“I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during that deposition…”
Through the ages, the proverbial “fly on the wall” has been the quiet keeper of confidential (and important) information. I guess in some ways, you could say that court reporters are like ‘flies on the wall’ because we’re generally seen and not heard in the deposition setting. However, don’t let our quiet and focused demeanor fool you. We take our job as the ‘keeper of the record’ very seriously, and we understand that our role is vital to the overall litigation process.
As a court reporting firm owner, my goal is to deliver the highest quality record possible to our clients. After all, each case relies on a clear, useable and succinct record of the proceedings. With that goal in mind, here are 7 tips every attorney should know that will improve the deposition process:
- Uh-huh and Huh-uh
Most attorneys start a deposition by saying, “Keep in mind that the court reporter can’t write uh-huh and huh-uh.” However, what you really want is for the witness to answer audibly so there’s a clearer record and no misunderstanding on what they meant by “uh-huh or huh-uh.” Believe it or not, we often have witnesses come into our office to read and sign their deposition and when they see it in the transcript, they’ll comment, “Hmmm, you CAN write uh-huh and huh-uh!!” We’ve found that attorneys who clearly articulate their need for an audible record are more likely to have a clearer record during deposition. Instead of saying “the court reporter can’t write uh-huh and huh-uh,”try telling them that “every sound you utter will be part of this record. Please speak clearly and loud enough for the court reporter to capture the best record of today’s proceedings.”
- Marking Exhibits
Please wait until a question is answered completely before asking the reporter to mark an exhibit. The reporter’s primary function is to capture an accurate record of all communications during the proceedings. Too often attorneys continue asking questions after requesting that an exhibit be marked, which makes it impossible for the reporter to mark the exhibit. By allowing the reporter to have the few seconds needed to complete the exhibit sticker, you’ll streamline the process AND ensure an accurate record has been made.
- Lunch Breaks
As you know, some depositions may take several hours. In an effort to streamline the process, many attorneys will have food delivered so they can work through lunch. Please remember that court reporters need a brain break, stretch and nourishment too. It’s physically impossible to eat and report at the same time. Even a short 15-minute break allows the reporter to eat, run to the restroom, and walk around a bit. A refreshed reporter is better poised to capture the best record of all proceedings.
- Quoting From Documents
When quoting from a document, please read in your normal questioning speed, not at the speed of light! While most of the parties in the room are familiar with the document, the court reporter still has to write verbatim what is said. If the details are mumbled and skimmed over, the reporter will likely stop you and ask that you to repeat a portion of the quote. This can waste valuable time.
Also, when reading documents, please don’t read punctuation like ‘paren’ or ‘comma’ or the transcript will look like this:
“Now is the time for all people”paren “Americans,”close paren, “to come to the aid of their country.”
When documents are quoted, the reporter will most likely request copies of the documents so they can put quotation marks around phrases that are exactly quoted.
If the quoted material says ‘Colorado Department of Transportation,’ for example, don’t say ‘CDOT.’ Here’s what that would look like in a transcript:
Paragraph 7 says,“I’ve worked for”CDOT “for 15 years.”
If the exact quote says, “I’ve worked for Colorado Department of Transportation for 15 years,”we can’t quote the entire thing if you say ‘CDOT.’ The meaning is, of course, the same, but it is not an exact quote. We are exact in our writing and in our punctuation.
If you know the deposition is going to be technical in nature due to expert testimony or will have many acronyms or tricky names of people or companies, please provide a listing to the reporting firm at least a day before so the reporter can become familiar with those terms. Acronyms can be particularly difficult to stenographically write. Providing them ahead of time helps ensure a cleaner record of the proceedings, particularly if a rough draft should be needed.
- Support Your Reporter
In some circles, a ‘talking stick’is used as a tool for clear communication. The person with the stick has the floor and the voice in the room. While a talking stick isn’t appropriate during a deposition, it is critical that only one person speak at a time. Otherwise, it’s impossible for the reporter to accurately capture who said what. By supporting your reporter throughout the process, you help ensure the best possible record. Whenever possible, please:
- remind your witness to slow down or to speak a bit louder
- request (and remember) that only one person should speak at a time
- please understand that any request made by your reporter is for the purposes of acquiring the cleanest possible record.
- Please Don’t Ask Our Opinion of Your Client’s Case
At the end of a deposition, many attorneys ask the reporter how they think the deposition went or how the witness’s demeanor appeared to them. Honestly, we write the words as they are spoken and don’t spend any time at all evaluating the witness’s demeanor or the context of the testimony. Part of the value we bring to the process is being impartial to the proceedings. It’s literally one word in our head, one word written on the steno machine, and one word out of our head! And, that’s why you’ve invited us into the room in the first place, right??
At Stevens-Koenig Reporting, all of our reporters are professionals who love what they do for a living. Our goal is to deliver the highest quality record possible. We understand that the outcome of each case relies on a clear and accurate record of the proceedings. We hope that these 7 tips will be helpful for you in your next deposition.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like, “6 Ways to Improve Your Law Firm’s Litigation Efficiency with Stevens-Koenig Reporting.”