how to handle yourself when in the

"hot seat" in deposition - article #3

This is the final article on “How to Handle Yourself in the Hot Seat in Deposition”.  We last left off discussing the do's and don’ts of how you should conduct yourself in a deposition. The manner in which you handle yourself while being questioned by your adversary’s attorney can make or break your case. Most of the information that I have provided you in the past two articles is a matter of common sense. I will remind you once again to go into a deposition with the understanding that the person asking you the questions already has all of the answers and is testing your credibility. Moreover, surveillance is being conducted on you daily. If you answer questions with those two thoughts in the back of your head, you should not have a problem in answering truthfully. Let me address some additional points for consideration.

Be calm.

Do not get angry at the type of questions being asked.

Do not argue with the questioner.

Be polite and courteous.

Be serious.

If you do not understand the question, just tell the questioner to please rephrase what they are asking you.

Answer the questions in your own words rather than trying to use terminology that you are uncomfortable with.

Do not use profanity.

Do not let the questioner interrupt your answer. Instead, state on the record that you have not completed your answer.

At the same time, do not interrupt a questioner.

Listen to the entire question, pause and answer.

Make sure to look the questioner in the eye while being questioned and while answering. Remember that everything you say is being transcribed by a court reporter.

Make sure he or she hears your answer.

Help the court reporter with spellings or unusual words.

Do not look at the attorney as if you need help answering the question.

If you are aware of a mistake that you made in one of your answers, please inform the questioner that there was a mistake in one of your responses, and that you would like to correct it. Request recesses if necessary for bathroom breaks or time to stretch, etc.

Do not get wired on coffee.

Do not have the smell of alcohol on your breath.

Do not smoke, chew tobacco or use snuff while testifying.

Do not chew gum while testifying.

Do not eat candy or anything else while testifying.

Turn off your cell phone.

Do not wear inappropriate clothing or jewelry.

The questioner is not your friend. Be civil, but do not socialize. Beware of questions that assume facts that have not been addressed in prior testimony. Beware of questions that require a choice between different alternatives selected by the questioner. Beware of questions that purport to summarize your earlier testimony or rephrase your earlier testimony. Beware of questions that use words such as “never” and “always”. Nothing is “off the record”, even if the court reporter is not reporting. If asked what you did to prepare for your testimony, include everything that you reviewed unless your attorney instructs you not to answer because the question calls for privileged information. Admit what you have to admit. Don’t admit what is not true. Take your time and read any document that you are questioned about. Take as much time as necessary and let the questioner wait for you.

Please consider the above information as only a partial roadmap of how to handle yourself in a deposition. This information should only be viewed as a learning tool and it is extremely important for you to sit down with your attorney prior to your deposition and listen to what he or she has to say as far as how you should conduct yourself. Sitting in the “hot seat” can be brutal. You are sure to have an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach as well as the sweats even if you did a phenomenal job.

When all is said and done, the facts are the facts. You are not out to recreate history. You’ve been dealt a hand of cards and those are the ones you need to play. Let the chips fall where they may.

Mark D. Dickstein is the managing partner for The Dickstein Law Firm. The Dickstein Law Firm, a victim advocacy firm, represents clients involved in personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death claims, automobile accidents, product liability cases, workers' compensation claims, retaliatory discharge lawsuits, medical malpractice claims, slip and fall injuries, property loss disputes, hurricane damage losses and music business law agreements and disputes. To learn more, please visit the law firm's website at

Please do not consider the content contained in this article as a substitute for actual legal advice from counsel who has been retained and/or consulted with, as most cases have their own unique set of facts and require detailed information to properly analyze and form an appropriate legal strategy. This article is intended for informational purposes only.

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