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By: Richard A. Cook, Esq.

As a busy paralegal, you know what I’m always looking for? Anything and everything that could possibly make my job easier! Why create my own brilliant checklist from scratch, if I can use someone else’s as a framework? Today, Rich Cook is sharing a super short, but extremely helpful list of quick tips you can use the next time you find yourself seated across from a client or witness at that conference room table. (Remember our last post regarding the importance of paralegal binders? Happy printing, everyone!)

Reprinted with permission from The Barrister’s Toolbox: www.the-barristers-toolbox.com.

Here is a short list of items to cover with your client the next time you have a discovery deposition:

1. Listen and make sure you understand the question.

2. Stop for five seconds and think.

3. Answer the question.

4. Is there more than one answer that is correct?

5. If there is, then you do not understand the question.

6. If you don’t know when to start and end in terms of the time frame, you don’t understand the question.

7. If you try to win your case, then you will lose your case. Don’t try to win it. In other words, don’t take a good case, try to make it a great case and turn it into a bad case.

8. You don’t know, what you don’t know. So don’t guess or speculate.

9. Keep your hands in your lap, hold a paper clip and press the paper clip if you get nervous. Don’t fidget.

10. Depositions are not conversations. Listen to the question and answer what’s being asked. Do not volunteer information.

11. Don’t worry about looking stupid…Ask the other attorney to rephrase the question, if you don’t understand the question.

12. Be wary of “box questions” that try to limit you by the words “never, always, none, and ever”. There are almost always exceptions.

Sometimes, less is more. Keep it simple.


Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Cook served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Cook began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials.  While there, Cook received the Chief Postal Inspector’s Special Award, and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1989, Cook has focused primarily on civil work.  Cook is also a member of the ITLA, Indianapolis Bar Association and the ABA. Cook writes a blawg on litigation topics at http://www.the-barristers-toolbox.com.

Mr. Cook is a member of the law firm of Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch located at 9102 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46260, Telephone: 317-334-9200; Fax: 317-566-3578; email: rcook@yoshalaw.com.

Well, it certainly couldn’t get more simple (and incredibly helpful) than that! If you have any go-to tips you’d like to add to the list, please do.

We’ve got some great stuff planned for you on our upcoming “Major Mondays” – from an article on Canadian paralegals to a trip through the paralegal trenches of a ridiculously l-o-n-g jury trial, and winding into the world of high profile (criminal) cases! We’ll see you later this week, TPS readers! Until then, fill the binders, save the esquires, and cling to the sanity.