It’s been written elsewhere about the things you should and should not do when preparing for your deposition. Simply understanding what a deposition is and the role of the witness is critical. But the next layer of deposition preparation geared specifically toward your case is implementing strategies for answering all question types.
One of the most fundamental strategies that every trial lawyer worth their salt tells every client preparing for a depo or preparing for cross examination at trial is as follows:
- Listen CAREFULLY to the Question That is Asked.
- Answer ONLY the Question That is Asked (and NO MORE).
Here’s why: When the deponent starts to meander past the question ask and embellish, argue, attempt to persuade, or simply add their own “color commentary” things start to happen. At best, such wandering “off script” creates fertile ground for what could be devastating follow up questions the questioning lawyer did not think to ask. At worst, you could get caught straining the truth or raise questions as to whether your answer is truthful at all. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in what was called a rookie mistake over at Above the Law, did just that. Whether Sessions lied not is not my point. His wandering off into new territory in his senate confirmation hearing when asked a question by Sen. Al Franken is now being scrutinized for reasons that were entirely avoidable.
Essentially, AG Sessions was asked if he learned that members of the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian Government, “…what will you do?” It was a simple question: What will you do? Sessions didn’t even answer the question asked. In what is his “answer” (if you can even call it that), Sessions appears to address an entirely different issue, stating to Sen. Franken essentially: a) I’m was a member of the Trump campaign (not asked!), and b) “I did not have communications with the Russians” (also not asked!).
Here’s the clip of the exchange and you can view it for yourself (question starts at 2:24):