Under Analysis: The real deposition rules

 Lisa Henderson-Newlin, The Levison Group

Everyone knows the standard deposition rules. Well, maybe not everyone. I’ve come across some colleagues who seem to think “objection” automatically comes after every question I ask.

For everyone else, we know the basic rules of taking a deposition include giving verbal responses, not talking over each other, and trying not to mumble. Come to think of it, these are also rules to communicating with a teenager.

Either way, the standard rules for depositions aren’t enough for me. I’m an overachiever and I want more. As a result, I’m proposing some new rules for taking depositions. Here they are, in no particular order.

No deposition shall be set within 90 minutes of lunch time

The last thing I want to do while listening to testimony is listen to a grumbling stomach as well. It’s a lot harder to focus on the wording of a question if I’m simultaneously focusing on what will go on my sandwich. I’m not a good multitasker so depositions should be first thing in the morning or after lunch.

The deposition notice must include information about the temperature of the room

Theoretically all depositions would be taken in a normal room with a standard room temperature. However, we are practicing law…there’s no theoretical anything when it comes to that. Conference rooms vary significantly in temperature and that guessing game is not a fun one. I hate trying to decide if I need to pack a fur or a fan for an afternoon of questioning. Requiring a deposition notice to give the approximate temperature of the room would make it much easier to coordinate my outfit for the day.

Non-participants are not allowed near the deposition room

There’s nothing worse than sitting in a deposition and seeing other people walk around freely in the hallway. If I can’t get up to get a Diet Coke, I don’t want to see anyone else get up either. Except, of course, if someone else gets up to get the Diet Coke for me. If that’s the case, I’m willing to make an exception. 

The area near the deposition room must be kept quiet

Similar to the rule about not allowing others near the room, sounds must also be kept away from the deposition room as well. It’s infuriating to be in a deposition and hear a group of people laughing in another room, not so much because it makes it hard to hear the testimony, but more because it forces me to wonder what was so funny. Was it a knock-knock joke? Did someone slip and fall? I need answers and I can’t get them when I’m stuck asking questions in a deposition.

Snacks must always be present

This is just a no-brainer. In fact, this is a rule that should be followed by everyone everywhere. I never want to go somewhere in life and not have snacks…the least of which is a deposition. Someone needs to make sure that jar is filled with Jelly Beans before I step inside the room.

There should be a buzzer when an answer is too long

Much like the timer on a game show, we should have a timer for deposition answers as well. I’m not saying it should be a super short timer, but if an answer gets into the 10-minute range, someone needs to sound a buzzer or hit a gong to let the witness know the testimony is getting a little lengthy. If no buzzer is available, I’d be willing to bring one from home.

The chairs in the room should not make noise

This may seem like a simple request but I’ve discovered many conference rooms have at least one chair that squeaks with even the slightest movement. Unfortunately for me, I’m the one who usually locates that chair, sits in it, and then moves constantly in it for the remainder of the deposition. Maybe it’s the length of the questions, or the temperature of the room, or maybe it’s the three Diet Cokes I have before each deposition, but whatever the reason, I find myself fidgety during questioning and a squeaky chair doesn’t make things any easier (or quieter).

Maybe the legal profession won’t catch on to all of these rules, but hopefully at a minimum, my opponents will. Either way, someone needs to bring the Jelly Beans.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of The Levison Group. Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a shareholder of the law firm McAnany, Van Cleave, and Phillips. She’s a contributing writer at NickMom.com and writes a humor website, LisaNewlin.com. Contact Lisa at lhenderson@mvplaw.com or contact Under Analysis by email at comments@levisongroup.com.

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