Why Preparing Clients for Deposition is Like Making Pancakes


Why Preparing Clients for Deposition is Like Making Pancakes

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By Brian Wilson, Nicodemo & Wilson, Canton, OH

What is the one HUGE secret for making fluffy pancakes that rise like they should, as opposed to those paper thin, dense duds devoid of any texture or sponginess? And, by the way, as a long time weekend pancake slinger, this secret applies to homemade recipes (my usual choice) all the way down to the instant “just add water” mixes.

The secret? Don’t overwork the batter and DO NOT stir the lumps out of the mix. Simply add enough liquid (per whatever directions you’re following) to dissolve the dry batter and gently fold the liquid in. Within a few seconds, you’ll have enough consistentcy to be able to spoon or ladle a lump-filled blob of batter onto your griddle or into your pan. And then watch them slowly puff up and rise, in airy-like, glorious fashion.

Not too long ago, I came to the conclusion that preparing our clients for deposition is a lot like making pancakes. We hit clients with all these pre-deposition rules like “don’t guess,” “don’t ramble,” “answer only the question you’re asked and don’t volunteer anything,” etc. I could go on and cite about 15 more “rules” we’ve all learned over the years and have bludgeoned our clients with from time to time.

But in the process of our drill sergeant/paranoid recitation of all these “rules,” we can inadvertantly turn our clients into robots at their deposition. We’ve wrung all the humor and charm right out of them. They come off flat, worried, walking on eggshells for fear of making one of those dreaded “mistakes” we warned them about over and over. And, occasionally, we have the audacity to wonder why our clients’ pre- deposition charm and endearing qualities did not come through at their deposition.

Simple: we overstirred them, just like the lifeless, tasteless pancake where the batter was overworked to death in the bowl. We failed to step into their shoes and realize that, from their perspective, a deposition can be a scary process. They want to go through a 2-3 hour question- and-answer session with a strange (as in unknown OR odd, take your pick) lawyer about as much as their upcoming root canal or colonoscopy. At least with the latter you have some form of sedation, which may drop a deposition to third place on the list…

Look, going over depositon rules is important and should not be ignored. But we as trial lawyers also need to recognize, and appreciate, that there is a class of clients whose charm, pleasant demeanor, grace, humor–whatever those qualities may be–need to come forward and be seen by the other side. They have wonderful stories to tell, and, yes, they may ramble or break a few of our precious rules to remember, but creating a “roboclient” from scaring the pants off of them is infinitely worse in my opinion.

Bottom line: every one of us comes with “lumps” in some form. By deposition time, you need to know whether your client will need a lot of “stirring,” or just a little. Counterintuitive as it may seem, both with clients and pancakes, consider leaving some of the lumps in. Remember: you can send a stack of flat pancakes back to the kitchen, but you’re stuck with a flat transcript and client impression.

About the Author
Brian Wilson (Nicodemo & Wilson) has been a practicing personal injury attorney in Northeast Ohio for over twenty years and hosts his own blog.

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