1. Introduce yourself
Common courtesy -- such as shaking your court reporter's hand, asking their name and introducing yourself -- can benefit you in many ways. For example, reporters are more motivated to make you look good when you've made a connection with them. You may be surprised to discover your English verbs always agree with their subjects, and "you know," "uh-huh" and "um" have been eliminated.
2. Take control
At the beginning of every deposition, the witness is instructed not to answer or "step on" the question before the litigator finishes asking the question completely.
During the meat of the testimony, often when it's most crucial, it's tempting for the witness to ignore this admonition. This, unfortunately, results in a transcript filled with half spoken questions and answers and lots of dashes.
Top litigators have the big picture in mind -- trial. They take control. They tell the witness to knock it off, to wait until the full question is out and they pause before they ask the next question. This ensures a clear, concise, usable transcript, capturing both the attorneys and witnesses' complete thoughts.
3. Experience counts
When you are deposing an expert witness, be sure to communicate this information to your reporting firm. Just as there is a difference in first-year litigation associates, there is a difference in first-year reporters. You would not send a first-year associate to trial, and we would not send a first-year reporter into the deposition of an environmental toxicologist.
We all know there is no substitute for experience. For the vocabularies of your expert witnesses, you want and need experience. Reporters want to give you good transcripts. Your extended information is critical to reporters. Let your reporting firm know what you are doing, so we can better serve you by providing reporters with the requisite experience and skills.
4. Take a break
Top litigators break every hour almost on the hour for five to 10 minutes. Why? A five- to 10-minute break helps guard against physical and mental fatigue on the part of the reporter, and it is a strategic move, designed to ensure the best possible quality of the deposition.
5. Hire a translator
When you do not understand a witness' answers in Vietnamese, Iranian or Chinese, the court reporter doesn't either. Reporters want to make a good record, but they are not magicians at deciphering words through accents. The best litigators will stop a deposition and get an interpreter or they will proceed, repeating to the witness the answer and then confirming the answer. By repeating what the witness said, this ensures you get your interpretation and allows the witness to confirm it, and ultimately protects the integrity of your deposition.
Peterson is founder and president of Peterson and Associates Court Reporting and Video Services. Founded in 1986, the San Diego-based firm employs more than 50 court reporters and has a network of national and international affiliates.