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Whether you’re a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit or other legal case (or perhaps simply have relevant information), you can be subpoenaed to provide a deposition. If your only familiarity with depositions is what you’ve seen on TV, it’s essential to understand just what it is and what your obligations are when you provide one. It’s also wise to know what to expect and how to best present yourself when you’re being deposed.

Depositions are sworn statements. Even though they’re usually done in a conference room or office, giving a deposition is in many ways the same as providing testimony in court. They’re typically done before the case goes to trial because they’re part of the fact-finding process, or “discovery.”

Attorneys for both sides of the legal dispute are present for depositions and can ask you questions. You’re allowed to refer to notes if you need to, but it’s a good idea to have your facts straight and be prepared.

Sometimes, a deposition is all that’s needed. However, you may be called to testify in court. If you do, don’t contradict your deposition unless you’ve learned or remembered something new. If you have, tell your attorney right away.

If you aren’t able to testify in court, a tape of your deposition can be used. Both sides can record depositions, and a stenographer may be present,

If you’re a defendant or plaintiff, your attorney will help you prepare for your deposition and, as noted, be present for it. If you’re a witness or have other information relevant to the case, it’s your choice whether you obtain your own attorney.

The attorney preparing you for the deposition should provide you with guidance. However, here are a few basic tips to remember when being deposed:

  • Be serious and professional, but pleasant.
  • When asked a “yes” or “no” question, don’t elaborate unless asked to. Take things one question at a time. You’re obligated to tell the truth. However, that doesn’t mean providing information that hasn’t been requested.
  • If you don’t know something, just say so. Don’t speculate or guess.
  • Do you know the saying, “Never say never?” That goes for depositions. The same is true for “always.” Avoid those words.
  • If you’re not clear what an attorney is asking you, seek clarification. Don’t guess.

Being prepared and professional when providing a deposition can go a long way toward helping your case.