5 Tips for a Business Owner's Deposition
So you're being deposed. Perhaps your business is caught in litigation that you initiated, or maybe it's a legal fight that someone else is picking with you.
Whatever the reason for the deposition, you're now being called into a conference room with an attorney bombarding you with questions in front of a video camera.
It sounds scary enough. What do you do? Here are five things you need to know:
- What's the purpose of a deposition? A deposition comes during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. It's a pre-trial phase in which attorneys from both sides try to gather information to make their case. Statements from a deposition will serve as building blocks for the case, and could be reason to call you as a witness later on in the trial -- if the case even goes to trial.
- How long will it take? Be ready to block off your calendar for the entire day. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a deposition can last up to seven hours; under state or local rules, however, it may be different, so you'll want to check with an attorney.
- Should you get an attorney? That's up to you. If the deposition is regarding a lawsuit that involves you, you'll probably want your attorney present. In fact, your attorney might serve as a gatekeeper, deciding which questions you should and shouldn't answer. If you're being deposed in someone else's litigation, then attorneys from both sides will be present.
- How should you answer questions? The deposition isn't the same as a cross examination. It's a fact-finding mission. It's not an interrogation to prove you wrong or to prove a point. It's a questioning session to learn more about a case and how the events unfolded.
- Do I still answer a question if my attorney objects? In most cases, yes. An objection is for the legal record -- it comes up later in the legal record, Inside Counsel reminds us. The purpose of the objection is for the attorney to preserve the right to exclude that statement in a later phase of the case, if and when a judge rules on that objection. However, if your lawyer tells you not to answer, you should probably do what she says.
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