Five Deposition Guidelines Court Reporters Wish Attorneys Knew

When conducting a deposition, you need an exhaustively complete record of everything said and done. To get that, one thing you’ll need is a highly experienced, productive, and well-trained court reporter. However, many attorneys don’t realize that reporting skills alone aren’t enough to secure a perfect record. Sure, great skills help, but just because a court reporter has skills and dedication doesn’t mean the attorney doesn’t have to give a little too.

confrontation-and-negotiationGiving More to Get More: Tips for a Smoother Deposition

It’s the court reporter’s job to accurately record everything that is said during a deposition in order to provide a clear and detailed record of the proceedings. Reporters take this obligation very seriously. Unfortunately, what the attorney does and says can affect the court reporter’s ability to do her job effectively. Not only does this create animosity between the attorney and reporter, but it also produces a less-than-clear deposition record.

Therefore, as an attorney, it’s important that you understand some of the key points that court reporters wish you’d use more often during depositions. These points include:

1. Ask for better enunciation

Many attorneys will start a deposition by telling the witness that court reporters can’t write “uh-huh” or “huh-uh” into the record. However, in addition to not being true (court reporters can include any sound uttered), this statement doesn’t clearly state what the attorney (and court reporter) wants—which is clarity. In order for the record to be clear, the witness needs to answer audibly so there’s no misunderstanding on what they meant when they said “uh-huh”…or whatever guttural noise they made. Therefore, instead of saying that the court reporter isn’t able to record noises, try telling them that every sound will be part of the record; so it is in their best interest to speak clearly and loudly enough for the court reporter to capture their full meaning.

2. Give the court reporter time when asking her to complete multiple tasks

In addition to recording every word made throughout the proceedings, court reporters are also often asked to perform small tasks for the attorneys (mark exhibits, search for information, assist in arbitrations, etc.). Unfortunately, many of these tasks overlap. As such, it is important that an attorney gives the court reporter time to complete one task before continuing the deposition, to prevent her from leaving any information out of the record.

3. Include actual breaks

For long depositions, many attorneys choose to work through lunch instead of breaking. They have food delivered and take bites in between questions. However, you need to remember that court reporters need breaks too—in order to stretch, give their minds (and fingers) a rest, and to eat. They can’t do this if questions are still being asked. It’s physically impossible to eat and report at the same time. Providing even a short 15-minute break is enough to allow the reporter to eat, run to the restroom, and walk around a bit. Remember, a refreshed reporter is better poised to capture a complete record than a grouchy, tired, hungry, and resentful reporter.

4. Slow your roll

Speak slowly and refrain from using tricky terminology. Your court reporter is trying extremely hard to catch every syllable that you say, but that can be quite difficult if you’re spouting out patter like The Pirates of Penzance’s Major General. Slow down and remember that articulation isn’t just for the witness. In addition, refrain from surprising your reporter with unexpected technical terminology. You may know what you’re talking about, but if the court reporter doesn’t know the term she may think you said something else and quote you incorrectly. If you know the deposition is going to be technical in nature, provide a listing to the reporting firm at least a day before so the reporter can become familiar with those terms.

5. Support your reporter

Court reporting is a difficult job, made even more difficult when witnesses talk over one another and attorneys become irritable when asked a question. Make sure you get the best possible record by supporting your reporter by:

  • Reminding witnesses to slow down or speak louder when needed.
  • Request that only one person speaks at a time.
  • Understanding that when a court reporter asks for clarification that she isn’t doing it to be annoying, but rather to secure an accurate record.

For more information on how to secure a high-quality deposition record, contact us today and learn more about the art of court reporting and the skills our team possess.

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