As a court reporter, I’ve listened to thousands of depositions. My job is to take down every word so the record is completely accurate. However, there are some things attorneys do in a deposition that make it much more difficult for me to get every word. Here are the top 10 mistakes attorneys make in a legal deposition.
1. Talking at the same time as someone else. If what you are saying is something you consider important, you will certainly want it to be on the record. Your court reporter can only take down one person at a time in most instances. When you talk over someone else, you run the risk of having words missing because the court reporter cannot always hear two people at the same time.
2. Talking while the court reporter is marking exhibits. Don’t start talking before the court reporter has a chance to mark the exhibit you just handed to him or her. The court reporter’s hands need to be on the steno machine in order to record what you are saying. If his or her hands are busy marking exhibits, the words you are saying at that time are not going to be part of the record.
3. Using hand gestures to note an objection. Don’t use hand gestures when you want to make an objection. The court reporter is taking down a verbatim record, not interpreting whether you want an objection entered or are just swatting at a fly.
4. Failing to take breaks. Long extended periods of testimony can be physically exhausting, especially for your court reporter. An exhausted court reporter will have a difficult time doing his or her job. Take breaks once in a while in order to allow everyone a few minutes to stand up and stretch.
5. Bringing in lunch and continuing the deposition while eating. Don’t forget the court reporter needs to eat, too. A court reporter cannot use his or her hands to eat lunch and also take down testimony. In this situation, a reporter will have to skip lunch in order to continue writing. It is difficult for a reporter to work through their lunch when everyone else is eating theirs.
6. Failing to inform the court reporter you need the transcript tomorrow morning. Don’t wait until after the deposition has ended to tell your court reporter you need the transcript by the next morning. If you know ahead of time that you will need this transcript ASAP, give your reporter notice as soon as you can. If the court reporter is aware of the deadline ahead of time, they can make accomodations so they can more easily accomplish what you need.
7. Seating the witness far away from the court reporter. Don’t insist on seating the witness far away from the court reporter. It is easier for the court reporter to hear and understand the testimony when they are right next to the witness.
8. Forgetting to say “off the record”. Don’t forget to announce that you are “off the record” when you don’t want something taken down. It is not the court reporter’s job to interpret what should or should not be on the record.
9. Speaking too quickly. Your court reporter is good, but even the best court reporter has a limit to how long he or she can take down a super fast speaker before tiring. Remember, your goal is a clean and accurate transcript that reflects full questions and answers. It is to your benefit to speak at a reasonable pace so your reporter can easily hear and comprehend every word.
10. Allowing background noise. Barking dogs, loud fans, sirens, coughing, loud talkers in other parts of the office; all of these things can cause words to be missed during a deposition. If noise suddenly erupts, pause proceedings long enough for the noise to cease.
When any of these situations arise, your court reporter will speak up and ask that they be rectified if it is affecting their ability to take down testimony. However, it makes for a better day if the attorneys in the room are already mindful of these conditions and can eliminate them. Do become a partner with the court reporter in making a good record. It will be better for your case if the reporter is able to accurately take down the testimony.