A Few Tips on Making a Good Record

Be kind to your court reporter, and your court reporter will be kind to you!

» Insist that the witness give you an audible response to your question. Court reporters can write “uh-huh,” “huh-uh,” shakes of the head, and nods of the head; however, when the transcript is read later or used in court, these answers are not clear.

» Insist that the witness allow you to complete your question before beginning to answer. It is not “difficult” for the court reporter to take two people talking at once; it is “impossible.” Otherwise, you get:
Q Please let me finish -
A Oh, okay.
Q -- my question before you -
A Yes.
Q -- begin your answer.
A I understand.

» They do not understand! They are nervous. It is probably their first legal deposition. And even though you give your routine, thorough instructions at the very beginning of the deposition, by page 6, they have forgotten everything you told them. Again, insist they wait until you have finished. And when they interrupt, insist again and again.

» Of course, that goes for objections as well. One at a time, please! If you want it on the record, the court reporter must hear it. When more than one attorney is talking, something is going to get left out.

» Do not think out loud. Form that question in your head before you open your mouth to speak it. Otherwise, you get, "When did you first -- at the time you were -- when the man approached -- okay. What time did you get up that morning?"

» Make it a habit to read your depositions. Many attorneys think, “I can’t possibly speak that way. Surely the court reporter messed up.” The truth is, "Yes, you do speak that way." Work on articulating your questions. Read and study depositions of an attorney you admire. Speak slowly and clearly and fluently. Be understandable. Take a speech class. A court reporter’s worst nightmare is a fast talker, whether it’s the attorney or the witness. We should all have the same goal: a transcript to use in litigation. And a good transcript is essential to both plaintiff and defendant.

» If the witness cries, if the witness bangs their fist on the table, if the witness indicates a motion with their left or right hand, it is your job to clarify for the record what happened. The court reporter takes down audible words. When the witness points to her left forearm and says, “It hurts right here,” or if the witness only points and says nothing, what you will see in the transcript is (witness indicating). We do not interpret where the witness is pointing.

» Whether you mark the exhibits or the court reporter marks the exhibits is your choice. If the court reporter is marking the exhibits, please allow her time before you begin speaking again.