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Help Executives Master Depositions With These 3 Depo Prep Tips

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 31, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Your company is being sued and your executive officers are soon to be deposed. Congratulations! No one is buying cake and celebrating when corporate officers are called in for depositions, but thorough, effective depo. prep is one way for in-house counsel to demonstrate their value to the company.

While corporate officers might not view deposition prep as the most profitable use of their time, devoting significant efforts to preparing effectively can help them reduce costs from a negative judgment or lengthy trial. Here are three tips for how to prep an executive for a deposition:

1. Show, Don't Tell

Depositions have the uncanny ability to be long and tedious while also fast-paced and confrontational. They don't operate along the usual rules of human engagement and deponents should be given a chance to experience a "dry run" deposition before the real thing. In-house counsel should engage in a mock deposition with executives beforehand, posing questions in a realistic setting, instructing deponents on who to prepare their responses and assert privileges.

2. Slow Down

Remind executives that, even if questions are coming at rapid fire, they are best served by slowing down and considering their answers beforehand. Executives should listen closely to questions, demand clarifications, and take time to think about their answers before responding. While opposing counsel may ask difficult questions, it's up to the deponent to control the answers.

3. You Don't "Win" a Deposition

Your executive will not beat opposing counsel. They will not shutdown a lawsuit after a day of being deposed. You simply don't "win" depositions that way. Rather, what an executive should look to do is reduce damage and limit the information given to the other side.

Bonus: Groom the Deponent, Keep Egos in Check

You don't often get to the top by being humble. If your executives are bombastic, combative, or ego-driven in their everyday communications, they may need extra help keeping themselves in check during a deposition.

For example, you may have heard the latest "scandal" involving Donald Trump. At a deposition years ago, an attorney asked to break in order to pump breast milk. The Donald, frustrated after hours of questioning, "exploded" -- or didn't, depending on who you ask -- and called the attorney "disgusting" before storming out.

Now, certainly your executives would never be so boorish. But should they need help putting their best face forward, videotaping practice depositions and playing it back to executives can be essential to cluing them in to how they might appear to third parties, and on the record.

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