What is a deposition summary?
What types of deposition summaries are there?
How significant is a deposition summary?
In this article, we will break down the concept of deposition summary so you know all there is to know about it.
Let’s dive right in.
What is a deposition summary?
A deposition summary, or a deposition digest, is a clerical or administrative summary of a deposition transcript.
Often, the deposition transcript may contain hundreds of pages of transcribed conversations.
That’s a lot of content for a trial lawyer to read and remember in preparation for a trial.
By summarizing the deposition, the testimony offered by a witness can be boiled down to its simplest form without losing substantive content or denaturing the testimony.
Depositions summaries must remain objective.
The person summarizing the content of the deposition must not allow personal comments or interpretations to skew the content of the testimony.
To learn more about the topic of digesting a deposition, you should read our article titled What Does It Mean To Digest A Deposition to have for on this topic.
Significance of a deposition summary
A deposition summary is an important piece of document or litigation artifact helping a litigation lawyer or law firm understand the factual underpinnings of their case.
For a simple litigation matter, a deposition summary may be done even though it may be nice.
For a complex litigation matter with multiple depositions and complex fact patterns, a deposition digest may be essential.
Having a short-form version of the depositions organized by topic, chronology or page-line can help a trial lawyer prepare his or her examinations, cross-examinations, pleadings and substantiate the legal theories pursued in the case.
Types of deposition summaries
There are a few ways of summarizing a deposition.
You can have a Page-Line summary, topic-by-topic or chronological summaries.
“Page-Line” deposition summary
A page-line summary or page-by-page summary is when the deposition summary is formatted in such a way that the summary of the transcript is aligned with the page-line and possible exhibit reference.
The page-line summary organizes the deposition summary in the same order as the original transcript.
These summaries great to extract the essence of the deposition and help navigate the full-text deposition.
Page-line summaries are common in commercial litigation or cases involving financial transactions.
Topic-by-topic deposition summary
Topic-by-topic summaries or topical summaries are deposition summaries based on predefined topics.
The objective of a topic-by-topic summary is to provide the reader with a quick overview of the deposition based on the subject matter.
The topics can be defined as the legal elements or conditions that must be substantiated in court.
For example, topic-by-topic deposition summaries can work great for Worker’s Compensation lawsuits as they can be organized based on the accident facts.
They also work great for jurisdictions that can litigate car accident matters.
Chronological deposition summary
A chronological deposition summary is when the deposition summary is organized in such a way that the facts are presented chronologically.
In some cases, particularly criminal cases, the chronological sequence of events may be crucial.
As a result, to have a perfect chronological understanding of a case, a lawyer may want to have all the depositions summarized in a chronological way and then build a master deposition summary incorporating all the depositions taken chronologically.
At the end of the day, the trial lawyer or law firm will define how they may want to organize their deposition digest.
What is the proper length of a deposition summary
Every law firm or lawyer will have their own way of crafting a deposition summary.
As such, there is no good way or bad way of good it or a specific rule to follow.
Fundamentally, the purpose of the deposition summary is to have “a summary”!
This means that if you can summarize the deposition in an objective way without losing important facts and elements of the testimony in 5 pages, great.
10 pages, that’s ok.
20 pages, ok, starting to be on the long side.
It’s best to keep the summary as short as possible so the trial lawyer can quickly extract the essence of the testimony.
What is included in the deposition summary?
The deposition summary must be a reduced version of the original deposition transcript.
It must include:
- The relevant facts conveyed by the witness
- It must be summarized objectively without incorporating any personal spin or interpretations
- It must not be an editorial summary
For the deposition summary to be meaningful, the summary must be done in light of the legal theories pursued in the related lawsuit.
The best deposition digest is the one that provides the relevant deposition factual statements directly related to an important or related aspect of the file.
Is a deposition summary mandatory?
It is not mandatory to put together a deposition transcript.
Some lawyers do not summarize the content of their depositions and are comfortable working with the full text.
Some others prefer to work with deposition summaries so as to eliminate unnecessary factual statements or clutter and focus on the real substantive elements of the testimony.
It comes down to a question of lawyer preference or law firm mode of operation.
Keep in mind, it takes time to prepare a deposition summary and some lawyers may not have the bandwidth within their firm to handle that.
If a lawyer had the ability and bandwidth to perform summaries, it may be worth doing.
Deposition summary services
Some lawyers do not have the bandwidth or internal capacity to prepare a deposition digest.
In some cases, considering the number of depositions and the volume of deposition transcripts produced, it may be worth hiring external vendors to perform deposition summary services.
Law firms have the option of outsourcing this task to external service providers for a fee.
Depending on the case, the overall complexity of the case, the amount in dispute and other variables, it may be useful to keep in mind that there is the possibility of hiring an external vendor.
What constitutes a good deposition summary
Every lawyer may answer this question differently.
One lawyer may find that a good deposition summary allows the attorney to gather only the factual statements required to pursue a specific legal theory while another one may want everything summarized and use the summary as a working document to navigate the original deposition transcript.
Having practiced for many years, my preference is to have a deposition summary organized either topically or chronologically, in most cases.
A page-line summary is also a great summary if you want to merely condense the deposition.
My preference is to have a deposition summary that allows me to navigate the deposition based on topics closely linked to the legal theories applicable to the case.
Ultimately, there is no good way or bad way of digesting a deposition.
It’s a question of preference and what works best for the specific case at hand.
How to digest a deposition
The steps needed to be taken for digesting a deposition are quite straightforward.
Generally, this is done by a paralegal or administrative staff in a law firm or an external deposition summary service provider.
Here is a quick overview of how a deposition is digested:
- Get the deposition transcript from the court reporter
- Understand the lawsuit and legal theories underpinning the case
- Read the deposition transcript
- Annotate the deposition to highlight key points
- Review the legal theories of the case one more time
- Read the deposition transcript once more to make sure nothing else was missed
- Draft the actual summary
- Proofread to ensure the content is objective
You can read our article on Digesting a Deposition providing you with a more detailed overview of how to digest a deposition.
Deposition summaries are quite important in helping a law firm or lawyer manage a lawsuit and the factual statements offered by deposed witnesses.
There are several common ways to prepare a deposition digest:
- Page-line summary or page-by-page summary
- Topical summary or topic-by-topic summary
- Chronological summary
With a deposition digest, the testimony offered by a witness can be boiled down to its simplest form without losing substantive content or denaturing the testimony.
In complicated cases with multiple legal theories pursued or cases with complex fact patterns, a deposition digest is pretty much crucial to ensure nothing is missed during the trial.