New lawyers and associates will eventually be called to handle a deposition on their own for the first time. These tips are designed to help those new lawyers in preparation and execution of that often overwhelming task. A common misconception among young attorneys is that they will make a mistake at the deposition that will seriously harm their client's case. While in the practice of law there is a short list of mistakes that cannot be unwound, depositions are not one of them. It is more important to be relaxed than scared to make a mistake.
Outline your field of questions instead of writing them
No one wants to sound inarticulate or unprepared, particularly the new attorney mindful that his or her supervising partner or client will ultimately review the deposition transcript. However, if the lawyer writes out each and every question, is that instead of listening to the answer of the deponent, the attorney is already thinking of reading his next question. Instead of listening and reacting to the witness’s answer with an appropriate follow up question, the new attorney will be more concerned with the phrasing of the next question. A thin but comprehensive outline is all that is needed. Rather than having a perfectly formed, written-out question, a few words to evoke a question are all that is necessary (e.g. “Date Contract Signed”). The outline allows the attorney to read the notes, look up from his or her notes, form a question, listen to the question, analyze whether the witness has really answered the question, and form a follow-up question, if warranted.
Know the facts of the case
Preparation is obviously important, but it also the great equalizer. While new attorneys cannot hope to match a veteran’s intuition and facility that have been honed over hundreds of depositions, the new attorney can be more prepared than the veteran and, thus, help level the playing field. Extensive preparation may not be warranted for every deposition, but where there has been extensive discovery produced, the new attorney should be very familiar with responses and documents produced. Moreover, the new attorney should carefully interview his or her client to fully understand the case and ask questions the client (and the case) need answered.