What Not to Do During a Video DepositionDecember 12, 2019 8:19 pm Leave your thoughts
As an advocate, your professionalism doesn’t just stop at motions, transcripts and words on a page. To be a truly trusted attorney, you need to ensure that not only is your written and courtroom work beyond reproach, but also that your professional attitude at all stages of the proceedings is kept to a similarly high standard. It’s all too obvious when an attorney is playing nice in front of a jury, but chose to be belligerent or condescending in a video-based legal deposition in Phoenix, AZ. Not only does that affect a judge’s and jury’s sense of your trustworthiness, but it can actively harm your case and your client as a result.
Over the years, we’ve been present for many video depositions, and there are three major ways an attorney can harm his or her case. Since video depositions (unlike written transcripts) pick up on tone and facial expressions, you should be extra careful to put your best foot forward:
- Don’t be condescending: Yes, you went to law school for years, passed the bar exam and have been practicing a highly skilled profession—but that’s no excuse for a superior attitude. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The former is great for your persuasive skills, but the latter turns judges, juries and witnesses off. Avoid patronizing your witnesses or “explaining” things that they seem to be misunderstanding—even if you think they’re doing it on purpose.
- Don’t dismiss your witness: Your job as an attorney is to discredit your opponent’s case, not make the individual people involved feel good or bad. This is especially important during a deposition, where the more information you can get out of a person, the better foundation you’ll have for discovery and impeachment at trial. Moreover, if a judge or jury sees you being dismissive and rude during the deposition, they may choose to focus on that instead of on the facts of your case. It might not be objective, but attitude and tone matter.
- Don’t argue: “Objection, argumentative” isn’t just something you’ll hear at trial, or that your spouse says to you when you’re trying to explain that it’s their turn to take out the trash. Credibility and objectivity matter, and being caught on tape arguing with opposing counsel or witnesses makes you look petty. Worse, it can telegraph that you’re less confident about your case than you should be. Take a deep breath and stick to the facts, whether that’s legal precedent and procedure or the facts of the case.
The most important thing to remember during a video deposition is that it picks up on all the subtle signals, from tone to facial expression, that a transcript can’t—so act accordingly.
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