As a vital pre-trial component of many court proceedings, depositions are question-answer sessions that help attorneys delve into the particulars of pending court cases. At a deposition, attorneys question witnesses about the details of both sides of a case, which gives the attorneys a broader overview of the case than they receive after questioning only their own clients.
By consolidating the content of a full deposition transcript into an abbreviated deposition summary, attorneys have court-ready notes at their fingertips without having to shuffle through the volume of pages in a full transcript.
Deposition Transcript vs. Deposition Summary
The comprehensive written record of a deposition that includes verbatim accounts of the witnesses is the transcript, but the concise version of the transcript is called the deposition summary. The deposition summary definition may also include the term “digesting a deposition,” which means that these summaries are actually digests of the testimonies given.
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Steps to Summarize Deposition Transcript
After documenting a deposition by using a stenotype machine, steno mask or digital recording, a court reporter or scopist makes a finished transcript. After carefully reading a full deposition transcript, an attorney or paralegal takes certain steps to summarize the transcript into a briefer, more workable document.
There is no required format to follow for a deposition summary; each attorney or law firm makes an individual choice for the preferred format. But the process typically includes three basic steps: reading, annotating and summarizing a deposition transcript.
Reading the Deposition Transcript
Before beginning to summarize a deposition transcript, it may seem obvious to include the directive to read the transcript. But a thorough and thoughtful reading of the entire transcript is important for a well-worked summary. Paying attention to the questions that attorneys ask of witnesses can shed a light on the areas that the attorneys deem important and the direction their in-court interrogations may take. Featuring these key points gives the attorneys a solid outline with strong content in-hand when they’re in court.
Annotating the Deposition Transcript
Whether the legal professionals preparing a deposition summary makes notes with a pen, pencil or word-processing program, annotating the text follows the step of reading the transcript. By making notes throughout the transcript text, an attorney or paralegal highlights the key points to include in the summary.
A law firm may use a team of deposition summary specialists or a single professional to annotate the transcript. Multiple team members may annotate the transcript, and another legal professional may incorporate all the notes into the final summary.
Summarizing the Deposition Transcript
For quick cross-referencing from the summary to the full transcript, one method of organizing the information in the summary is arranging the key points in a chart format. For example, there may be three columns in the chart with “Page/Line,” “Topic” and “Testimony” as the column headers. Under the first column header the numbers 25/5, for example, may be listed to designate page 25, line 5, as the source for the corresponding information listed in the second and third columns. Summaries may also follow a narrative format or an outline format.
Deposition Summary Software
To facilitate the process of writing a summary from the full deposition transcript, some law firms use deposition summary software. By storing digital transcript copies in the cloud, each member of a legal team can access the file to read the transcript, highlight the text with color-coded identifiers, annotate the text and share notes with each other. A software program also allows each member of the legal team to find certain phrases or words in a voluminous deposition transcript by using the software’s internal search feature.
Victoria Lee Blackstone was formerly with Freddie Mac’s mortgage acquisition department, where she funded multi-million-dollar loan pools for primary lending institutions, worked on a mortgage fraud task force and wrote the convertible ARM section of the company’s policies and procedures manual. Currently, Blackstone is a professional writer with expertise in the fields of mortgage, finance, budgeting, tax and law. She is the author of more than 2,000 published works for newspapers, magazines, online publications and individual clients.