If you hear that you must appear at a deposition, you probably won’t like that news very much. Depositions have some negative connotations, though they don’t always turn out that way. If the law says you must appear for one, though, you have to do it. Otherwise, you can face much more serious legal actions.
There’s no downplaying the importance of deposition preparation with your attorney. We’ll discuss that in detail the following article.
What Does a Deposition Entail?
First, we should make sure you understand this term and what it means. If a court deposes you, that means you must give a sworn statement. Doubtless you’ve seen in movies or TV shows there a court officer tells someone they must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Once you agree, that means the court has sworn you in, and you must give only true statements. If you lie under oath, the law will subject you to criminal charges. Of course, that’s assuming anyone can prove you didn’t say only true statements.
Now, let’s run through what you and your lawyer might discuss if you have a deposition coming up.
Your Lawyer Will Inform You Who’s Attending the Deposition
No two depositions will look exactly alike. You might attend one with certain individuals there but not others.
Besides yourself, you may have witnesses in attendance. Your lawyer should attend, and the other party’s lawyer as well. You might have situations with several attorneys present in complicated legal cases, particularly if you have multiple individuals the court suspects have broken the law.
A court reporter will also attend the deposition. However, the judge will not attend. A lawyer can still object if they don’t like a question. The court reporter notes an objection if one happens.
Depositions don’t usually take place in courtrooms, either. You might see a deposition in someone’s home, in a hospital, in an office building, or elsewhere. Anywhere a court representative can swear you in, a deposition can take place. Usually, though, depositions take place in formal settings like office buildings.
Your Lawyer Probably Knows What Questions You Must Answer
Before a court official deposes you, you will likely meet with your lawyer unless you don’t feel you need one. You may think you don’t need an attorney if you did nothing wrong, and you’re just answering a few simple questions. However, even in cases where you did nothing illegal or unethical, you might want a lawyer present.
Depositions might look fun or entertaining if you see one happening in a TV show or movie, but most people don’t find that’s true when they’re questioned in real life. Once you swear that you’ll tell the truth, and not only that, but the whole truth, it’s not a very comfortable feeling. You can feel very vulnerable.
You may want a lawyer because if you don’t know the law, you don’t know what an attorney can legally ask you. Even if you did nothing wrong, maybe you’d prefer not to answer certain questions. If you have your attorney there, they can step in on your behalf if the other lawyer asks something out of line.
For the most part, your lawyer should know the scope of any questions you must answer during the deposition. They’ll know about them beforehand unless the other lawyer asks something completely unexpected.
Your lawyer can prep you. They might ask you the questions they assume the other attorney will ask, and you can practice answering.
If your lawyer feels you should answer a question differently, they can tell you so. That doesn’t mean they’re saying you should lie. You can answer questions certain ways and still tell the truth. Maybe you just won’t elaborate too much.
When the Moment Comes
When the actual deposition arrives, you may feel nervous. Again, that’s natural, even if you did nothing wrong. You are directly encountering the court system and possibly a criminal matter. Even if you’re not the perpetrator, you’ve involved yourself in some way, even if you never intended that.
Once the court representative swears you in and you’re officially under oath, try to stay calm. That’s the most important thing. You can expect a few questions, or possibly many more if you played a pivotal role in something that’s being scrutinized.
Answer each one honestly and simply. You don’t need to elaborate more than necessary if you don’t want to. If the lawyer wants more from you, they might ask follow-up questions. For the most part, though, if you answer truthfully and simply, that’s the best way to get through it.
You should make sure to listen closely to any question as well. Sometimes, if you don’t fully understand the question’s scope, you may find yourself giving a much longer or more detailed answer than necessary. There’s nothing wrong with that, except it will likely prolong the whole process. You probably want to be done with it as soon as possible.
Don’t Bring Notes or Speculate
You should follow some additional rules. Your lawyer might mention these before the deposition. First, don’t bring notes. Maybe you want some, but it’s best you answer the questions as best you can without bringing along any prompts.
Written prompts can make you look dishonest. Also, the lawyer questioning you can look at those notes, so if you write down anything you’d prefer to keep to yourself, you’ll lose that privilege.
You should also not speculate about anything while the lawyer questions you. Maybe you have some thoughts about whether someone did something or how certain events played out. Unless the lawyer asks you about something directly, though, you should not give your opinion aloud.
Doing the prep work and getting the deposition out of the way should not take long. A rare person might enjoy a deposition, but most who experience them feel the opposite way. Hopefully, it’s not something you must go through often.