March 30, 2012 Articles

Taking and Defending Rule 30(b)(6) Depositions for Young Lawyers

By John A. Camp

Law schools generally do not teach young lawyers the difference between the deposition of a corporate representative and depositions of other fact witnesses. The deposition of a corporate representative is a chance for the corporation being deposed to tell its story, but it has the potential to bind the corporation in ways it did not intend or anticipate.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) appears to be straightforward—it allows a corporation or other entity to designate a witness to testify on the organization's behalf and requires only that the designated witness be able to testify about information "known or reasonably available to the organization." As a practical matter, however, the 30(b)(6) deposition is anything but straightforward. The organization being deposed often struggles to come up with the person or people able fully (but not too fully) to testify about the designated topics, while the lawyer taking the deposition can be frustrated because the designated witness isn't able to testify as thoroughly as the deposing lawyer thinks he or she should. Occasionally, no one in the organization being deposed has actual knowledge of one or more of the topics identified in the deposition notice, and there don't appear to be any materials a corporate designee could review to become educated on the topics. Almost invariably, there is a chasm between the deposing party's (and its lawyers') expectations and those of the organization whose designee is being deposed—which can grow when young lawyers are thrown into the mix.

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