Deposition Prep Guide: Part 1 The Basics of a Deposition

Basics of a Deposition

Nothing seems to concern clients and witnesses more than the idea of giving a deposition. Thoughts of interrogators, bright lights, and fist-pounding lawyers come to mind. Depositions are one of the necessary steps of any lawsuit, however, and with a little know-how, are much less intimidating than originally thought. 

To assist not only our clients but anyone who has an upcoming deposition or simply wants to know more about the deposition process, we have put together this two-part guide. 

While our law firm exclusively handles assisted living and nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits, these general principles apply to depositions in any area of the law. 

What is a deposition?

A deposition is nothing more than a question and answer session that is given under oath. It is essentially an interview with a witness by one or more lawyers. A court reporter is present who types down all the questions and answers. At the end of the deposition, those questions and answers are printed into a booklet that everyone gets a copy of. Depositions may be conducted in person or by Zoom, which has become more common since Covid.

What is the purpose of a deposition?

In a civil case, such as a lawsuit for nursing home abuse and neglect, wrongful death, personal injury, or even a contract dispute, each side’s attorney gets to ask witnesses questions before trial to find out what they know and what they are likely to say at trial. The law allows depositions so that no one is ambushed with unknown testimony at trial.

Keep in mind, however, that this is different from trial. At a deposition, it is the other side’s lawyers who will probably be asking you questions. At trial, your attorney will ask you questions first in front of the jury. Then, the other side’s lawyers will ask you questions.

If the lawyer for the other side does not ask you questions about important facts or topics, that is okay. Your lawyer can still ask you about those at trial.

Who will be at the deposition?

Whether the deposition is in person or by Zoom, the format is essentially the same. Your lawyer will be present to make sure that certain rules are followed. Each set of Defendants gets to have a lawyer present. The court reporter will also be there to type everything down. The court reporter does not get to ask questions. Only the lawyers ask questions. Your lawyer has the right to ask questions but most likely will not. Your lawyer will probably wait until the trial to ask you questions.

Will the lawyers object to questions at the deposition?

From time to time, you may hear your lawyer or one of the other lawyers say objection. That can be startling for a witness who has not been through a deposition before. The objection is being made so that the court reporter can type it down. Then, the lawyers can later address that with the court. Unless your lawyer tells you to not answer the question, you will still need to answer the question after your lawyer has finished with their objection. You may need to have the lawyer repeat the question as you may have forgotten some of it because the lawyers were speaking.

What kinds of questions can they ask me?

The rules of evidence like relevance, hearsay, etc. do not apply to a deposition. The lawyers can ask you anything at deposition unless it is so private, personal, or irrelevant that it would be offensive and has no relationship to the case.

Although this may be frustrating, remember that even though a question was asked at deposition, it may not be allowed at trial.

What should I bring to the deposition?

Depositions can take from a few minutes to several hours. The more closely connected you are to the case, the longer it is likely to take.

You may want to bring water, soda, or something else to drink. You will be doing a lot of talking. So, it is important to have something to drink. You may also want to consider bringing some form of a snack, like a granola bar, fruit, or anything else you want.

Other than that, you should not bring anything to the deposition unless you have discussed it with your attorney. That would include things like notes, journals, photographs, etc.

What should I wear to the deposition?

A deposition is a legal proceeding. It is preferable to dress like you would if you were being observed by a judge or jury. If you’re able to, you definitely should. However, there are certainly circumstances where that is not possible. You may be coming directly from work and not have the ability to change. That is completely fine.  

This does not mean that you need to be overly formal. If you would not typically wear a suit or sport coat, then don’t. You should aim to be professional but also comfortable as your deposition may potentially last several hours.

What should my demeanor be like at the deposition?

Be yourself, be friendly, but also realize that the person taking your deposition is not your friend. They have a job to do, and that job is to dismantle your case. The best lawyers are not the ones who aggressively pound their fists on the table and try to intimidate you like you see in the movies. The best lawyers are the ones who are friendly and unassuming. They will try to build rapport with you so that you let your guard down and become agreeable. They understand that we are much more likely to trust someone and agree with them if they are friendly. Be mindful of this throughout the deposition. Be friendly and polite, while maintaining a healthy level of suspicion.

Questions About a Potential Lawsuit Involving a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility? 

Michael Hill is a nationally recognized attorney who handles exclusively cases against long term care facilities. Michael and his firm, Michael Hill Trial Law, are headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio but handle cases across the country. 

Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as providing legal advice or the creation of an attorney client relationship. Laws are updated frequently and change from state to state. If you desire legal advice, you can contact Michael Hill Trial Law at, send an email to, call (800) 659-2712 to begin an investigation, or contact another attorney.