In many cases, client depositions represent the crux of pre-trial discovery. They have the potential to elicit some of the most consequential testimony for both sides. And they can pose significant risks for parties and lawyers alike if not taken or defended properly.
Volumes have been written about how to prepare a client for this exercise. We won’t attempt to rehash them here. Suffice it to say that deposition preparation is both an art and a science. The approach you take depends on your client’s personality, basis of knowledge, role in the litigation, and countless other subjective factors.
But you must also ensure your client absorbs some fundamental tenets of how (and how not) to testify. No matter your methods of getting your client ready for a deposition, incorporating deposition preparation videos for clients into your plan can pay dividends, especially when you also use leading virtual deposition software.
Three Common Challenges Addressed by Deposition Preparation Videos for Clients
Effectively preparing a client for a deposition requires patience, focus, empathy, and mastery of the legal and factual substance of your case. It’s your job to make sure your client knows what to expect from your opposing counsel’s questions and how to respond in the manner least likely to harm the case.
Setting aside the complicated and case-specific question of how best to address your client’s substantive knowledge about the deposition topic, three common challenges stand in the way of getting them prepared effectively.
Fear of the Unknown
Most clients have no or very little deposition experience. To calm their apprehension, the first step is to acquaint them with the mechanics of a deposition, including the role each party plays, the flow of questions and answers, the significance of objections, reviewing and handling exhibits, taking breaks, reaching an endpoint, and so on. Showing them visual examples of real or mock depositions helps demystify the nature of this process for your client.
Training Your Client to Listen to and Answer Questions
Your second challenge is a basic life skill, but it eludes many people when you put them under the stress of aggressive questioning. It often takes practice to reinforce the importance of your client responding only to the question that’s been asked, sticking exclusively to what they know, and never offering extraneous information.
Modulating Your Client’s Confidence Level
Finally, you must address the challenge of balancing your client’s confidence. Overconfidence can come across as arrogance and lead to combative, damaging testimony. Low confidence can paralyze your client, making them overly compliant and prone to making unnecessary or inaccurate concessions.
Your task is to ensure your client remains on an even, neutral keel from the first question to the last, equally confident in their answers and cognizant of their peril.
Using Deposition Videos for Clients as a Tool in Prep Sessions
Deposition preparation videos for clients can be useful and highly effective tools in overcoming the aforementioned challenges. A video can take the general mystery out of the proceedings, illustrate common deposition scenarios and how to approach them effectively, and demonstrate best and worst practices for sitting for a deposition.
Like an athlete visualizing a winning performance, a client presented with a well-crafted deposition preparation video can develop a mental image of what a successful deposition looks and feels like, priming themselves for a smooth and relatively uneventful session.
What should you include in a deposition preparation video for clients aimed at overcoming the common challenges litigators face in prep sessions? Here are some suggestions.
- Imagery showing the nuts-and-bolts features of a witness examination, such as who commonly participates, where everyone sits (if the session is in-person) or how they appear on screen (if it’s a remote deposition), and other elements of the physical or virtual layout of the deposition setting.
- Footage drawn from actual or mock depositions, depicting the standard question-and-answer format of a deposition and when and how the deponent’s attorney can object.
- Footage showing typical exhibit management protocols in a deposition, such as exhibit marking, foundation-laying questions, and substantive questioning about the content of an exhibit.
- Illustrations of questions answered both well and poorly, including a witness listening to and answering a question precisely and concisely as well as someone answering too quickly or offering too much information.
- Video reflecting the potential relevance and pitfalls of a witness’s non-verbal behavior and body language in a deposition, such as posture, facial expressions, and nervous habits.
- Footage of an overconfident and combative witness and an under-confident, compliant one.
The idea is to compile a deposition preparation video that illustrates in living color the lessons you hope to impart to your client. Many litigators find it’s much easier to get the key points across visually in this manner than simply to lecture a client about deposition do’s and don’ts.
Compiling a Deposition Prep Video for Clients
At this point, you may be thinking, “A deposition preparation video for clients sounds great, but how do I make one?” It’s easier than you might imagine, especially if you regularly take and defend remote depositions using a purpose-built virtual deposition solution.
For raw material, seasoned litigators often have digital files full of deposition video footage from past cases. Subject to case-specific confidentiality restrictions, you may use those videos as material for your preparation video. Additionally, you can find hours of deposition footage on the internet. YouTube and similar video-sharing sites are especially fruitful sources of clips showing poor witness behavior and other deposition disasters.
As for compiling footage, you can always take a DIY approach and assemble the video yourself using commercially available video editing software, provided you (or your staff) have the requisite proficiency. But that can be time consuming, and it may leave you with a sub-standard end product if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Alternatively, you can have a professional videographer produce a deposition preparation video for you. That’s an especially convenient and efficient option if you regularly use a high-quality remote deposition platform for your witness examinations. Leading providers of virtual deposition solutions commonly offer videography services that integrate with their platforms. Lawyers who use them can simply designate portions of past deposition videos captured on the platform they want to use to prepare their clients. The provider can take care of the rest, quickly producing a professionally edited compilation of deposition footage that serves the lawyer’s needs.
Where Technology Meets Client Preparation
Using a remote deposition platform is intuitive and cost effective. You can create unique deposition preparation videos tailored to specific clients and the challenges you expect them to face. Remote Legal is an industry-leading provider of remote deposition software and solutions. Our purpose-built virtual deposition platform offers litigators a compilation of the tools they need to schedule, prepare for, and record virtual depositions. Videography is a key component of our product. Users can compile professional videos ready for deployment in client preparation sessions, pleadings, and courtrooms. Contact us today for a product demo.
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