Conducting Depositions

Helpful Tips When Conducting Depositions

  1. Seat the court reporter close to the witness. Even if a room is small, it is sometimes difficult for the court reporter to hear a soft-spoken witness. This will ensure the court reporter has the best opportunity to hear the witness’s answers. This is important because the reporter is taking down every work that is spoken and then transcribing it and creating the record and/or a transcript.
  2. Verbally state when you are going on and off the record. Always verbally state when you are going on and off the record. Often your reporter can tell when you are intending to be on the record simply by your tone of voice or your stating so, but there are instances when it is difficult to tell whether you want certain conversations to be on the record. And it is inappropriate to say, “Oh, you don’t need to report that.” By verbally stating you are going on or off the record will ensure that the reporter knows when to take down the spoken word or when to stop. An accurate and clean record is important to everyone involved.
  3. Speak at a moderate pace. While your reporter has the skill to write at a fast pace (200-300 WPM), they are certified at 200 WPM, not 300 WPM, and not only can it be exhausting when it continues for long periods of time, but it also causes the reporter to make more errors and/or miss important testimony. A moderate pace will allow the reporter to write accurately and to write for longer periods of time.
  4. Stay silent while the court reporter marks exhibits. It is common that the questioning attorney will ask the reporter to mark an exhibit, then resume asking questions while the reporter is still marking the exhibit. The reporter cannot take down testimony and mark exhibits at the same time. Resume questioning after the exhibits have been marked and when the reporter’s hands are on the stenograph machine keyboard.
  5. Always communicate verbally. Some depositions are full of objections. It is common when verbalizing the same objection repeatedly, an attorney may slip into using one-word phrases such as “Same” or “Same Objection,” or perhaps the attorney will blurt out the objection so quickly, it’s unintelligible to accurately record. While the attorneys in the room may know what the objection is, the reporter can only record the clearly spoken word. And for the sake of a clear and accurate record, it is best to speak in complete sentences and to speak clearly.
  6. Provide spellings of case-specific terminology. Your case may be filled with terminology that is specific to a certain industry. Your reporter, while experienced and familiar with a wide range of terminology, covering all aspects of law and other subject matters, one may not be familiar with every term or phrase from a particular case; i.e., names of people, names of chemicals, names of drugs. It is helpful and greatly appreciated when parties can provide a list of spellings of names, phrases or terms to the reporter beforehand to help in providing a cleaner and most record.
  7. Do not ask the court reporter for an opinion about your case. A court reporter attentively listens to the testimony as it is being spoken from both sides of a case. Reporters develop close relationships with attorneys they work with. Attorneys frequently ask what the reporter thinks about a case and/or specific testimony. Keep in mind that you are putting the reporter in a difficult position, as the reporter will want to please their client by providing an opinion, but the reporter is supposed to be a neutral and unbiased party. Therefore, if they are to offer an opinion, it may be construed as unethical behavior.
  8. Do not offer up your transcript to other parties for free. Reporters work hard, not for free. One example: If opposing counsel says they want to stipulate to relieve the reporter of her civil duties and to release the original to them, you are essentially paying for that original; thereby paying for their copy. This usual and customary with Southern California counsel.Example two: Counsel will offer to copy their transcript for opposing counsel. Not only is this rude, but this is unethical behavior. Attorneys do not offer free advice, nor should they offer to give away our work product for free.
  9. Read slowly when reading documents into the record. Reporters are trained to take down testimony at over 200 WPM, but most people will read at a much higher rate of speed than when speaking in a conversational setting, thus making it very difficult to accurately report what the attorney is reading. If you are reading from a document, be sure to keep the speed and/or pace the same as you normally speak. If it is at all possible, providing the documents that were read from to the reporter is extremely appreciated and helpful.
  10. Tell your court reporter if you will need rough draft or rush transcript. Rush transcripts are nothing new to a reporter. They are a common part of the job and every court reporter should be able to deliver. By giving your reporter notice ahead of time that you will be ordering a rush transcript will allow the reporter time to make arrangements in order to ensure that your transcript gets done first, (putting other work aside) hiring the help necessary to complete the task and thereby allowing the reporter the capability of providing you with a rough draft ASAP and the rush ASAP.   Remember: Rough drafts are not admissible in court and cannot be used in court.
  11. Take regular breaks. Sitting in one place for extended periods of time and taking down quick and difficult testimony can be like running a marathon. It is mentally and physically exhausting. A reporter greatly appreciates time to stretch, use the restroom, to get a drink of water or a snack before continuing on with the rest of the proceedings.
  12. Admonitions. When giving admonitions, please refrain from telling the witness that a copy will be sent to them for review, as this is not the case. The witness will receive a letter from the reporter stating that they have 30-35 days to read their transcript. If their attorney orders a copy, they can read that copy or they can make arrangements with the reporter’s office to read their transcript via the internet or by going to the reporter’s office.
  13. Changes and Corrections. Changes and/or corrections are listed on a separate sheet of paper and it is attached to the original for sealing and then disseminated to all counsel. Changes and corrections are not made to the body of the transcript.
  14. Estimate vs. Guess. Best example of estimate vs. a guess is to ask the amount of change in my pocket vs. the amount of change setting on the table in front of you.
  15. Yes and No vs. Uh-uh and Huh-uh, nodding and shaking the head. Reporters prefer “yes” and “no” vs. grunts or non-verbal words. Reporters do report nods and shakes of the head (Witness nods head), (Witness shakes head.) While a reporter prefers to only take down the spoken word, if a witness nods and shakes their head and the reporter does not see it, the answer does not get reported and you may then have an inaccurate transcript.
  16. Videotaped Depositions. First, the videographer makes an opening statement; then counsel makes introductions; then swearing of the witness; and then the deposition proceedings start.When breaks are taken, the videographer makes a statement of time going off the record, and also start time after break.Advise reporter or videographer before start of deposition if you need on-the-record time calculations due to time constraints.
  17. Interpreted Depositions. Allow the reporter to first swear in the interpreter before the witness.

 

Discovery Reference Guide Recommendation: 2015 Compendium, by CCRA, State and Federal Discovery Statutes