How To Deal with Lawyers in a Deposition
Attorney Kimberly Beck
Some lawyers play sneaky games during depositions. Your lawyer should be there helping you and objecting to obnoxious behavior, but it still helps to be aware of some common tricks so you can identify them if they come up in your deposition. And, you should also take time to prepare for your deposition as described here.
1. How to Deal with Lawyers in a Deposition Who Are “Acting.”
The best actors I know are all lawyers. Okay, I do not live in Los Angeles, so I do not know any “big name” actors. However, watching other lawyers in action inspired me to take acting classes when I was a young lawyer. I am not, at all, exaggerating.
I am currently dealing with a lawyer in a bunch of different pharmaceutical cases. During the first hearing in the first case, he said something like
“The plaintiff is not going to be able to prove her case. We provided every warning the FDA allowed us to provide as soon as we had the information to support it. Even if she could show there was something wrong with our warnings, which she cannot, her claims are preempted by federal law. Additionally, there is no evidence that are drug even causes the injury she claims she suffered.”
He said it so emphatically and with pauses in just the right places to make it sound like this is the first time he has ever had to deal with such a terrible, frivolous case against his client.
But, that just is not true. Those are the defenses to every single pharmaceutical case that has been brought in the last twenty years. So, I just said:
“Yep, those are the arguments they always make.”
Although the other attorney was being disingenuous, I was impressed by his acting skills. At First. Then, we had our first hearing in another pharmaceutical case. He said what I think were exactly the same words in exactly the same intonation with exactly the same pauses. He just memorized his lines and delivered them the same way every time.
I have seen something similar in depositions. I believe that some lawyers have unintentionally or maybe intentionally found “lines” that worked in a deposition and so they deliver those exact same lines with the exact same emphasis in every deposition. Do not confuse the lawyer’s good acting for a lawyer actually making good points.
2. Do Not Let a Lawyer Make You Feel Bad About Yourself.
Lawyers have made it through a lot of training, including required civility or professionalism classes every year, and they have been in a lot of situations when incivility could cost a great deal. A lawyer who is unprofessional in some court rooms even for a second could incur the wrath of a judge. In short, lawyers know when and how to behave civilized. Some just choose not to.
If you describe your typical workday and the questioning lawyer sighs or scoffs, the lawyer is doing it on purpose to make you feel embarrassed. If the lawyer makes gestures like shaking his head or shrugging for an entire section of your testimony, he is trying to distract you and even get you to stop talking.
Do not fall for these tactics. For tips on how to tell if someone is subtly attacking your self-esteem, see this article from Medium.
3. How to Deal with Lawyers in a Deposition Who are Bullying You
There is a great exchange in the movie A Few Good Men when the Tom Cruise character is yelling at the Jack Nicholson character and Tom Cruise finally yells “I want the truth!” and Jack Nicholson yells back, “You can’t handle the truth!” Then he goes on a monologue about how he is protects Americans but Americans do not want to know that terrible truth about what that protection looks like. Then Jack Nicholson’s character finally confesses to ordering the “code” that killed that Private. It is pure movie magic. Those sorts of things never happen. However, something inside most lawyers makes them secretly hope they can be like Tom Cruise’s character one day. As a result, they end up yelling or badgering witnesses. Keep an eye out for this behavior. You can ask for a break or even take a pause before answering. For more tips on dealing with a bully, see this article.
4. Telling you Something is a Yes or No Question When it is Not.
This will come out as something like “This is a simple yes or no question! Did you or did you not lie to your supervisor?” Some questions do require more than a simple yes or no. If the lawyer insists that “this is a yes or no question!” but the complete and honest answer cannot be summed up in a simple yes or no, you can say “it is really not a simple yes or no question.”
Attorney Kimberly Beck
Attorney Kim Beck is the managing member of Beck Law Center, located in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has 15 years of experience as an attorney, mostly on the defense. She now represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases involving a variety of injuries caused by defecting drugs/ pharmaceuticals, medical malpractice, and other series accidents. If you would like more information about her background and experience, please review her profile page.
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