How to Summarize a Deposition Transcript


A deposition transcript contains the verbatim testimony of witnesses, including all facts and questions resulting from interrogation not conducted in court, that transpired during deposition. Depositions serve as direct pre-trial evidence for lawyers, specifically litigators, to harness in court. Summarizing a deposition transcript remains easy to draft, requiring only general understanding of the most immediately material facts that ensued during deposition. Deposition summaries seldom exceed four pages and usually range between one and two, depending upon the volume of information. Indeed, deposition summaries demand no greater knowledge than a general ability to read, brief and simplify material in the most succinct manner possible.

Read the Deposition

Read the deposition with an active, engaged mind. Ask yourself who, what, where, when, and why to determine all relevant facts.

Overlook extraneous details, such as immaterial questions and information not necessary in comprehending the case.

Keep a pen or pencil on hand and scan the document. If you feel overwhelmed with information, lightly mark each sentence as you read it to remain actively engaged. This action keeps the brain sufficiently stimulated to retain information, while minimizing fatigue.

Take inventory of the facts. Also, though not necessary, if you feel perplexed by the voluminous data of detail presented, consider annotating the deposition. If you feel comfortable comprehending the content, just keep reading and assimilating the facts.

Use whatever strategy that works for you to grasp the material. While annotating facts, remember to follow the strategy specified in Steps 1 and 2. Again, recall the Five Ws, (Who, What, When, Where, Why).

Stay terse and to the point in your analysis. A succinct deposition summary seldom surpasses four pages in length.

Translating Information

Begin writing your summary by translating the information you read onto paper. If you briefly annotated the facts, incorporating all relevant questions, names, people, addresses, dates, locations, deaths, actions and negligent conduct and/or other evidence germane to your case, then translating information will remain simple for you.

Substantiate annotations by reviewing/re-reading parts of deposition, perusing pages with all the sideline descriptions you included and incorporating all unanswered assumptions missing from your summary.

Consolidate facts. If you thoroughly understood the material without annotating it, then your job remains equally easy. You may recall the information from memory to organize summary.

Summarize the deposition. Remember the areas/pages you perhaps marked, briefly review any critical pieces of transcript and proceed with your summary.

Open a new Microsoft Word document to start your summary. Entitle it "Deposition of (whoever)," date the case and follow the suggestions discussed in Step 1. Go to "File" at the top left-hand of your screen, scan tab and click "Save As" to save your document. On Word 2007, access this icon under the Windows icon tab, located at your top left-hand corner as well. Save it as "Deposition of (whoever)" and/or some other title you deem appropriate/easy to identify.

Begin translating all relevant information onto your Microsoft Word document in clear, comprehensive sentences. Follow the three S's of writing mechanics---simplicity, succinctness and specificity in sentence structure as you compose your deposition summary. While writing, remember to periodically save your document and thereby prevent any loss of significant information. Under "File," listed above "Save as," click "Save." You may also use the little disk icon on your top left-hand corner, if you feel comfortable, to save material.

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