Preparing your witness for a deposition by witness-type
In my last post, I shared tips on how to prepare your witnesses for a deposition – it was general information geared towards every witness. In contrast, this post includes tips that are appropriate for different types of witnesses.
For the first timers
Cover the basics. Explain what they should wear, who will be in the room, and each person’s role. Explain that the speech will be turned into a transcript and how long the witness should expect to be there.
For your client, particularly if they are likely to become emotional
Explain that one of the worst things that the witness can do is become upset. You have to prepare the witness that she will be asked uncomfortable questions or questions that imply that your client was wrong. Often the most successful part of the deposition is when the deposing attorney gets under the witness’s skin. You have to prepare your client that the deposing attorney will love to see them irate. Don’t give the deposing attorney the pleasure of seeing your client ruffled.
For the witness who thinks he is smarter than everyone else
These are usually Type A personality people. Show them the video of Bill Gates and explain how Mr. Gates just destroyed his own case. Usually witnesses who think they’re smarter than opposing counsel think they will show of their superior verbal jousting skills. Instead they simply look argumentative and defensive. They don’t get a medal for “winning” a debate in a deposition.
For the expert witness
There are many books and law review articles on how to depose an expert. The best idea is to review with your expert the tricks you use when you depose the other side’s expert. Also, make sure your expert is thoroughly prepared on the relevant facts and the opposing side’s expert opinions. Experts can crash and burn in depositions because they simply aren’t prepared and run into a hyper-prepared lawyer with a buzz saw of questions. Don’t let an unprepared expert kill your client’s case.
For the nervous or timid witness
Practice to boost their confidence but don’t try to downplay the significance of the deposition just to calm their nerves. It’s important that they take the situation seriously. Prepare them for leading questions or questions that “assume” facts. The main goal for this kind of person is to prevent them from simply acquiescing to every question to speed up their unpleasant experience.
For the loose cannon comedian
I don’t have any tips. If you know how to corral this kind of witness please let me know!