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.
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.
It’s possible for a witness’ answer to change between the time of the legal deposition and the trial. You can use the transcript made by the court reporter in San Jose during the deposition to impeach a witness during the trial. Watch this video to find out how one experienced trial lawyer uses cross-examination to build a case for perjury.
He reminds viewers that most jurors don’t know what a deposition is or what the role of the court reporter is. This is why it’s essential to use cross-examination to educate the jury. You can accomplish this by asking the witness questions like, “Do you recall giving your legal deposition?” and “Do you recall giving an oath to tell the truth under penalty of perjury, just like you did before you took the witness stand today?” These types of questions emphasize to the jury the significance of the changes in the witness’ testimony.
Depositions are the backbone of discovery, and it’s crucial to know the difference between proper and improper objections. Whether you’ll be conducting your first or your hundredth legal deposition in San Jose, take a few minutes to brush up on the basics of deposition objections. If you object improperly or too frequently, it may damage your own credibility and, more importantly, derail your client’s train of thought. Here’s a quick look at some proper objections.
Asked and Answered
Don’t allow opposing counsel to ask the same question twice. Some lawyers may ask repetitive questions without realizing it. In other cases, it’s a blatant attempt to get the witness to change the answer. Object to repetitive questions before your client has a chance to answer it and potentially change a few words in the answer.
Some lawyers persist in attempting to intimidate the deponent and opposing counsel by shouting, pointing fingers, and otherwise making a nuisance of themselves. If opposing counsel tries this with you or your deponent, stay calm and do not reciprocate. Instead, say to the court reporter, “Let the record reflect that Mr. Smith is yelling at my client.” For the record, you should clearly describe the type of harassing behavior, and that you will terminate the deposition unless it stops. Then, follow through if necessary.
Legal depositions are conducted to get the facts of the case on the record. Counsel should not ask a deponent to give a legal conclusion, especially if the deponent isn’t a lawyer. You can object to questions that ask for non-factual information.
Confidential, privileged relationships exist between patients and doctors, and clients and attorneys. Be wary of questions that ask the deponent to share information that was discussed in confidence. You can object to these questions based on the privileged relationship.
The mischaracterization of earlier testimony may be influential in a trial, and it confuses all involved parties as to the actual facts of the case. You can object based on opposing counsel’s mischaracterization of your client’s previous testimony.
Mistakes in a deposition may mean the difference between winning and losing at trial. If you have run into errors with one of your depositions in San Jose , then read on for tips on how to deal with this problem.
Address Them in Time
Deponents have 30 days to review the deposition transcript after being notified by the court reporter that it is available. Keep in mind that the deponent is not required to read over her testimony unless she or another party requests it.
Request Review on Record
During the deposition, ask the deponent to review the transcript once she is informed that it is available. If you choose to use deposition testimony against the witness, and she must admit that she reviewed the transcript and determined it to be correct, then making this request may benefit you at trial and give your argument more strength. Developing a standard time to request a review may make it easier for you to remember during each deposition.
Understand the Review Process
Within 30 days of being notified that the transcript is available, the witness should read and review the transcript, as well as create a list of any changes that she wishes to make. Also, she must sign a statement that explains the reasons for each of the changes. If the witness does not provide any reasons, then she will be bound to her original testimony. Also, the court will assess whether any changes requested serve a legitimate purpose. If the answers are changed, note that the court reporter will attach the signed list of changes to the transcript, and both the original and new answers will be included in the record that was generated during discovery.
Consider Not Requesting Review
On the other hand, if you noticed a mistake that the witness made and you would like to use this against her at trial, then you may not want to request that she review the transcript and submit a signed list of changes and reasons for them.
To get the most of a deposition , you need a clean transcript to refer to when it’s complete. Although your court reporter in San Jose is trained to maintain the utmost accuracy when preparing transcripts, there are many things you can do to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. During your next deposition, keep these tips in mind as you ask whatever questions you have.
Every time you speak during a deposition, keep in mind that you are creating a written record as well. Use clearly worded questions that are phrased in a way that is easy to understand. Avoid adding superfluous words. If the witness asks you to repeat the question, do so yourself rather than asking the court reporter to read it back, so that a second record of the question is created. Allow witnesses to answer questions completely before you start addressing them again, so you don’t talk over each other. Consider making a video of the deposition as a backup, in case there are any questions about the written transcript.
For new attorneys, your first deposition can be as nerve-racking as it is exciting. Before you even begin, hire an experienced court reporter and make arrangements for any additional services you will need, such as interpreting services or video deposition services in San Jose. As you get ready for your first deposition, here are the things you need to know to make it a success.
Know What You Want to Get Out of the Deposition
One of the first things to consider when you’re preparing for a deposition is if you think the case will be settled out of court or if you will end up going to trial. If you believe that a trial is the likely outcome, then you may wish to hold back some of your strongest questioning and evidence so that you can rely on it to surprise the witness in court. If you think that settling is more likely, you may want to use all of the evidence and your toughest questions during the deposition.
Once you decide where you think the case is heading, determine two or three points you wish to get from the witness’ testimony. This will help you choose the questions you want to ask and what evidence you may wish to present during the deposition.
Phrase Your Questions Carefully
Before you begin to write your questions, decide if you plan to approach the witness as though you are conducting a direct examination in court or like a cross examination, which is likely to be more adversarial. Generally, if the deposition witness will be available to testify at trial, then you may wish to make your questions open-ended, like a direct examination, to simply get his or her story that you can use with more aggressive questioning in court. If the witness will not be at trial and the deposition will be played via video, treat it more like a cross-examination.
Remember Your Court Reporter
During all questioning, be sure to speak clearly so that the court reporter can accurately record the interactions. Be sure you understand when your court reporter can deliver your transcripts to you. Don’t forget to give everyone, including your court reporter, breaks during the deposition process.
During a deposition , presenting a defense is as important as it is during a trial. Keep in mind that everything your client says will be recorded by the court reporter and will be part of the legal transcription of the proceeding. These tips will help you defend your client in San Jose before his or her deposition.
Preparation is critical.
The most important part of defending your client during a deposition happens before the questions even begin. Proper preparation is critical to an effective defense. Sometimes, because depositions happen outside of the courtroom, clients are even more likely to inadvertently volunteer information or become argumentative than they are during a trial, when things feel more formal. It is also essential that you counsel your client to be truthful during the deposition. Again, because depositions happen outside of the courtroom, clients sometimes incorrectly believe that they are under less of an obligation to be truthful than they would be on the witness stand. Remind your client that the court reporter will be transcribing everything that he or she says, and any misinformation provided during deposition can come back to haunt him or her if the case goes to trial.
You’ll need to be an advocate.
Although your ability to file objections will be more limited than during a trial, your client will still need you to act as an advocate. Even if you don’t ultimately have to speak up during the deposition, you should be there to intervene on your client’s behalf if necessary. Your client may be hesitant to follow your preparation instructions if the other attorney is goading him or her, so be a present and vocal advocate for your client who is ready to object or call for breaks as needed.
Learn the rules of the deposition jurisdiction.
Each jurisdiction has its own rules for deposition, so be sure you have done your homework in advance so you understand how objections are handled and your obligations to continue with a case after a deposition. Reviewing these rules is especially important for a video deposition in which the case is being adjudicated in another location.
When a deposition transcript needs to be corrected, there are specific rules that must be followed. Failing to do so can jeopardize all of the testimony included in the deposition and may lead to a case being dismissed. Because deposition corrections can be time-consuming, it is important to hire court reporters in San Jose who are experienced to minimize the risk of errors. Here is what you need to know about the federal rules for making deposition corrections.
When can corrections be requested?
After being notified by a court reporter that the transcripts are ready, deponents have 30 days to review them and ask for any necessary corrections. If the transcripts are delivered to the deponent’s attorney, the 30-day clock begins, even if the lawyer doesn’t immediately tell his or her client that the transcripts are available. Within that 30-day period, the deponent must submit the changes to the court reporter and certify those changes. Failing to do so will mean that the corrections cannot be made. Some attorneys may wish to ask deponents to review testimony before the deposition has ended. These reviews are on the record.
How are changes made?
Changes to deposition transcripts, whether in form or substance, are listed, with explanations for the changes, and then signed by the deponent before being submitted to the court reporter. Reasons for the changes must be given, or the transcripts may not be changed. The court reporter then attaches the changes to the transcript. Both the original testimony and the changes are kept as part of the record.
Why is it important to review transcripts?
Even if no changes are actually made to deposition transcripts, it is important to review them. Reviews must be requested formally before any corrections can be made. Although reviews are not required, they can be especially helpful for attorneys who plan to use the testimony to impeach the witness at trial. When a deponent has reviewed a deposition and certified it as correct, changing his or her answers in the courtroom is more problematic.
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