Deposition Skills 101: A Lawyer’s Behavior Matters

New York Law Journal, August 3, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

There is a line at the tail end of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker that regrettably carries meaning in the profession of law, year after year. That line, delivered by “Rudy Baylor” (played by Matt Damon), was as follows:

“Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross. It just happens. And if you cross it enough times, it disappears forever. And then you’re nothing but another lawyer joke, just another shark in the dirty water.”

This author started taking and defending depositions in the early 2000s. My training was laser-focused on the content of the questions, witness preparation, and above all else, the insatiable—and short-sighted—quest to box in the witness to the point where a “gotcha” moment is achieved and you can pat yourself on the back for being the second coming of Perry Mason.

Absent from my training was a discussion about how a lawyer should behave himself or herself at deposition, and why that behavior is relevant. Can you recall a deposition skills training course, be it a CLE or otherwise, where you were taught about the implications of your behavior?  I cannot. Any lawyer that has taken or defended depositions has likely received an education in how to behave (and not behave) at deposition.

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