April 04, 2011 Articles

How to Take a Deposition

For lawyers learning how to take depositions, there are a few guiding principles to keep in mind and a number of traps to avoid.

By Dan Goldman and Mor Wetzler

For lawyers learning how to take depositions, there are a few guiding principles to keep in mind and a number of traps to avoid.

Know Your Purpose
You must be clear about the purpose of your deposition. First, consider whether the case is likely to proceed to trial. If not, then you can use every piece of ammunition you have and can completely attack the witness and cross-examine on every weak point because that will give you value for settlement. If there is a good likelihood the case may be tried, you may want to hold some of your strongest attacks. For example, you may want to wait to use some documents at trial to surprise a witness and not allow him or her time to think of an explanation for a document. Instead, it might be better to use a pure discovery deposition to pin down what a witness’s story will be without revealing your best documents.

Second, within that framework, determine what you hope to accomplish through the deposition. Beyond discovering what happened, be clear on what two or three points you want to establish through a witness’s testimony. If the case goes to trial, usually only a very small part of the deposition is ever used. The true value of depositions may be for impeachment purposes.

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