Home Feedback Contents Search


Home Up Transcript


Depositions are an important part of the discovery process.  Unlike interrogatories a deposition is dynamic.  If you don't like the answer to a question you can phrase it a different way and see if you like the response to a slightly different question.  The real benefit of a deposition is the ability to follow-up a response with another related question.  

The purpose of a deposition is to learn what the deponent might say at trial.  If the person testifies differently at trial from his deposition testimony the transcript of his deposition may be read back to him in court and the witness will lose credibility.  

They tend to be expensive, both for the attorney time as well as for the production of a transcript of the deposition by a court reporter.  The cost of an original transcript is typically $500.00 and it will often run $250.00 or more for a copy of a deposition transcript.  See our Transcript page to see what a deposition transcript looks like.  

General Advice for Giving A Deposition

Most of the general rules for giving deposition testimony flow from the fact that every word of the deposition is being taken down.  As an example, if someone asks you how fast you were going and you say "I was going 5 miles under the speed limit, no, strike that, I was going 30 miles per hour," the transcript will look like this:

Mr. Attorney:    How fast were you going?

Mr. Witness:    I was going 5 miles under the speed limit, no, strike that, I was going 30 miles per hour.  

In other words it is not like dictation, you can't take things back, once the words are out of your mouth they go down on the page, and there is no turning back.  

  • Think about your response.  Therefore the first rule of giving deposition testimony is think carefully about your response.  Dictate your response to yourself in your head and revise.  Choose your words carefully and speak only when you are sure about your response.  
  • Listen to the question.   Listen carefully to the question.  Try to anticipate the next few questions but answer the question that is on the table.  
  • Do not volunteer.  Do not volunteer information.  Far too often a deponent is asked a simple question, he answers, or does not answer, and then goes off on a two minute explanation of something he thinks helps his case.  Your deposition is your opportunity to give away as little information as possible.  It is not your opportunity to win the case.  Your deposition will only be read back to the jury in its entirety if you are dead, so do not try to win the case, or make your points in your deposition.  Answer the questions, only the question, and do not volunteer information.  
  • Answer "yes" or "no."  Most often the question calls for a "yes" or a "no," if at all possible answer appropriately and stop.  Sometimes a "yes" or a "no" is so misleading that you must provide some explanation so that when a question is read back at trial you do not look foolish, but most often providing an explanation hurts your case, and gives the opposing lawyer more fodder for questions.  
  • Do not answer with your rationale.  Answer the question, do give the rationale for your answer.  Do not fail to answer the question and give only your rationale.  Here is an example of what not to do.

Mr. Attorney:    So you were looking over your right shoulder?

Mr. Witness:    Well, I was trying to back up.  

The witness has not answered the question.  Instead the witness has answered with his rationale.  This gives the lawyer an opportunity to follow up with more questions.  Your rationale response may harm your case.  By not answering the question you are slowing the process for everyone, as the lawyer will almost certainly have to ask the question again.  

  • The lawyer is not your friend.  Most lawyers, particularly litigators are personable, friendly, and outgoing.  Some are even charming and very handsome or very pretty.  It is not uncommon for a witness unfamiliar with the process to be drawn in by the opposing lawyer and to answer questions directly opposite to one's intent because the lawyer asks the question is such a pleasant way or even because the lawyer has asked so many questions that call for a "yes" that when he gets to the zinger which calls for an adamant "most definitely not" the witness has been lulled into a false sense of security and just goes along and answers "yes."  Some lawyers advise their client not to shake hands with the opposing lawyer.  You will have to make this decision for yourself but remember that no matter how personable the lawyer appears to be, if you are a defendant he is out to take your money from you and if you are a plaintiff he is out to deny you just compensation.  
  • Do not make jokes.  Do not make jokes or humorous remarks.  Humor so often depends on the moment, facial expressions, the mood of the people present, and a variety of other factors which are almost impossible to recreate.  When read back to a jury in some other context humorous remarks will at best sound stupid, and at worst be offensive to some juror.  
Send mail to davidjreed@davidjreed.com with questions or comments about this web site.
Last modified: December 05, 2006