3 Common Attorney Mistakes That Can Ruin a Deposition Transcript
Depositions are a critical component of many civil lawsuits, criminal proceedings, arbitration proceedings, workers’ compensation proceedings, and even legislative hearings. While human error is inevitable, it is important to avoid attorney mistakes that can ruin a deposition. What seems like a minor mistake can prove to be costly when a case proceeds to trial. As explained by the American Bar Association, depositions are taken in legal proceedings to not only learn what a witness will say at trial, but also to preserve a witness’s testimony in the event the witness cannot appear at trial. Deposition transcripts that do not read well can be confusing to judges and juries. Having a clean deposition transcript with a nice question-and-answer flow can make all the difference between winning and losing. If you are an attorney or law firm in need of high-quality and accurate court-reporting services, consider reaching out to Kusar Court Reporters today by calling (800) 282-3376
Mistake No. 1 – Talking Over the Witness
The witness is the most important person involved in a deposition. In many cases, the witness has never been deposed before, is likely nervous, and wants to get out of the room as quickly as possible. All too often, attorneys do not provide witnesses sufficient time to answer questions. Without enough time to answer, an attorney may chime in at the same time a witness begins to speak.
Talking over the witness is a common attorney mistake that can ruin a deposition. Deposition transcripts can be hundreds of pages, especially when a deposition takes a full day. Most depositions take at least one day, and depending on state law, a deposition may be limited to one day, or the deposition may go on for many days. While state laws differ, Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure dictates that the duration of a deposition is limited to seven hours, with the deposition to be completed in one day.
Talking over the witness wastes time. With limited time to elicit quality testimony, an attorney cannot make the mistake of dragging on the question-and-answer session simply because the attorney continues to talk over a witness. Providing a witness enough time to answer will help to ensure a deposition transcript is absent of “dashes” that fill multiple pages of a deposition transcript. At Kusar Court Reporters, we know how difficult it can be to stay silent long enough for a witness to answer, but sometimes remaining silent for a few extra seconds can save you hours in the long run.
Mistake No. 2 – Using Hand Gestures
Hand gestures are not recordable testimony. While many depositions are videotaped or completed remotely by video for all parties to see and hear the witness, gestures are not words that can be typed by a court reporter. An attorney who uses gestures to communicate or object is doing nothing more than causing confusion and frustration for the court reporter and the official record. The use of gestures may result in the need for the court reporter to stop the deposition to explain why hand gestures cannot be used. Even the most seasoned attorneys make this mistake that can ruin a deposition.
The one exception where hand gestures may be appropriate is when hand gestures are relevant to the testimony at issue. For example, if an attorney wants a witness to recreate a situation that requires the use of hands, a court reporter will note what the witness is doing in addition to what the witness is saying. Unless hand gestures or any bodily movement are relevant to a witness’s testimony, such gestures and movement should be avoided during a deposition.
Mistake No. 3 – Using Unnecessary Words or Utterances
In casual conversation, it is perfectly normal to say “okay” or “uh-huh” in response to another person’s statement. Communicating in this way does not work well in a deposition. A court reporter is required to record every word or utterance (or sound) that is produced during the deposition. As such, deposition transcripts are frequently full of “okays” and utterances that waste pages of transcripts and precious time. Additionally, judges who must read deposition transcripts when ruling on evidentiary issues may not appreciate pages of words that have no meaning.
Keep Your Court Reporter Happy
Court reporters work hard to ensure legal, and other formal proceedings are recorded accurately. Making unnecessary mistakes is not only potentially harmful to the quality of a witness’s testimony, but such mistakes require court reporters to frequently stop depositions to clear up misunderstandings. A court reporter is a critical component of a successful deposition. Court reporters often must learn unique terms that are frequently used in a specific case.
Providing court reporters with the names and spellings of commonly used words and phrases specific to a case or witness can save ample time.
For example, medical terms – which can be difficult to say and spell – may be used more than one hundred times in a deposition. A court reporter needs to know if certain terms will be used more frequently to ensure the word is properly noted and spelled correctly. Attorneys who appreciate the court reporter’s role can help to ensure a deposition goes smoothly.
Moreover, creating a comfortable and cordial environment for the witness and court reporter provides reassurance that an attorney will make every effort to respect the witness and court reporter’s time. When attorneys make mistakes that can ruin a deposition, all parties lose. Nobody benefits from a messy and unclear deposition transcript. Attorneys who work together with court reporters are more likely to produce a quality deposition transcript that is readable for laypersons, such as members of a jury.
Contact Kusar Court Reporters Today
If you or your law firm need deposition services, Kusar Court Reporters is here to help. Our team of court reporters has experience handling a wide variety of depositions from multiple practice areas. We understand that accuracy is important, especially when many cases involve complex terminology. To learn how Kusar Court Reporters can help you with your next deposition, contact us today by calling (800) 282-3376.