Throughout our many years at Henderson Legal Services, we have arranged close to 100,000 depositions. I have been honored to work with many of our nation’s outstanding attorneys from some of the world’s great law firms both large and small. As a “fly on the wall” so to speak, I have been privy to how these men and women have prepared for and successfully deposed their witnesses. The list of great advice I have gleaned from these legal legends would be a long one.
One piece of advice stands out above all the rest. A friend and former managing partner of one of the nation’s largest law firms told me about his first deposition many years ago. He had prepared for weeks by reading thousands of pages of documents. He filled legal pads with ideas and questions. He formulated an outstanding strategy for deposing the witness.
Once the deposition started, my friend became flustered. He soon got lost in his own questions. The witness was not particularly cooperative. His outstanding strategy wasn’t working. After an hour of unproductive witness examination, a senior partner from my friend’s firm, who was attending the deposition, slid a 3 x 5 card over to my friend. On the card was written: “who, what, when, where, why.” My friend read the card, took a deep breath and proceeded to conduct an excellent examination of the witness.
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best strategy. By the way, the senior partner was my father, who successfully kept it simple for over 50 years as a litigator.