Demystifying Depositions

Maybe you’ve heard the term being used in a courtroom drama, or maybe you’re anticipating one. Here’s what you need to know about depositions and how to be a star deponent.

What they are:

A pre-trial interview of witnesses.

What they do:

Provide everyone involved with consistent, relevant information; prevent any courtroom surprises.

Where they happen:

Not in court; they usually occur in an attorney’s office.

How long they take:

Anywhere from less than an hour to several days.

I’m about to be deposed—help!

Don’t freak out. The prospect of a deposition may seem intimidating, but the following tips will help the process go smoothly.

  1. This is not a test. There are no wrong answers so long as you are honest.
  2. Tell the truth. Even if you haven’t put your hand on a Bible, you are answering under oath; remember that there are serious consequences for lying.
  3. Keep it simple. Answer the questions as asked. There’s no need to volunteer more information than is being requested, but…
  4. Don’t be difficult. Be courteous and, more importantly, don’t argue with the attorney taking the deposition.
  5. Don’t speculate. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer if you, indeed, do not know the answer.
  6. Let the attorney taking the deposition finish her question before you start answering and think before you speak.
  7. Provide clear, verbal answers. Depositions are typed up by a court reporter in real time. Not only do verbal answers create a clearer record, but they make the court reporter’s job much easier.

Tell the truth (seriously).

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