The Art of Deposition Testimony


Posted about 5 years ago. Applies to Wisconsin, 14 helpful votes



What is the deposition process like?

It is an informal process, usually in an informal setting, such as a law office, conference room, or hotel conference room, rather than in a courtroom. It usually occurs early on in a case, during what is called the "discovery" phase prior to trial. There is no judge or magistrate in attendance and it is not open to the general public. Attendees usually consist of the parties to the lawsuit, the parties' legal counsel, the person whose deposition is being taken (the "deponent"), and a stenographer to transcribe testimony and produce a written transcript. Other potential witnesses or interested parties are generally excluded.


Spend time reviewing.

First and foremost, spend some time beforehand recalling and reviewing the facts that you will be testifying about. Take a few moments to review any relevant records or notes, but do not bring any records, notes, or documents with you to a deposition unless you are told to do so.


Know facts and details and personal info.

Be familiar with all correspondence, photos, drawings, etc., or other documents which may be important to the case and about which you have direct knowledge. Know your personal background information, current and past employers and addresses, and the department, division, or group organizational structure you work in if relevant.


Understand the question asked.

Be sure you fully and completely understand a question before you answer. If you do not understand the question, or it seems too complicated, make no attempt to answer but instead ask that it be re-phrased, be stated in a different way, or broken down into smaller, simpler pieces. An inaccurate answer to a misunderstood question could materially affect the results of the case.


Answer the question as briefly as possible.

When answering a question, if possible, try to use a "yes" or "no" answer. Do not volunteer additional information that a question does not call for, unless it is necessary to make your answer not misleading. Answer only the question asked. Do not guess or speculate about answer.


Maintain a pleasant demeanor.

Answer all questions with a polite and cooperative attitude. Try to remain calm, particularly if you think you are being "badgered" by the questioner. Your lawyer will be present and he or she will do whatever is necessary and effective in the circumstances to protect you from any overzealous or intimidating tactics.


Avoid exaggeration.

Exaggerating is a form of untruthfulness. Do not try to improve on the facts. The facts are the facts. Trying to exaggerate invariably is recognized by opposing counsel for what it is, and he or she will later exploit it to undermine your credibility at trial.


Make an effort to enunciate clearly.

Since your testimony is being recorded by a stenographer, make an effort to enunciate clearly. Speak audibly and in a normal tone of conversation so the stenographer can record precisely what you say. Avoid non-verbal communication, such as nodding your head, shrugging your shoulders, etc., as these physical gestures cannot be captured in writing by the stenographer.


Present your best appearance.

One of the objectives of a deposition is for legal counsel to get a "preview" of what you would be like as a witness at trial. Opposing counsel will be appraising you and making some tentative evaluations of how you will impress the jury. So, it is best to make a good first impression.


Contemplate dates, times, and measurements accurately.

The case you are involved in may turn on a crucial fact. Very often, deponents are careless with respect to dates, times and measurements. An inaccurate answer is often the result of not giving the subject sufficient consideration. It is important to review these kinds of details in advance.


Do not qualify favorable facts.

Answer questions concerning favorable details of your case as positively and definitively as possible. If you know you are certain of your answer, avoid expressions like "I think" or "I guess."

Additional Resources

Dempsey Law Blog

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