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Play it cool in depositions: Plan, prepare and don’t babble

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

When your organization faces an employment lawsuit, you may end up in a room with an attorney and a tape recorder, explaining what you know.

Depositions can be nerve-rattling and the employee's lawyers will try anything to discredit and challenge your testimony.

"You can't help the company, you can only hurt the company" at this phase, says Michael Banks, partner at the Morgan Lewis employment law firm. Listen closely to the question, and don't provide any more information than requested. In depositions, the less said, the better. Banks offers these other tips for legally smart depositions:

1. Remain calm and be aware of your body language. Don't be afraid to object to information that's inaccurate.

2. Keep your testimony short. This is not a social situation. Keep your responses tight, and don't talk too much.

3. Embrace "not knowing" and "not remembering." Try not to say the words "I think." Rather, if you don't know or don't remember, say so.

4. Know the company's position. If there was a position statement submitted to the EEOC, make sure you know what it says. Ask your attorneys to explain it to you.

5. Role-play with your company's attorneys. In preparing for the deposition, don't just rehearse the "good" answers. Ask your attorneys what the weak spots were in your testimony.  

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