The role of a legal secretary or paralegal professional is to use your legal training to assist the attorney with her legal work. In keeping with these overall roles and responsibilities, professional paralegals must be equipped with the necessary skills to help the attorney prepare cases for deposition. This piece will cover several specific steps that the legal secretary or paralegal can do prior to deposition day.
As the legal professional hired to represent the client, the attorney is in charge of the overall direction and focus of the case. Hence, it is important to have a meeting with the lead attorney handling the matter. In this meeting you’ll want to discuss any issues that are key to your client’s situation. So remember to gather as much information as you can to build upon the overall legal direction of the case. This type of information will inform your research and preparation.
While taking the initiative is good, it is also prudent to gather any research material deemed helpful to the case from the lead attorney. You will need to meet at the beginning and middle of the process to ensure that you are on the right path.
Research the Pertinent Legal Issues
The art of preparation begins with research. Following from your meeting with the attorney, as the paralegal, it is your responsibility to do the necessary research on the issues that concern the case. It is important to be as detailed as possible and compile your research in a way that is easy to read and accessible by the attorney.
Your research will include gathering relevant case law and research to substantiate your case, as well as getting information that could be used by your opponent. The latter will help the attorney to better formulate the case at deposition.
Finding previous testimonies by the witness or about the witness can provide the attorney with valuable information. The attorney for the case should be armed with all the available information on a witness and as the legal secretary you can help in gathering this intelligence.
Draft Potential Questions
The advantage of taking on research responsibilities as a paralegal is that your mind will be filled with questions. In assisting the attorney in his preparation, you can formulate potential questions for each witness. Depositions are about discovery and the best way to discover all you need to before trial, is to ask all the questions that will direct you to the right answers. Your proposed questions can be very valuable to a lawyer, as you may propose questions he or she may not have contemplated.
Prepare Necessary Documents and Exhibits
On deposition day, an attorney will want to focus on the task at hand. Your job is to make sure that documents and exhibits are obtained, copied, labeled and readily assessable. As the paralegal, the attorney will require your assistance in retrieving documents on deposition day. Hence, being organized and prepared is not only meant to help the attorney, but for your benefit as well.
The taking of depositions in a civil matter is very important. As a paralegal or legal secretary, the preparation work that you are required to do represents the well oiled machine of organization and research that is at the foundation of your client’s case.