The adage that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is especially true with a deposition: you (almost) never get a second chance to depose the same witness. Effective questioning of a deponent can make or break a case.
As a result, attorneys go to great lengths to prepare for the unexpected at these events. Litigators and their staff can prepare for days or weeks for high profile depositions.
Even still, the most prepared attorney can’t anticipate every eventuality, particularly in complex cases. Successful attorneys have learned to depend on their colleagues and staff to maximize their odds.
Here are five ways you can leverage your office team while taking a deposition.
Paralegals Standing by with Access to Data
In some cases, you might have rooms full of documents and data, which make it impractical to bring every document to a deposition whether electronically or in hard copy. Attorneys must decide which information needs to be on hand and which can remain behind. With a large amount of key material remaining at the office, it is beneficial to have a paralegal standing by to access the data for you if needed.
For example, the witness says a wire transfer happened five times, and you remember differently. The issue is effectively settled by texting or emailing the paralegal to provide the document to support a follow-up question. “This document says eight times. Can you explain the discrepancy?”
Being able to call a paralegal to retrieve a document, a closing date or other data may prove invaluable. Even better, if the paralegal is watching the deposition remotely, they can anticipate and proactively find the document to be ready when the attorney calls.
Oversight to Compare Multiple Depositions
Contradictions invariably arise when multiple depositions are taken in a case. When it occurs, the on-site attorneys may find it difficult to keep track of the correct information for each deposition. It becomes even more difficult in multi-tracked depositions.
In the office, a fellow attorney or paralegal watching a remote video or real-time text feed of the deposition can provide the needed oversight.
“You claimed that there were only five wire transfers. But earlier today, your colleague said that there were eight. Are they wrong? Do you wish to add anything to your statement?”
Acting as a wingman, the colleague can also forward additional questions should they arise. It's worthwhile to have a second set of ears and eyes on the deposition to generate additional insight. Live data coming out of the deposition room is very powerful, so use it to your advantage.
Interface with Clients
During the deposition, a witness may refer to corporate information that had not come up in discovery. As a result, attorneys and their teams may find it helpful to be able to interact with the client during the deposition to confirm or refute new data from the deponent.
“We’re deposing your former CFO, and they claim to have only seen five wire transfers. Can you check your bank records?”
The answer provides the basis of your next question, which proves pivotal. If you don’t ask that one question, you may have missed your opportunity.
Technology to Help Leverage Your Office Staff
When seeking ways to leverage your office-bound colleagues most effectively, technology like remote video deposition software helps considerably. If you don’t have a remote deposition going, then you must call and get a colleague out of a meeting when you need assistance.
Having a wingman on a deposition makes you so much more prepared to handle diversions. Like any skill, the more experienced and comfortable you are with this technology makes it easier and more effective.
Coach and Train Young Attorneys
Young or inexperienced attorneys need deposition training. Remote video depositions offer a fantastic way of coaching them. While a seasoned attorney takes a deposition, trainees watch from back at the office.
At a certain point, the roles can be reversed. The junior attorney can go to the deposition, and the experienced attorney evaluates their performance from the office.
Leverage Your Team to Win
Many business and military strategists have shared a similar nugget of wisdom: “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” The same is true in depositions: plan as much as possible … and when the plan needs to change, get ready to call in your reinforcements.
About the Author
As a legal industry technology executive, Jason Primuth brings broad experience in court reporting technology. Prior to his role as Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation at Lexitas, Jason was the General Manager of RealLegal and the Vice President of Sales at LiveNote, Inc. which included LiveNote software and West Court Reporting Services, the court reporting division of Thomson Reuters.
A regular presenter at conventions for attorneys, corporate counsel, and court reporters, Jason has educated thousands of professionals on the value and best practices of litigation technology. Jason studied international politics and diplomacy at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.