Depositions

A story I often tell is about the first time I took a deposition. I got there early, and I thought that the most important thing was to control the witness. I didn’t realize the first time around that the way you control somebody is not by intimidating them. But I adjusted the chair that I was sitting on so that I’d be really tall, and could look down imposingly on the witness. But I raised it so high that as soon as I sat down, I toppled over and fell backward.

Amy Schulman, executive vice president and general counsel of Pfizer, in a New York Times interview about her leadership style.

(Additional excerpts and discussion, after the jump.)

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* LSAC might start auditing the LSAT scores and GPAs that law schools report to the ABA. Now, which agency is going to handle their too good to be true employment stats? [National Law Journal]

* Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s lawyer asked a judge to ban the word “bomb” from his trial. The judge denied it, because, well, he’s called the Underwear Bomber. Duh. [New York Daily News]

* “Don’t sanction me, bro!” Paul Ceglia’s lawyers are begging the court to pass on Gibson Dunn’s request for discovery sanctions after multiple delays. Like. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* In a continuing battle over the market for slutty children’s dolls, Quinn Emanuel may have scored a big one for Barbie with this tentative ruling to toss MGA’s antitrust suit. [Washington Post]

* Apparently it’s unprofessional to put your colleagues on blast for allegedly having “sexual torture chambers” in their basements. Who knew? [Chicago Tribune]

* It’s also unprofessional to slap a man in the face during a deposition. And to think, this came after a confrontation about the impropriety of finger-pointing. [The State]

Ribs are delicious, but try not to eat your husband's.

* With about 90 vacancies in the federal court system, the Senate approved six for judgeships, including Judge John Roll’s replacement. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* $400 per wasted hour? That’s not what you’re paying your lawyer. That’s what he’s paying in sanctions for futzing around during depositions. [Daily Business Review]

* Texas Roadhouse: old farts need not apply. Apparently qualifications for working at a chain restaurant now include being young, hot, and chipper. [Los Angeles Times]

* Friendly’s used to be the place where ice cream made the meal, but now it’s the place where ice cream makes you bankrupt. That’s just sad. [Bloomberg]

* Memo to file: the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, not yours. A former model is seeking parole after she chopped up, cooked, and ate her husband. [Daily Mail]

* Derrick Bell, law professor and racial advocate, RIP. [New York Times]

* Steve Jobs, creator of the iPhone, one of the most popular tools for lawyers, RIP. [Apple]

Happy New Year!

Tonight at sundown, the members of the tribe are going to party like it’s 5772 because it’s Rosh Hashanah. For the rest of you, that means that we’ll be celebrating the Jewish New Year. If you’re still confused, you can check out this handy-dandy Jew FAQ.

Anyway, tomorrow Jews around the world will be celebrating the holiday with apples in dipped in honey, cheeks squeezed by bubbies, kugel and challah being eaten, and more motherly nagging than can possibly be described in words. Most of us won’t be at work, if only because in some states the courts will be closed in observance of the holiday.

That’s why we found it strange that one law firm in Florida was pretty much demanding that a deposition take place tomorrow. This is one of the handful of holidays that most Jews celebrate, and here comes this law firm trying to ruin it like we’re actually going observe one of the 500 other holidays we have.

It’s a good thing we have judges to tell these goyim to stick it in their shofar and blow it….

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There’s one guy in your outfit who understands the need not to write stupid e-mails: That’s the guy who just spent all day in deposition being tortured with the stupid e-mails that he wrote three years ago.

That guy will control himself. He’ll write fewer and more carefully phrased e-mails for the next couple of weeks. Then he’ll go back to writing stupid stuff again, just like everyone else.

You can’t win this game; no matter what you say, people will revert to informality and write troublesome e-mails. But you’re not allowed to give up. What’s an in-house lawyer to do?

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When is a litigator thinking most keenly about a specific witness’s testimony?

There are two days: The day you’re taking (or defending) the deposition of the witness, and the day — months or years later, if ever — when you’re examining the witness at trial. So when should you be making notes about the witness’s testimony and your reaction to it? That question answers itself: You should make quick notes of key points during the deposition, and you should write notes to yourself immediately after the deposition ends. “Immediately after”: Not later in the week; not the next morning. Now, when your brain is fully engaged.

Those notes don’t have to be comprehensive, but they have to memorialize the things that you noticed during the deposition that you’re likely to forget by either the next morning or the day, a month later, when you’re reviewing the transcript. The notes are quick and easy. Write an e-mail to yourself that says: “Today I took Smith’s deposition. These were the highlights: (1) He admitted A; (2) He denied B; remember to create some other admissible evidence on that point; (3) He evaded on C; there’s something fishy going on there; (4) Opposing counsel started interrupting when I got near D; we should press harder on that point; (5) His testimony opens up issue E; let’s do some legal research.” There might be a half dozen points; there might be a dozen. But the key is to record immediately the fleeting ideas that you had while your brain was most in gear.

During the deposition, you’re as attentive as you’ll ever be. Don’t lose the moment; capture it.

What do you use those notes for?

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Judge Sam Sparks

You do not want to mess with Judge Sam Sparks, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. We recently wrote about Judge Sparks accusing a lawyer appearing before him of incompetence — in a harshly worded order that pulled no punches.

Judge Sparks has been doling out stinging benchslaps for years, and he’s gotten pretty good at it. In particular, His Honor has little patience for discovery disputes. In 2007, for example, he smacked down some lawyers squabbling over a deposition — in rhymed couplets, no less.

Last week, Judge Sparks lit more lawyers on fire….

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about an attorney who faced some humiliating — and completely false — allegations. Doesn’t get much worse, I thought.

Wrong. This week we have another intersection of technology and false accusation. But this time, the attorneys appear to be the bad guys.

A recent Canadian court ruling sheds a pretty messed up light on a major technology company and its attorneys, who reportedly conspired to have a former employee — who happened to be suing the company — arrested in the middle of a deposition, on what a judge later found to be bogus charges. Then the company let the man, a British citizen, languish in extradition limbo for nine months, until a judge finally benchslapped the devious corporate lawyers.

Let’s find out more about this super-friendly corporation’s unorthodox litigation strategy….

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I never had the inclination, or the physical strength, to attack Mr. Bloch.

Henry Shields Jr., the Drinker Biddle partner accused in a lawsuit of assaulting opposing counsel at a deposition. Shields, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, maintains that he was the victim of the assault rather than the perpetrator.

(To read more about how a deposition devolved into a fracas, see our prior post.)

Have you ever been to a deposition that got physical? Maybe some fisticuffs, or a little shoving? No? Well, obviously you’ve been hanging out in the the wrong conference rooms.

A complaint filed in Santa Monica Superior Court and reported on by Courthouse News Service accuses a Drinker Biddle partner of “robust, unlawful force” that resulted in opposing counsel breaking his wrist. The alleged assault happened at the Beverly Hills office of the Excelus Law Group, a small law firm based in southern California. Attorney William W. Bloch claims that Drinker Biddle’s Henry Shields refused to leave his conference room after a deposition, and then assaulted him — with “some kind of martial art move.”

Shields and other Drinker Biddle attorneys who were there deny all of these allegations. And affidavits submitted by Drinker Biddle attorneys, as well as the actual deposition transcript, seem to paint a different — and much more hilarious — version of events…

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