Here is something Jesus said, according to St. Luke: “And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! For ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke, 11:46) Isn’t that the truth?
Here is a before/after picture of how I prepare a witness for a deposition:
- Before I understood the wisdom of this passage, I’d tell the witness: Here are the suit’s allegations. Here’s what the opposing counsel will ask you. Here are the appropriate responses, if they’re true.
- After: How do you feel about this case and your deposition? What do you want the judge and jury to understand? Do you feel that the whole case rests on you? (It almost never does.)
As lawyers, we take the legal process for granted. That’s not true for witnesses, for whom a deposition may be their first collision with the legal system. (Once, I had to give a deposition. It was hard, even though I already had deposed several hundred people at that point. But that’s another post.)
Do me a favor: The next time you get ready to prepare a witness (or get a client ready to attend a mediation or go to trial), go back to St. Luke and give him a read. You’ll be glad you did.