There are many things that go into taking a deposition and then preparing the transcript, and lots of small but important details the court reporter must keep up with. Here’s a list of things attorneys can do to ensure they receive a timely, accurate transcript from their court reporter.
• At the time of scheduling, provide the court reporting firm with the Notice of Deposition or the full caption. The document you provide should include all counsel of record in the case.
• When you arrive at the deposition suite, introduce yourself to the court reporter, present your card and indicate whom you represent. This is especially important if there are multiple plaintiffs or multiple defendants.
• At the beginning of the deposition, take a few minutes to give the witness a complete set of instructions. For instance, you might say something like this:
“Good morning. I want to just give you some ground rules. I will try not to keep you here any longer than I need to. Please give me verbal responses to my questions if you can, because the court reporter can't record hand gestures or nods of the head. If you can remember to let me finish my question before you start your answer, it'll make the court reporter’s job a whole lot easier. It’s almost impossible for the reporter to take the record if we’re both speaking at the same time. If at any point I ask a question you don't understand, let me know that, and I’ll be happy to rephrase it or repeat it. If you want to take a break at any point, get up, stretch, use the restroom, you can do that. I only ask that you answer any question that’s pending before we take a break.”
• Always ask the witness to state and spell his full name so the record accurately reflects the correct spelling.
• If witness gestures in any way, restate their actions. For example, “For the record, the witness pointed to her left shoulder.”
• Read documents slowly and note when the quoted material begins and ends. “In Paragraph 3 of Exhibit 7, it indicates, quote, ‘Please keep hands and feet inside car at all times,’ end quote.”
• Provide the court reporter with a copy of any documents that are read into the record.
• Allow the court reporter to mark and keep track of the exhibits, which will ensure consistent and sequential numbering. Don’t forget to allow the reporter to completely mark the exhibit before asking your next question.
• State “off the record” before going into comments that are supposed to be off the record. Keep in mind that the court reporter cannot officially go off the record unless all parties agree to go off the record.
• When you’re ready to go back on the record, be sure to say, “Back on the record.”
• Make sure the court reporter is able to sit next to the witness or interpreter.
• During telephone depositions, identify yourself before speaking so that you are properly identified in the transcript.
• Don’t ask the court reporter for their opinion of the witness or the testimony.
• The court reporter’s job is mentally and physically taxing. Plan to take a short break, about ten minutes, every hour and a half, and at least 30 minutes for lunch. (Court reporters can’t take a “working” lunch.)
• If you can’t clearly hear the witness, the reporter can’t either. Ask the witness to speak up or enunciate to avoid the reporter having to interrupt.
• Avoid rustling papers or tapping on the table. Both of those actions will interfere with audio recording.
By incorporating these tips into your deposition practice, you’ll ensure that your court reporter has all of the necessary tools to prepare an accurate and timely transcript.
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