Attorneys can ask many different types of questions in a number of different styles. Be prepared to answer factual questions, and be prepared mentally and emotionally for questions that are intended to affect you in a variety of ways. Some questioning techniques are simply meant to unnerve you. Others are intended to disrupt your concentration. Still others attempt to intimidate you and to weaken your resolve and your confidence. Every attorney wants to draw facts from you. Your attorney tries to ask gently for information that he knows you have and are prepared to give. You have more to worry about from opposing attorneys.
The ‘intimidator’ will come across with a tone of voice that is strong and authoritarian. He’ll sound demanding, occasionally disbelieving, and often as if he knows the answer now. His goal is to create doubt in your own mind that you are Correct, and to bully you into apparent uncertainty. He hopes that this will translate into doubt regarding how confident you are of what you have done, observed, or concluded.
Avoid giving in to this ruse. Stay calm, pause briefly to understand fully what he has said or asked, and answer his questions confidently.
A variation on this comes from attorneys who ask questions quickly in order to force you into answering just as quickly. You can slow the pace by answering both calmly and in measured tones. This may unsettle the lawyer but the main goal is to settle you down. Unless you are a psychotherapist, the attorney questioning you will be more experienced than you in the psychology and techniques of questioning. Stay calm, thoughtful, and wary. Control the pace of your answers to stay in control of your own emotions and thought processes.
In Federal cases, the law requires that deposition testimony must be limited to 7 1/2 hours, which means that federal depositions usually end within one day. In State cases, the questioning can continue for multiple days, which tires everyone. However, you are the one most at risk from fatigue. Your thinking can become muddled and your energy drained, or you may become more relaxed and less wary. Either can result in your not being able to answer questions as precisely.
The ‘long-distance runner’ attorney will ask questions about virtually everything in your report. This lawyer may ask questions that relate to your specialty but not seemingly directly to this case. He may jump around from one subject to another, attempting purposefully to cause confusion about where his questions are leading and what the next question may be. He may ask you to confirm obvious entries in your CV, such as your education. He may ask you to describe in depth your opinions, and then ask you to clarify each one of your explanations. He may then ask you to elaborate on each one of those clarifications.
Initially, his intent is to wear you down, in hope that you will misspeak or, through fatigue, fall into one of the trap questions. Second, by having you address similar questions multiple times, you may phrase a different answer to a previously asked question. Then you will be forced to explain discrepancies in your own answers. This weakens your position and undermines your credibility when it comes time to testify. Conflicts in your own answers will not sound credible when trying to explain yourself in front of a jury.
Helpful hint: sip water or juice to stay hydrated. And the better physical shape you are in, the easier it will be to keep your wits about you. You can ask for a break any time you like. You do not have to describe yourself, although the bathroom is always an easy excuse.