Number 1 Pet Peeve – Client Depositions

As everyone does, I have developed my own list of deposition “pet peeves,” and I’m going to introduce you to them. So, here is my No. 1 pet peeve: clients not listening to and contemplating questions before answering when being deposed. Before every deposition of a client, I have a preparation session with them to describe the deposition process and give them a list of things to avoid when being deposed. The thing that can get a deponent into trouble very quickly is not listening to the question asked and/or not waiting at least three seconds before starting to answer a pending question. If a deponent fails to listen to the question posed, he or she risks giving a wrong answer, which can be very damaging, especially if the testimony is an admission on a critical issue in the case. A deposition is not a horse race. Waiting at least three seconds after a question is asked before answering is advantageous for several reasons. First, and foremost, it gives the deponent an opportunity to repeat the question in their head before answering. If the deponent is not sure what is being asked after repeating the question in their own mind, he or she should seek clarification as to the question, thus ensuring that the deponent understands the question and is in fact going to answer the question posed. When a deponent provides information that is not called for by a deposition question, it will invariably lead to more questions and a lengthier deposition, which result in increased legal fees. It goes without saying that the more questions that are answered by the deponent increases the chances that the witness will put his foot in his own mouth. Second, slowing things down gives the deponent’s lawyer a chance to object to the question. If a question is answered before the objection is lodged, the objection is waived. Finally, slowing the deposition down will permit the court reporter to make an accurate record of the deposition.

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