication which might impair your ability to testify.
Basic Instructions – The questioning attorney will then give you some basic rules to follow regarding the way you answer questions. For example, the attorney will tell you not to give an answer by the nodding of your head. This is because it is difficult to record a nod of the head in the court reporter’s transcription.
The attorney will also tell you not to answer until he or she is through asking the question. This is because the court reporter cannot record two conversations going on at the same time. The attorney might tell you that if you don’t know the answer to a question, simply say so and not guess. The attorney will also tell you that if you have to take a rest room break, you may ask for it at any time.
Answering the not so easy questions – You are starting to get the feeling that the attorney is not so bad after all. And, that this deposition talk isn’t as tough as you thought it was going to be. However, from this point on you might start to sense that the attorney asking the questions isn’t as nice as they were portraying themselves to be.
This is the part of the deposition when you are allowed to start sweating; and the part where the questioning attorney is going to pepper you with questions he or she has written out before you ever came to the deposition room. You might now be asked to indicate those persons with whom you talked before your deposition, the time length of the conversations, and what you talked about. If you are testifying as an expert you will likely be asked to indicate when you were first contacted on the matter at hand and to state what you were asked to do. You may also be asked to state the amount of time you spent on the case and the fees you charged.
The attorney sitting next to you – on your side, is going to give you some further instructions, most likely before you ever start your deposition.
These instructions might include the following:
- Answer with a simple “yes” or “no” – don’t offer additional comment until you are asked.
- If you don’t remember, don’t guess. Say you don’t remember.
- If the questioning attorney tries to upset you, don’t get angry. Stay composed.
- If the attorney working on your side offers an objection to a particular question asked of you, don’t give an answer while the objection is being made. Sometimes the objection is good when you are asked a really hard question because it gives you a few extra moments to formulate your answer.
The tips I’ve mentioned are not all inclusive but just might take a bit of stress out of you the first time you have to testify at a deposition.
By Don Bays, CPA/ABV, CVA, CFF