Why Defendants Should Never Go Into a Deposition Without Their Attorney
You’ve decided to represent yourself in court. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you just need to give a few straightforward answers and get on with your life. Why would you need to pay an attorney just to stand in the corner while you answer a few questions?
If Your Attorney Is Quiet in a Deposition, He’s Probably Doing His Job Well
Many deponents assume they do not need an attorney to be present for questioning because attorneys rarely take action in a deposition. What they do not realize is that most of the necessary work of a deposition takes place beforehand, so if your attorney has done a good job preparing you, he will likely say very little on the day of your actual deposition.
An attorney’s most vital role is to prepare his client. This may be your first deposition, but attorneys have seen the process hundreds of times over—and if they are worth their salt, they will:
- Play devil’s advocate. Your attorney should make sure that there is no public information that could contradict your testimony. This includes looking through your social media accounts, shared photographs, and any other potential evidence that could disprove what you tell the opposing attorney. By finding these pitfalls early, your attorney can prevent you from looking untruthful in front of a judge.
- Use insider knowledge. Most lawyers have been on both sides of the deposition table, so they know exactly which tactics are used to get the answers they want. For example, probing questions are designed to get a rise out of a witness, prompting him to give a knee-jerk reaction that can cause his testimony to unravel.
- Ensure the truth. Depositions are not mere question-and-answer sessions; they are sworn testimonies given under oath. If you give an answer that is later found to be untrue, you open yourself up to charges of perjury before you have even entered a courtroom. An attorney can help you separate facts from opinions, allowing you to deliver answers that are both accurate and effective.
- Hone your testimony. You may have prepared your own responses, but lawyers know that what you say in a deposition is just as important as how you say it. Giving the answer “I think it was 12:30,” is vastly different from “I was home at 12:30,” and is just one of the ways an inaccurate or vague response can hurt your case.
Even if you do not want to hire an attorney to appear with you at trial, you should consider consulting with a lawyer to help you along the way. You may be able to handle the paperwork on your own, but a little strategizing and advice can go a long way when you’re alone on the stand.