November 17, 2015 Articles

Three Tips for Handling Surprises at Depositions

By Ellen M. Murphy

Depositions may be the most important tool an attorney has to evaluate a case and prepare for trial. Indeed, it can be said that most civil cases are won or lost during depositions, given that the vast majority of cases do not go to trial. Experienced attorneys know the importance of being prepared to take and defend depositions. But even in the most carefully prepared cases, surprises at depositions invariably occur. How a litigator handles those surprises may be what makes the difference in the litigation. And the key to handling surprises at depositions is preparation—for both the deposition team and the witness.

Prepare Your Legal Team for Depositions
One of the most important things an attorney and her deposition team must learn is how to maintain their composure when surprises occur. Before any deposition, the lead attorney should discuss her expectations for her team’s behavior at the deposition. This is particularly true when a member of the deposition team is a junior associate, who will be attending a deposition for the first time. The lead attorney and her team should never lose their tempers nor should they appear visibly agitated by the witness or opposing counsel.

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