Published March, 2008

What it Takes to be a Successful Deposition Witness

A deposition consists of one or more attorneys questioning a witness, under oath, before a stenographer who records the testimony. Usually a judge is not present. It is one of several devices used in the discovery phase of litigation.

Depositions have three purposes:

  • They allow one side to find out what its opponents know about the case.

  • A deposition fixes a hostile witness's story early on, before he can amend his story to fit the proof his side needs to present. It limits the amount the witness can change his story at trial.

  • It preserves testimony while memories are fresh and for witnesses who may not be available later to testify at trial.

    It is Essential to Prepare

    Depositions are most frequently used at trial to impugn or impeach the credibility of a witness whose trial testimony is inconsistent with his deposition testimony. It is essential that you adequately prepare for the deposition, since the transcript of the deposition can be used to show that your memory has "lapsed" or "improved" between the time of the deposition and the trial.

    Your success as a deposition witness depends in large part on your mastery of effective deposition technique.

    Tips for witnesses

    6 Tips on Your Demeanor

  • Never express anger

  • Be polite, but not friendly

  • Nothing is "off the record"

  • Avoid jokes or levity

  • No swearing or derogatory slurs

  • Object all interuptions and finish your answers

  • 7 Grounds for an Attorney to Object

    Your attorney may object if the question:

  • Is not sufficiently specific

  • Is not relevant to the case

  • Calls for a legal conclusion

  • Calls for privileged information

  • Calls for information which, even if not privileged, is confidential and not relevant to the case

  • Assumes facts that have not yet been established; that is, the proper foundation has not been laid

  • Calls for more than one answer