Preparing for a deposition can be daunting
Taking a deposition is like meeting a character out of a book you’ve been reading – and you have a lot of questions for them. While fun in that nerdy way, it gets overwhelming pretty quickly when you look at the sea of documents, emails, info, etc. that you’ve been swimming in for months. Which of the thousands of pages of documents and emails should you use? Which topics should you cover? In short, how do you prepare for the deposition effectively, especially given your limited time? Confusion can set it quickly.
Enter: The Three Key Admissions Rule
Here’s the invaluable lesson that a partner taught me when I was learning how to prepare for a deposition:
Instead of trying to touch on all the things, figure out the three key admissions you need the deponent to make – and then work backward to figure out how to get the deponent to make each admission.
While there might be other topics you want to cover, you can do so only after you’ve obtained those three key admissions if you have time. And you have to be prepared to walk away without those other topics being covered. The priority is those three key admissions.
This approach grounds you – bringing you back to the foundational elements of your claims, defenses, and/or damages calculations to determine what, of all the documents and information in play, is most critical to you making your client’s case.
This approach to preparing for a deposition is just good time management
In addition to this approach resulting in a more focused, effective deposition that might, e.g., lead to summary judgment because of getting a key admission, it’s just good time management.
You only get a certain amount of time to depose someone. If you have a sea of documents and topics you want to cover, you’re very likely going to run out of time – and miss out on establishing the important admissions that you need.
So, when you’re preparing for your deposition, it’s critical to be realistic about your limited time and ensure you have sufficient time to do your best to get your key admissions before time runs out.
If you then have extra time to cover less important things, terrific. But that’s the bonus – not the main event.
This Power of Clarity Applies Beyond Depositions
Zooming out, the Three Key Admissions Rule comes down to this:
Acknowledge your limited time and instead of trying to do it all, get clarity around your main goal(s) before deciding your game plan (e.g., which documents and topics to pursue and which to let go) – and you be more effective and maximize your chances of accomplishing what you need to do.
A lot of organizations would benefit from reminding themselves of the value of this approach.
Many organizations right now seem to be operating in complete denial of the limited time and energy of their teams and furiously trying to do all the things. They focus too much on the “how are we going to get it all done?” instead of acknowledging, “we can’t do it all; what is our main organization/department goal and what limited projects do we pursue to accomplish that goal?”
The results: they’re not accomplishing much of the important things and are burning out teams in the process.
Everyone (including myself) can always benefit from bringing ourselves back to (or clarifying for the first time) this:
What is the single most critical things we need to do in, e.g., the next 6 months, 12 months?
One Organization/Department Goal at a Time
Yes, while the Three Key Admissions rule deals with three objectives, those are small objectives compared to overarching business goals. I strongly believe organization/department goals should be tackled one at a time given that each goal can be served by multiple projects, so one organization/department goal can quickly fill up a team’s capacity. Three overarching goals and the resulting multiplication of projects leads to overwhelm, especially if your organization has cross-department teams that have to serve multiple departments’ multiple goals… and quickly multiplying projects. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but an effective one.
Use That Single Goal to Filter Projects
Only once there’s clarity around the one organization/department goal do you work backward to clarify which projects serve those goals (and, therefore, should be pursued) and which do not (and should be let go entirely or deferred to another period of time).
For example, in my business teaching professional working women time management, there are so many things I could (and want to) do in this business. But I’m very clear on my business goal for 2023: now that I’m confident in the time management system I teach after I’ve run 10 programs and over 200 women have gone through it, my goal is grow my audience. Every project I say yes to has to serve that goal. The projects can vary, from working on my SEO to appearing as a guest on podcasts. But if I get, for example, a new product idea, it’s a no for now (and it goes in my “backburner” column in my bird’s eye view so I can revisit it at a later time).
Having one goal is critical actually accomplishing that goal (versus diluting the time and energy that goes into with other projects). Use that one goal as the filter through which you evaluate new projects – just as the Three Key Admissions are the filter through which we evaluate which documents to use and questions to ask. Both help you manage your time so you move the ball forward where it’s most important.
Get clarity & get effective
Are you clear on what your main organization/department goal is right now? If not, how do you get that clarity? Can you decide or do you need to have a discussion with leadership (and bring your proposal!)? It’s worth pursuing because once you have it, you have a whole lot more clarity about every other project decision going forward, you’ll be more effective, and you and your team will experience less burnout and be much happier. Wins all around.
If you are a litigator and want more organized case files, check out my litigation organization guide here.