Friday, October 14, 2011

How Do I Prepare for a Deposition?

I've spent a significant amount of time this week working with a client who is preparing for his deposition.  It should be a relatively short deposition in a small business litigation case (one small business suing the other over the theft of trade secrets).  There are not a lot of documents, there is not a lot of money at stake, but for the client, this is of course the biggest event to come into his world in a long time.

The preparation has included reviewing the documents in the case multiple times, and as most of the documents were generated by him, the client is very well-versed in their contents.  But even though they are his documents, he still feels nervous that opposing counsel will "get one over on him" or "trick" him into answering things incorrectly.

The most important thing for him to understand, which is often tough for most clients to understand, is that they are actually an expert when it comes to a deposition.  The opposing lawyer didn't live through the last few years of the business, didn't draft the documents, didn't talk to the customers on a daily basis and generally only knows what he knows about the documents he has been provided and the information he received from his clients.  But for some reason, the clients always believe that an attorney can "trick" them into wrong answers at a deposition or on cross-examination at trial.

The deposition also serves as a great way for the client to get accustomed to the style of the opposing attorney, how they speak, how they react, their general tenor and demeanor.  Although most cases settle before trial, clients who have been deposed tend to be much more comfortable at trial if they have been deposed previously in the case by the attorney.  They feel they have some insight into what the opposing attorney will act like and ask and will feel more comfortable with them.

For my clients, it's important to realize that they, not the other attorney, are the expert when it comes to their own testimony.

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