Wouldn’t it be great if someone would answer the questions you were too embarrassed to ask? Well, in this episode four experienced personal injury attorneys at Zinda Law Group detail what new attorneys can do to confidently rise to the challenge of their first deposition. From preparatory and procedural tips, to comfort blankets and secret powers against experienced attorneys, this episode is a treasure chest of tried and tested intel for any new attorney who wants the advantage from deposition number one.
On today’s podcast:
● When do you decide to take a deposition?
● The step by step process to organize a deposition
● Deposition notebooks
● Knowing the rules is the secret weapon
● How to prepare for an expert witness
● Tactics – use a video, voice memos and preparing your outline
Depositions – when and why?
According to Joe Caputo, Partner at Zinda Law Group, the two main reasons a deposition is typically taken is to pin the deponent on their story and evaluate what the facts are going to be at trial, and to evaluate that person as a witness, including their credibility and whether a jury is likely to believe their story at trial.
It’s important to know that you do not need to depose everyone you may call at trial, or anyone who has facts about the case. Written discovery, subpoenas, and written or video statements are other great ways to gather information without having to coordinate a deposition.
Experienced Trial Attorney, Christina Hagen, says the first thing to do is to ‘reach out to the other side’, get the dates in the diary and liaise with the court reporter.
Then comes the prep. Think through the questions to be asked, the exhibits to be included, and crucially, set out the plan of attack in an attorney’s greatest sidekick, the deposition notebook.
What is a deposition notebook?
The deposition notebook is a tool to keep attorneys on track. Severe and Catastrophic Injury Attorney, Neil Solomon, explains that generally it will include information on the petition, any written discovery from the other side, an outline with key points you want to hit on, and the exhibits you plan on using.
On top of that, Joe reveals that having the deposition rules at hand was a ‘kind of a comfort blanket’ for his first four years. These are often rules you may need to rely on in regard to deposition objections, instructions not to answer, suspensions of the deposition, and how to handle bringing up exhibits that haven’t been produced in discovery prior to the deposition.
Additionally, knowing the rules can be a new attorney’s greatest defense against overconfident lawyers on the other side. Knowing the rules is a “secret power to rebut a more senior attorney trying to push you around on a case”, Attorney and Presenter, Jack Zinda advises from experience.
In earnest, the Zinda Law Group team say ‘it depends’, as the answer to how long it takes to prepare for a deposition. Most importantly, “The time to start preparing for the deposition is not when you set the deposition,” Joe advises. In many instances, especially in more complicated cases, you should be preparing for the deposition when you send discovery.
According to Jack, Depositions can be categorized into four main types:
1. Fact witnesses
2. Party depositions
3. Corporate representatives
4. Expert witnesses
In particular, they agree expert witnesses require the most time. Attorneys should undertake an investigative ‘deep dive’ to find out as much intel as possible and become a ‘mini expert’ on the opinions of the witness, they advise.
Last, but certainly not least, the attorneys share invaluable tips on how to rock preliminary depositions like a seasoned expert.
Firstly, don’t be afraid to video record the deposition yourself, even if you don’t plan on using it at trial. Secondly, make yourself a voice memo within twelve hours of the deposition of your thoughts, including how the deposition went, what discovery you still need to get out and obtain, and next steps to get the case from A to Z.
And thirdly, from the wise Jack Zinda himself, “don’t rush, and don’t write out all your questions, but instead master the questioning technique. Trust yourself and follow where the answers lead you”.