August 01, 2012

A New Lawyer Prepares for and Defends His First Deposition

A young litigator gets advice about what is and is not important in his first big opportunity, and how to avoid messing it up.

James E. Stewart

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The hard work has finally paid off. Our new lawyer has been noticed for his progress through the seemingly endless research assignments and discovery projects and all the other tribulations of the recent law school graduate. He has been assigned to prepare a witness for deposition and to defend the deposition. And he alone is responsible.

He has read some of the very fine treatments of the general subject of depositions available in the literature, including our library’s collection of Litigation. He has perhaps been a very junior member of a team that may have prepared witnesses for deposition, has possibly sat through a deposition or two, and may have even attended a program at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy or similar in-house education program. But all of this is a bit like ground training for someone preparing to skydive—the training is fine and necessary, but there comes the time when you first jump out of the airplane all by yourself. It can be kind of scary.

The new lawyer comes to me, one of the seasoned citizens in the firm’s Litigation Department, for some advice about key aspects of the deposition and what he can do to avoid “screwing up” his opportunity. I’ve had this experience many times and it's not the time for a lecture with a long list of do’s and don’ts. It’s time for some reassurance combined with the big-picture discussion. It’s time to illustrate what we are trying to accomplish in this deposition and how we are going to do it. The following topics are what I would discuss with that new lawyer.

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