Law school does a great job of preparing you for the courtroom, but many attorneys find themselves unprepared for what is sure to become a central aspect of their jobs—depositions. Depositions are important parts of case preparation, and they can often help a case stay out of the courtroom at all. That means that you have to be adept at the deposition process, even if law school didn’t give you all the tools you need. As you begin the process of depositions in San Jose , here are the facts you need to know.
You are responsible for hiring a court reporter.
When you go into the courtroom, a court reporter will be there to create a transcript of the testimony. For a deposition, you have to hire a court reporter yourself. Court reporters play an integral role in depositions for the same reason that they are important during trials—you will need a transcript of the deposition so that you can use it in your case preparation and so that there is a record of the testimony witnesses provided under oath. These transcripts may allow you to impeach testimony that witnesses give during trial if it conflicts with what they have said during a deposition.
Technology plays an important part in depositions.
Today, effective depositions rely on technology. During the course of a deposition, you may wish to create a legal video of the testimony or you may wish to conduct a remote deposition. You may also need digital access to transcripts and electronic versions of evidence. Court reporters can often offer these comprehensive deposition services, so be sure to ask about the technology different reporters use as you decide who to hire.
Court reporters can help with document and transcript storage.
When you hire a court reporter, discuss how you will be able to access deposition transcripts and other case-related documents. Often, court reporting firms provide digital repositories that are password-protected, so that you can work on your case from anywhere, anytime, without security-related concerns.
Because everything you say during a trial will be part of the court transcript, there are many things you should consider before presenting evidence for the record. Keep in mind that the court reporter in San Jose who is working your case will create a record of everything, so any missteps you make will not be easily corrected. As you prepare for your case and get your evidence ready for trial, keep these considerations in mind.
The order in which evidence is presented has a big impact on its usefulness. Your case should tell a story that comes together in front of the jury, and your evidence should further the timeline of that narrative. Presenting evidence in a logical order also makes it more understandable for your jury to ensure that is as useful as possible. As you consider the order in which you will present evidence, keep in mind which witness you wish to show it to, whether you need it to have any surprise value, and if there are any witnesses you wish to exclude from addressing the evidence.
In some cases, you may need to present evidence to the court before presenting it in front of a jury to determine its admissibility. If you have evidence that falls into that category, be sure to file your motions early enough in the process that waiting for rulings doesn’t impact the order in which you can present your evidence. Failing to seek the appropriate approval could lead to delays or cause evidence that is necessary to your case to be excluded.
Determine the best way to present the evidence for maximum impact and for ease of understanding. When possible, legal videos can be an effective way to create presentations for the courtroom. Video can also help you present evidence to opposing counsel during discovery. For effective legal videos, work with an experienced team of videographers who understand legal procedures to ensure your videos meet courtroom standards.
When you are preparing a client for a deposition, there are four simple rules you can use to help them give truthful answers without adding extraneous information to the transcript. Remind your clients that the court reporter will record everything that they say, so the answers they give are extremely important. As you prepare for a legal deposition in San Jose , remind your clients of the rules in this video.
Before answering any question during a deposition, your clients should make sure that they have heard and understood the question. They should also be careful to give a truthful answer only to the question being asked, without providing additional information that is not covered by the original question. This will prevent the client from accidentally exposing information that could be used against his or her case.
An outline can be a helpful tool for preparing for a deposition , but it shouldn’t become restrictive. Treating your outline as a rough draft instead of the final version will give you the flexibility you need to conduct a thorough deposition without being restricted by your initial plan. Using your deposition outline to prepare your court reporter in San Jose for any potentially challenging aspects of testimony, such as industry-specific terminology, can also be helpful.
A deposition outline helps you map out the questions you want to ask in the order in which you want to ask them. It also helps you highlight the information you have and what you want to gain through deposition testimony. However, it is important to react to the situation at hand during the deposition itself. As witnesses provide information in the course of the deposition, give yourself the freedom to address new information and change your planned questions in response to new facts. This will allow you to get the most from the testimony without overlooking any important details.
Even if your client has previously given a deposition, he or she might be surprised at how much they’ve changed. These days, video depositions near San Jose are considered standard. This means it’s even more important for your client to make a good first impression, as it’s possible for the opposing counsel to introduce video clips in court . Meet with your client ahead of time, and offer tips on answering questions, dressing appropriately, and helping the court reporter get an accurate transcript.
Consider showing this featured video to your client. It’s a succinct overview of what your client needs to know. The lawyer featured here explains the importance of treating every person courteously, and avoiding defensive language or behaviors. Clients should fully understand each question, and take a brief pause before answering it. It’s important to respond verbally to each question, and to avoid interrupting others so that the court reporter can do his or her job accurately.
Confidentiality is an essential element in building a trusting lawyer-client relationship. After all, if you’re a criminal defense lawyer and your client withholds vital details because he or she doesn’t believe the information will be kept confidential, then the entire case could be derailed. Court reporters in San Jose have a similar duty to abide by a code of ethics, including the responsibility to preserve the confidential nature of the information they record.
Understanding Confidentiality and Attorney-Client Privilege
Even among experienced lawyers, you’re likely to hear some people using the terms “duty of confidentiality” and “privileged information” interchangeably, despite their subtle differences. Both of these legal concepts have the end result of encouraging clients to disclose sensitive information to their attorneys. However, the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality is typically specified in the state’s ethics rules (American Bar Association Model Rule 1.6). The attorney-client privilege, on the other hand, is in common law. It’s essentially a rule of evidence, as it prohibits lawyers from being required to testify about the statements their clients made.
Identifying When Information Is Privileged
The attorney-client privilege applies to many circumstances, even if the person who revealed the confidential information isn’t actually a client. For example, a privileged relationship exists when:
- A prospective client or an actual client solicits legal advice from a lawyer.
- The prospective or actual client intends to keep the information confidential.
- The lawyer acts in any professional capacity.
Attorneys have the duty to keep privileged information confidential, even after the client is no longer a client, and after the client’s death.
Using a Secure Case Management System
Even if you are careful to never discuss the details of a case with anyone who isn’t authorized to have that information, you might inadvertently experience some lapses in confidentiality, especially if you store information electronically. Work with a court reporting company that offers a 24/7 virtual case management system. The security of this system allows you to access your online case file repository at any time without worrying about a breach in information security.
The highest priority of court reporters serving San Jose is the accuracy of their transcriptions. Ethical, dedicated court reporters won’t hesitate to interrupt a deposition if their ability to get information on record is jeopardized. This can sometimes lead to ill will among the parties involved. If you’re an attorney, here’s what your court reporter wants you to know.
Why Deposition Interruptions Happen
Court reporters record verbatim speech at 225 words per minute or faster. Speed is important, but accuracy is paramount. Simply put, interruptions happen when a witness mumbles or offers a non-verbal response, or when multiple parties interrupt each other. In these situations, the court reporter must interrupt the proceedings to have the witness repeat the statement. Newly certified court reporters do tend to need to interrupt depositions more frequently, however, they’re typically the least willing to do it. Court reporters with plenty of experience generally don’t need to interrupt as often, but they’re more willing to assert themselves when the situation calls for it.
What You Can Do to Prevent Interruptions
Attorneys prefer to keep interruptions to a minimum, as they disrupt the flow of questioning and answering. Yet, many attorneys don’t realize that they play a direct role in how many interruptions are necessary. It’s well worth the time to discuss some ground rules before you get the deposition started. Clearly explain to the witness that the role of the court reporter is to take down an accurate record of everything that everyone says on the record. In order to do this, the court reporter must be able to hear every word. Establish the following rules:
- Only one person is to speak at one time.
- Wait until the questioning attorney is completely finished asking a question before responding.
- Every speaker should talk with reasonable clarity, volume, and speed.
- No non-verbal responses (i.e., head-shaking or nodding) are allowed.
Additionally, attorneys can help court reporters do their job well by providing a short information packet with the proper spellings of names and common industry jargon.
In late 2013, new HIPAA regulations went into effect that can affect court reporters who provide transcription services pertaining to patient information. The next time you hire a court reporter in San Jose, consider whether any of these updates might apply. Under HIPAA, both you and your court stenographer could be considered “business associates” of the healthcare industry. In other words, if you’re handling a case for a covered entity, such as a health plan or hospital, then by extension, you and the court reporter you hire are subject to HIPAA regulations.
HIPAA requires that all business associates of covered entities have an established Business Associate Agreement (BAA). This document must include multiple provisions, including the specifics of how a court reporter is permitted to disclose and use personal health information (PHI). Other provisions are: Requiring the court reporter to report security breaches in PHI, implement safeguards to protect PHI, and ensure that any subcontractors abide by the BAA.
There are many things lawyers aren’t taught in law schools, and one of them is how to conduct legal depositions in unusual places around San Jose. Some of the strangest places lawyers have done legal depositions are hotel rooms, airports, prisons, and adult entertainment stores. These are obviously not ideal places to take down sworn testimony. Whenever possible, it’s best to have a court reporter meet you and the other parties at a private conference room. Even if you’ll be conducting a remote deposition, a private conference room is best because it eliminates distractions on your end, and it ensures you’ll have the right technology to conduct the deposition securely .
Court reporting agencies that offer conference room rentals also typically offer high-tech solutions to guarantee privacy and security. Due to the sensitive nature of legal cases, it isn’t advisable to conduct remote depositions with less secure connections. Sophisticated video conferencing platforms even allow private chat options, which let clients communicate with their attorneys confidentially.
Long before your client sits down near a court reporter , he or she needs to know exactly what to expect from a typical deposition held in San Jose. Asking and answering tough questions may be as natural to you as breathing, but for your client, it may be intimidating. Arguably, one of the most important benefits of thorough preparation is that it gives your client the confidence needed to effectively handle this stressful situation.
Explain the process of the deposition.
You should assume that your client is completely unfamiliar with the concept of legal depositions. Go over the basic facts, including the following:
- It does not take place in a courtroom.
- A court reporter will take down everything said on the record, verbatim.
- Testimony is given under oath.
- Giving testimony that contradicts later testimony at trial could be perjury.
Instruct your client to only give verbal answers—court reporters can’t record gestures. If your client doesn’t know something, he or she shouldn’t try to guess. Emphasize the importance of only giving as much information as was asked for. One-word answers are encouraged, if they answer the question.
Review documents and facts.
Although your client can answer “I don’t know,” if that’s the truth, it’s better if he or she knows the details of the facts of the case. Spend plenty of time going over any relevant documents and records. Being fully informed will help your client to confidently answer questions.
Help your client anticipate questions from opposing counsel.
It’s impossible to think of every single question opposing counsel will ask, but you probably have a fairly good idea of the direction of the questioning. Write down a list of every question you can think of, and put the toughest ones at the top. Go over these questions exhaustively until your client feels comfortable with them.
Give some last-minute tips.
You don’t want to overwhelm your client with information, but you may wish to remind him or her of some crucial tips just before the deposition. Remind your client to actively listen to every question, and not to answer the question before opposing counsel is done asking it. Let your client know that it’s okay to briefly pause—this gives you a chance to object if need be.
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