Last week I touched on what you should do in a deposition, this week is all about what not to do. The list of don’ts gets a little bit longer than the list of do’s, and it’s also a tougher list to follow. But with the right preparation and practice, it can be done.
To begin, DON’T guess the answer to any questions. As mentioned last week, a deposition is under oath and on the record. This means that incorrectly guessing the answer to a question is just as bad as lying. If you don’t know the answer to the attorney’s question say “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember”. DON’T make up something that sounds good at the time, only to remember what actually happened later down the line.
Next, DON’T argue or get angry with the opposing attorney. At the firm we call it “getting pulled offsides” and trust me when I tell you that is not where you want to be. When angry you’re less likely to think clearly about your answers and when you’re argumentative it looks like you’re hiding something. Either way if you get to that point the other attorney successfully done their job. If you feel yourself starting to boil request a break, talk with your attorney, and cool down before proceeding.
DON’T give extra information. What I mean by this is listen closely to the question being asked, and answer just that question. If they ask you where did you go to high school, just tell them where. Don’t tell them where you went and that you dropped out because you had a substance abuse problem at the time. If you are asked a yes or no question, respond with yes or no. Don’t try to overexplain and end up giving more information than necessary. By doing this you can give up information to the other attorney that they would never have thought to ask about. Don’t do the other attorney’s job for them.
DON’T answer the questions immediately after they’re asked. You need to give your attorney time to object to the questions in order to preserve the objections for court. If you rapid fire answers before your attorney can even begin to say the word objection, then it is too late. Take a breath and gather your thoughts before answering. This gives your attorney the two seconds they need to raise an objection.
Finally, DON’T let your guard down. Remember, no matter how friendly the other attorney acts or how conversational they may seem, they are not your friend, and they are not on your side. They want to lure you into a false sense of security in the hopes that you’ll slip up and give them something they can use or dig into.