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Preparation Dep

2005 July 27
by John Wallbillich

We recently saw that a GC may be called as a witness. Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting ($) that depositions may require skills most executives do not routinely possess. A few of the major recommendations are:

To survive being deposed, attorneys and executives say, it helps to keep four things in mind. Make answers brief and tightly focused, avoiding the temptation to expand beyond what was asked. Prepare diligently beforehand. At the deposition, stay calm and truthful. And understand your side’s legal strategy well enough that you don’t undermine your value as a witness for the company if the case goes to trial.

I think a big challenge is that many executives may think depositions are an argument to be won; the article quotes Dallas attorney C. Vernon Hartline Jr., a partner in the firm of Hartline Dacus, who says:

… his first priority in advising executives is to get them to understand that this isn’t another business meeting to be attacked and conquered.

Additonal thoughts on defense deposition preparation are available from the Nixon Peabody firm. An even more detailed view of “Keeping Your Executives Out of Hot Water” is available from Hogan & Hartson.

I’ll stretch protocol and admit that I have been deposed, and found it to be a learning (and humbling) experience. I am amazed at how few lawyers I meet have ever been so sworn.

On second thought, if you get too good at giving depositions, it’s probably a sign of bigger problems.

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