What To Do If
An attorney asks how they can improve their deposition skills
By Judy Stevens – RPR, OR-CSR, CMRS, CPE – Principal, Colorado
A: There are many things, procedurally, that we can remind the attorneys about as far as keeping the record clean, concise, and clearly readable long after the date of the deposition.
The most “fun” presentations I’ve given have been on tips for taking a better deposition. People really don’t realize how they speak until they read a transcript of how they spoke and then we’ll hear, “Do I really say ‘Okay’ at the beginning of every question?” Or, “Did I interrupt the witness throughout this whole deposition?” Of course, the answer is, “Yes, you did.” I mean, we’re really too busy writing every word that IS said to spend time putting in extra words that weren’t said!
In past presentations, I’ve pointed out many examples of poorly worded questions, and those will always come up, but there are many things, procedurally, that we can remind the attorneys about as far as keeping the record clean, concise and clearly readable long after the date of the deposition.
Try mentioning some of these points:
You usually include opening rules about not interrupting. At some point in every deposition, someone falls into that habit, often as the questions become more and more contentious. When we interrupt because of two or more people talking at the same time, help us by pointing out to everyone that this makes our job very difficult and makes your record cluttered with dashes as we feverishly try to get every utterance from every person. Just remind everyone that we have a job to do and we can only do that job when we hear and understand what’s said without interruptions in questions and answers.
When you ask us to mark an exhibit and hand it over to us to do so, stop talking and remind anyone else who continues to talk that we are physically marking the exhibits and our hands are not on our machine.
Instruct the deponent (or your client if you are defending the deposition), that objections will be made and that it’s helpful to just hold off a second or two before answering in case someone in the room needs to object to the question.
There are a few things to teach attorneys about reading from exhibits. The first is to read a bit slower and clearer so we’re getting every word and, the second is, read exactly as it’s stated on the document. Explain that if the document says Department of Justice, don’t read DOJ, or vice versa. We insert quotes around actual word-for-word quoted material, so DOJ now makes this not an exactly quoted document.
Just like you, we also prepare for depositions ahead of time whenever possible. If you have many acronyms or terms of art in a technical deposition, please provide those ahead of time. It helps us create a more robust dictionary that can include those words. If you’re going to be marking exhibits, particularly in a remote deposition, provide those to us ahead of time so, again, we can prepare a job dictionary and we can reduce the interruptions we might have to make because of hearing an unfamiliar acronym that you say as ATMEA, when it stands for the American Toxicology and Medical Examiners Association. Knowing that acronym upfront will allow it to be written automatically without us having to interrupt for clarification.
Help attorneys understand that they do control some situations in the deposition room, many of which do make for a better record. They don’t think about the final product like we do because they are simply focused on their questions and the answers being provided. These tips will help them start to think about those things, ultimately making your job easier and their final transcript more useful and cleaner.
Email us at courtreport[email protected] with a scenario you’d like a solution for!
Judy Stevens has been a firm owner in Denver since 1994 before becoming part of Veritext in 2019. She began her career as a court reporter in Tucson, Arizona before moving to Denver, Colorado. In 2000, Judy earned the highly coveted designation of Certified Manager of Reporting Services (CMRS) by the National Court Reporters Association while building her firm, mentoring her team and also serving on the board of her state association and volunteering through the Alliance of Professional Women.
Over the years, Judy and her firm have been recognized by the Denver Business Journal as one of the “Top 10 Fastest Growing Denver-Area Private Companies” and she has been nominated by the Denver Business Journal for its “Outstanding Women in Business” award on numerous occasions. In addition, Judy was recognized by NCRA with its prestigious “Excellence Award for Leadership and Team-Building” and has authored many articles for the JCR magazine. Judy is also quite active in her teaching/mentoring role as a regular guest lecturer at both Arapahoe Community College and the University of Denver Law School.