What You Need to Tell Your First-time Deponent
Do you remember your first day of school? Your first pet? Your first client? It’s likely you remember at least a few of the firsts in your life. When it comes to depositions, you may have a lot of experience but perhaps not as a deponent, someone who is giving a deposition. You likely feel how you did before your first day of school – nervous, apprehensive, and unsure of the process. As the legal team who called you to testify to prepare you, as they should, and let them know you’re a first-time deponent.
Explain What a Deposition Is
A deposition is a legal proceeding where a witness is sworn in and asked their version of events related to a particular court case. For example, an operating room nurse may be called to testify as to what happened during surgery for a malpractice case or an eyewitness to a car accident may be called to give their version of events. The process is simply to find out what key witnesses know about the event.
We recommend that you come dressed as if you were appearing in court. Suits or at least business casual is appropriate because what you wear will be representative of your character.
Once You Get There
Ahead of the deposition date, the first-time deponent will be notified of when and where they need to be. It’s important to be available and on time as there are quite a few people that will be there to hear what you have to say. The attorney who called you, their court reporter, you, and your attorney will be present. It’s important to note that you don’t have to be represented by legal counsel for a deposition but depending on the type of case, you may opt to have yours present; just be sure opposing counsel is aware of the additional person/people.
You will be meeting in a conference room at a legal office whether that’s at the law firm, court reporting agency, or other location. Please be polite to the team even if you’re upset about why you’re there.
It’s okay to say you don’t understand.
Before answering any questions, take a minute to think about your answer. Give a simple and complete answer to what is asked. In depositions there is more leeway for questioning than what is asked in open court but we still caution you to only provide information that you’re asked to provide. If you don’t understand what is being asked, ask for clarification. Answering a question that wasn’t asked because you didn’t understand and/or saying too much can lead down paths the attorneys may not want to go.
And lastly, take a deep breath. Your attorney has lead witnesses through many depositions, including first-time deponents like yourself. Trust the process and you will be great.