If you’ve never been involved with legal matters before, then everything about the process might frustrate and confuse you, and that’s especially true when it comes to your deposition. One of the best ways to deal with your nerves and confusion is to educate yourself about the upcoming legal proceedings. Depositions are essentially a question-and-answer session, but matters can take a turn for the worst if you don’t know what to expect or if you’re poorly prepared.
The phrase “weigh your words” applies perfectly to depositions. Think before you speak, even when you know without a shadow of doubt what the answer is. The reason for this is that anything you say can be turned back against you and used as ammunition. Make sure the other side is always firing with an empty clip. Don’t be afraid to give simple, one-word answers when that’s all that’s required. Remember that although it might feel like it, you aren’t sitting down for an interview.
It’s perfectly normal that you want to look as professional as possible during your deposition, but you have to remember that you’re human. If there’s something that you don’t remember or that you aren’t sure of, then don’t hesitate to say so. It’s best that you bring relevant paperwork and information with you to the deposition to aid your memory, but never lie or give a statement that you aren’t 100 percent sure of. Even the slightest half-truth can have disastrous consequences.
Prepare to Be Evaluated
Everything about you is going to be in the spotlight during your deposition. This includes the way that you speak, how you’re dressed and how you act during the proceedings. Remember to answer each question in an audible voice—project and enunciate. You’ll also want to dress the part. Opt for conservative colors such as navy, white and gray. Leave the flash and glamour at home. The more credible of a witness you are, the less likely the opposing attorney will want to see you on the stand in court.
Understand the Question
If you’re having trouble coming up with the answer to a question, it might be because you don’t fully understand the question. Don’t afraid to ask to have a question repeated or asked in a different way so that you can completely understand it. Some attorneys are so used to depositions and legal terms that they can sometimes forget to form their questions in layman’s terms. It’s also best that you only answer one question at a time. If you’re asked two questions at once, focus on the first question before asking to have the second repeated.
One of the reasons that you’ll want to keep your answers short and to the point is that everything that you say is going to be officially recorded. The longer your answers are, the more you have to remember to repeat or write down if you’re ever asked that question again. Before your deposition, remember to take a close and careful look at previous statements so that you can refresh your memory of the events.
Ask for a Break
You might not think that sitting down and answering questions can start to wear on you, but it can. Don’t be afraid to ask for a break whenever you need one. Answering questions when you’re tired will only serve to your detriment and increase the chances of you saying something that you shouldn’t. Remember that attorneys are used to depositions and might not need to take breaks as much as you.
Remember Who Your Allies Are
While the deposing attorney might smile and offer warm words, you have to remember that you are essentially prey that they’re trying to lure into their trap. Don’t let them fool you into a false sense of security by asking you if you’d like to take a break or if you’d like something to drink. They’re a hunter, not a gracious host. Do everything to keep them from finding the answer that they’re grasping for, but make sure that you always remain respectful and honest.
Ask to Speak with Your Attorney
Don’t be afraid to consult with your attorney should you ever feel the need to. Depositions can sometimes drag on for as long as four hours, and in that amount of time it’s okay if you ask to speak with your attorney two or three times. They’re there to help you, so let them.
Depositions are like a battle, so make sure that you’re adequately prepared before you step onto the battlefield.