YOUR ROLE AS A WITNESS AT DEPOSITION OR TRIAL
1. You must understand, legally and factually, the theory of the case and what must be proved. You must be familiar with dates, places, documents and your witnesses’ must be knowledgeable of the facts too.
2. A deposition is taken before a court reporter. Court proceedings are video and audio taped. You will be under oath to tell the truth. Remember that the other side is always on the look out to get information to crystallize your testimony, and, if possible, to discredit you. If you contradict your testimony on a deposition or in court, it can be used against you.
3. The other lawyer may appear friendly, but be cautious. He/She is not your friend. He/She may try to turn your words against you. Remember the cardinal rule to: Think before you speak. Never ever lie while under oath.
4. If you have any doubt about the meaning of a question, or any words used by the attorney, say so. Do not wait. Come right out and say: “I am sorry, but I do not understand….
[a] the question; or,
[b] what the word __________ means; or,
[c] what you want me to answer.”
If you do not understand the question, say so. Don’t guess. If you do not know the answer, or don’t remember, just say so. I do not recall is an acceptable answer if you truly do not recall.
5. Do not let anyone put words in your mouth. This includes: the other lawyer, myself, or the Judge.
6. Do not let anyone brow beat you.
7. Dress in appropriate business attire. Speak loudly and clearly.
8. ATFQ: Do not volunteer either information or documents. Answer each question and stop.
9. Tell the truth, keep calm, avoid flippancy or arguments. Be courteous. NEVER argue with the Judge or opposing Counsel. Frequently Judges get upset at trials. They can be upset for a whole host of reasons, none of which may apply to you. Your job at trial is to just Answer the questions and leave.
10. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, request a short recess. If you need to use the bathroom, just say so.
11. Be early. Prepare in advance so that you know exactly where the deposition/trial is scheduled, the location of the Court, Courtroom, where to park, and what documents you will need to bring with you.
12. Use your own words. State only facts that you have observed, not what someone else told you.
13. Remember Judges are experienced at ascertaining credibility. If you are convinced of your testimony, tell the truth, and have done your homework, you will be your own best witness.