Post Authored By: Shannon Luschen

In nearly every civil litigation, you’re bound to encounter depositions.  As a new associate, handling your first deposition may seem like a daunting task; however, with some preparation and planning, you’ll soon find that depositions are nothing to be intimidated by.

Tip #1: Know the case

This is important. Proper preparation and planning require that you know your case backwards and forwards before taking a deposition.  For younger attorneys in particular, knowing the facts of a case will instill confidence before and during a deposition. Before any deposition, ask questions of your senior attorneys and read everything.   This will give you an edge at a deposition, especially when you’re pitted against more seasoned attorneys who seem like they have all the answers. With proper knowledge and mastery of the case, the objectives, and strategy, it’s less likely that you’ll be intimidated at your first deposition.

Tip #2: Make an outline

This first step may seem obvious, but it is arguably the most important.   Having a comprehensive and thorough outline will allow you to feel confident and settled in any deposition.  This outline should be just that – an outline.  Don’t write out every potential question verbatim in advance of the deposition.  Writing out questions may seem like a helpful tool at first, but it often handicaps an attorney during the deposition more than anything. Instead of focusing on what the witness said in response to a question, the attorney with her comprehensive list of questions will pay more attention to asking the question on her list rather than asking the next, appropriate follow-up question.  This approach may cause an attorney miss a crucial detail in the witness’ testimony.  So while it may seem daunting at first, you’ll soon find that a general outline will allow you the freedom to adapt and flow with the deposition more naturally.

Tip #3: Handle objections calmly

You opponent may throw out loud and boisterous speaking objections in an attempt to rattle you or throw you off your groove. Don’t fall for this.  Allow your opponent to make his objection on the record while you remain steady and carry on.  Don’t entertain wild objections and never argue with your opponent while on the record.  Arguing and yelling while on record is not effective advocacy, and it may spook the witness.  When faced with any objection, either modify your question or carry on and insist the witness answer the question you posed.  While it may seem tempting to engage, you will seem more professional and poised if you keep your cool and stay composed.

Depositions are a crucial part of any litigator’s practice. Sticking to these few tips will allow you to own your first deposition and deposition after.  In sum, be confident – that’s half the battle.

About The Author:

Shannon Luschen is an associate attorney at Swanson Martin & Bell, LLC and concentrates her practice in toxic tort and asbestos litigation.  Prior to joining the firm, Shannon was an associate at a prominent family law firm in Chicago.  Shannon graduated cum laude at Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2019.  She is also a proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.