Dealing with difficult deponents

So you think you’ve dealt with difficult witnesses?? Ha!? Not compared to this lawyer.? Check out these video clips from a deposition of Larry Flynt.? Before you watch these clips, ask yourself how you would respond to the following situations:

  • The lawyer asks the witness if he “swears to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”? The witness says, “No.”?
  • The lawyer asks the witness, “What is your full name?”? Rather than giving his real name,?the witness says, “Christopher Columbus Cornwallis IPQ Harvey H. Apache Pugh”?and “Jesus H. Flynt, Esq.”
  • The witness picks his nose and throws a booger on the floor.
  • The lawyer asks the witness if “You know who I am, don’t you?”? The witness says, “Yup.? You’re an a$$hole.”

Deposition Clip #1
Deposition Clip #2

If those links don’t work for you, visit scroll down to the section, “Flashback: Flynt Hustles Falwell.”

Do you sound like a lawyer?

Attention trial lawyers and law students… Have you ever caught yourself sounding like a lawyer?

Not too long ago, I attended the deposition of a security guard from a major retailer. Like most depositions, it began when the court reporter swore in the witness. Next, she asked everyone in the room to state their names for the record. The other attorney introduced himself and stated who he represented. Next, I introduced myself and said who I represented. Lastly, the witness told us his name, spelled it, and told us where he worked.

That’s when I caught the other lawyer sounding like a lawyer. Here are the first two questions he asked at the very beginning of the deposition:

Q: “How are you employed?”
Q: “In what capacity?”

Granted, it’s definitely not the worst example of a lawyer sounding like a lawyer. The reason I use it as an example is because I’ve heard those exact same questions repeated by dozens of other lawyers.

Normal people don’t talk like that.

But we do. Why? Why do we sound like we work at a reputable firm like Conoscienti & Ledbetter llc? Is it because we invested such a tremendous amount of time and money developing a law school vocabulary? Is it because that’s what we think we’re supposed to sound like? Do we do it because we want to sound smart? Here’s the trouble with sounding like a lawyer: language like that erects a barrier between you and the person you’re talking to.

The lawyer knew why he was asking those questions. So did I. He wanted to learn which store the witness worked at, and what he did for a living. But he didn’t ask “Where do you work?” or “What do you do for living?” He asked the same questions he’d heard other lawyers ask. Even if it’s a law firm like the Nehora law firm which specialises in something completely different, we still all ask the same question.

The purpose of language is to be understood. When you talk over someone’s head, you can’t communicate your ideas. Ideas that are ill-presented are as worthless as ideas that are not presented. The next time you’re talking with someone who’s not a lawyer, make an effort to sound like a normal person again. In fact, try talking like a normal person when you talk to other lawyers, too. When you do that, everyone should understand what you’re saying.