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It happened again at deposition today. Opposing counsel asked our client something innocuous like, “What was the name of your first pet?”

Our client turned to me. He looked confused and helpless. He mouthed my name, “Mike.” He looked like he was about to slip under the surface. He silently begged for help.

Embarrassed, I said, “If you can’t remember, say, ‘I can’t remember.’”

This episode repeated itself a couple of times. Each time I had to remind our client that if he didn’t know, wasn’t sure or couldn’t remember he should say exactly that: “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure,” or “I can’t remember.”

There are three main rules for any deposition: (1) tell the truth; (2) answer the question being asked; and, (3) feel comfortable saying that you don’t know an answer.

Attorneys attend depositions with their clients. But the clients are the stars of the show. They have to be able to stand on their own two feet. They can’t rely on their attorneys to help them out when they can’t remember that their first dog was named Fido. Attorneys can prepare their clients but when it comes right down to it, clients have to be able to tell their own stories. If they can’t, they’re not going to receive good settlement offers or do well at trial.

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