Friday, August 28, 2009

For Deposition Success: Speak to the Jurors!

Your client is a rational, mature businessperson. You expect them to do well at their upcoming deposition, after all, they have plenty of real-world experience, and of course you go over the facts of the case with them as well as some deposition basics. You are subsequently horrified when they waffle, or get angry, or are evasive, or volunteer or do any of the multitude of the other communication sins that constitute poor testimony.

But here’s the thing: whether your witness is a CEO or a homemaker, he or she must be prepared as rigorously for deposition as they are for trial. Why? Because the vast majority of cases don’t go to trial, and depositions are critical in determining your effectiveness in negotiating the best possible settlement for your client. Yet time after time, lawyers fail to prepare witnesses sufficiently for deposition. The reasons are simple: too much to do, too little time.

There are, however, some basic guidelines that can help your witness at their deposition in the absence of your being able to conduct full-fledged video-taped role play with them.

Here's a tip: tell your witness that although it may seem like he is responding to opposing counsel’s questions, in truth, the witness is addressing the jurors. It doesn’t matter whether or not the matter ever gets to trial, when the witness responds as if he speaking to jurors, being informative rather than defensive, polite and even-tempered despite opposing counsel’s ploys, the quality of his testimony improves radically.