Creating an Expert Deposition Summary

Creating deposition transcript summaries

When preparing for trial, depositions play a foundational role, critical to the discovery phase. After the deposition, having a succinct, accurate deposition summary is a strategic component of developing and refining case strategies.

Depositions can be lengthy and full of case-critical information. As witnesses and involved parties are interviewed, they share key testimony that informs trial strategies. Depositions are rich with case-defining details, and while they’re typically limited to a seven-hour period, cases often involve multiple depositions. Ultimately, this leaves attorneys with several deposition transcripts, filled with evidence and details that must be assessed, analyzed, and positioned correctly. 

Instead of combing through time-consuming and dense transcripts over and over again, you can use a deposition summary, which highlights the key points and testimony of a deposition. 

Understanding Deposition Summaries

As noted above, the deposition process happens during the discovery phase, before a civil lawsuit or criminal case occurs. This is the formal stage of investigation where both sides gather information. During a deposition, witnesses from either side are sworn in and questioned.

The purpose of depositions is to:  

  • Prepare for trial or settlement – Legal teams use depositions to avoid surprises and confusion during a trial, help lawyers decide on legal strategies, or provide the basis to negotiate settlements. 
  • Preserve testimony – Depositions are used to document information under oath and to secure testimony if a material witness is unwilling (or unable) to testify during the trial.
  • Impeach witnesses – Depositions are also used to impeach witnesses who contradict their own sworn testimony in court. This can happen due to inconsistencies in their original testimony, for example. 

During a deposition, a court reporter can generate a real-time transcript. Afterward, there is a final edit and review, and an official transcript is then completed and certified. This official transcript is then reviewed by attorneys, discussed with clients, and incorporated into trial or settlement planning. 

As you can likely imagine, deposition transcripts can be lengthy, and continuously combing through them can be a laborious and time-consuming process for attorneys. Three-quarters of lawyers already report spending upwards of 20 hours per week on non-client facing work.1 Instead of spending more valuable time searching through hundreds or even thousands of pages of deposition documents, you can instead refer to an expert deposition summary, which is a concise document that captures all of the key points from a deposition transcript. Summarizing depositions becomes especially relevant for cases with lengthy deposition transcripts.

A deposition summary focuses on the witness’ main opinions, conclusions, and supporting reasoning. It’s typically much shorter than the full transcript, and it’s designed to be a condensed, quick reference tool for lawyers to understand the essence of the testimony that was given. 

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How to Write a Comprehensive Deposition Summary

After a deposition is held, a deposition transcript is generated. From there, you can take steps to write a comprehensive, articulate, and ultimately helpful deposition summary based on the entire transcript.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to craft a deposition summary:

1. Gather the Raw Materials

A deposition transcript or video recording is the foundation of your deposition summary. This is the verbatim record of the testimony, including all questions asked by attorneys. Your deposition summary will typically start with the full transcript or recording. 

Other helpful materials can include key case documents, such as the complaint and motions, which can inform your understanding of the legal arguments at play. Additionally, check for exhibits that were introduced to support testimony in a deposition, and ensure you have a complete understanding of them. 

2. Outline Essential Details 

Next, you can set the stage for your deposition summary with key details. Briefly identify the case, the parties involved, and the witness. Then, dive into the body of your deposition summary, focusing on the witness’ opinions and supporting details. Specifically, identify the main points and central opinions, and unpack the rationale behind them. 

During this stage, you’ll also likely want to keep things concise. Depositions can quickly become wordy and balloon in length. You’ll save yourself hours of future work by keeping your summary brief and focused. Doing so will ensure you create concise summaries containing the most relevant information.

3. Leverage Structure and Formatting

Deposition summaries are intended for quick reference, and they’re hallmarked by their ease of use. Keep this in mind when creating your deposition summary, and utilize formatting such as bullet points and numbered lists for easy reference. 

4. Keep Best Practices in Mind

When crafting your deposition summary, certain best practices can be helpful. For example, remember that accuracy is paramount, as this summary informs critical legal decisions. Double-check all quotes and information against the transcript to ensure a reliable summary. Also, in a deposition summary, information hierarchy is essential. Prioritize information based on relevance to your specific case, keeping critical data more visible. 

Common Challenges in Deposition Summarization

Deposition summarization is central to trials and settlements, but it’s not without its challenges, even for the most skillful attorneys.

Common challenges in deposition summarization include:

  1. Sifting through volume – Depositions can result in lengthy transcripts filled with technical details, irrelevant discussions, and objections. Identifying the key points requires careful analysis and the capacity to comb through large datasets.
  1. Maintaining accuracy – Summarizing deposition information accurately is critical. You’ll need to verify all quotes and information against the transcript and work to represent what occurred objectively. At volume, this can be difficult, and even one small error could cascade into tremendous legal consequences.  
  1. Identifying relevance – Not everything discussed in a deposition is equally important to the case. It can be challenging and time-consuming to distinguish between relevant details and extraneous information. 
  1. Striking balance – While concise, a deposition summary still needs to capture the essence of the testimony, while avoiding being bogged down by excessive details. Striking this balance between comprehensive and succinct can be challenging. 
  1. Dedicating resources – Deposition summaries might be in the wheelhouse of most attorneys, but they’re often time-consuming and laborious to create. It can take considerable time and resources to create deposition summaries. 

Benefits of Outsourcing Deposition Summary Services

While creating deposition summaries in-house can be achievable, there are significant advantages to outsourcing this task to highly specialized legal service providers. 

Here’s how outsourcing deposition summary services can benefit your law firm:

  • Enhanced efficiency – Legal professionals are often stretched thin. Outsourcing deposition summaries frees up valuable time for attorneys to focus on core tasks like case strategy, client communication, and trial preparation.
  • Cost-effectiveness – Hiring and training dedicated staff for deposition summarization can be expensive. Outsourcing allows you to access a pool of experienced, qualified professionals, at a potentially lower cost overall.
  • Expertise and consistency – Legal service providers specializing in deposition summaries have highly experienced staff trained in legal research, writing, and analysis. They can deliver consistent, high-quality summaries that diffuse key points and opinions.
  • Scalability – Outsourcing deposition summary services allows you to adapt services to your workload. During periods of high volume, you can leverage the resources of an external provider without incurring the cost of permanent staff additions. At times of lower volume, you can easily reduce scope.
  • Technological advantages – Many deposition summary service providers utilize special software and technology for deposition analysis and summarization. These tools can improve efficiency and accuracy, compared to traditional methods. 

Utilizing AI for Deposition Summaries

The legal field is constantly evolving, and artificial intelligence (AI) is making its mark on various aspects of legal practice. One area where AI in law is gaining traction is with deposition summaries. AI-powered tools can analyze deposition transcripts, and identify key phrases, topics, and speaker sentiment. 

Here are some ways AI can contribute to the deposition summary process:

  • Automated transcript review – AI can streamline the initial review process, highlighting potentially relevant sections. This can save time compared to manually sifting through the entire transcript.
  • Identifying key points – AI can be used to recognize key phrases and arguments, flagging them for human review. This can help identify the most important aspects of the testimony.
  • Categorization and organization – AI can categorize information based on predefined topics or legal issues, making it easier to structure and organize the summary. 

While AI isn’t replacing human judgment and should be used with human oversight, it can be a valuable tool for creating deposition summaries. It’s useful for increasing efficiency, improving accuracy, and even for cost savings, by reducing the time and resources needed to create summaries. 

Quality Assurance and Review Processes

Creating a high-quality deposition summary requires accuracy and quality. After drafting the summary, it must be thoroughly reviewed for accuracy, clarity, and completeness. Having another legal professional review the summary can help you identify blind spots and areas for improvement. 

When choosing an outsourced deposition summary service, find the experts who take a meticulous approach. This allows you to be confident in the quality of your deposition summaries, and rest easy knowing that your summaries were reviewed with a fine-toothed comb. 

Deposition summaries start with effective deposition transcripts. If you’re in need of court reporting services, then U.S. Legal Support is here to help. Court reporting is in our DNA, and we provide a matchless combination of professional service, innovation, and scale. Learn more about our litigation support services today.

Sources:

  1. Statista. Average time spent on other billable work per week. https://www.statista.com/statistics/869589/us-legal-services-time-spent-on-other-billable-work/
  2. The Business Research Company. Legal Process Outsourcing Global Market Report. https://www.thebusinessresearchcompany.com/report/legal-process-outsourcing-global-market-report
Julie Feller
Julie Feller
Julie Feller is the Head of Marketing at U.S. Legal Support. Prior to U.S. Legal Support, Julie worked at Abacus Data Systems (now Caret Legal) providing legal technology platforms and services to legal professionals across the country.

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