Anything a plaintiff or defendant says under oath is instrumental to a legal case, whether it is a criminal or civil proceeding. Lawyers often summarize depositions to guide them in the courtroom during cross-examination and questioning.

Therefore a deposition summary or depo summary is an important legal tool and aid. To understand its significance, it’s important to define a deposition. It’s also important to distinguish it from interrogatories. Both depositions and interrogatories are used during the legal process, known as discovery.

While depos represent oral testimony, interrogatories are written.

What Is Discovery?

Discovery, itself, allows each party in a legal case to know what evidence may be presented at trial. Its purpose is to prevent “trial by ambush.” Trial by ambush refers to submitting evidence or calling surprise witnesses during a trial when there is no time to gather any evidence or testimony in response.

Types of Depositions

A deposition may take the form of a written transcript or videotape, or both may be used for summarization. During an oral deposition, both sides of the case are usually present. A deposition gives each party prior knowledge about a witness’s account at trial, or it may be used if a witness cannot testify during a trial. Therefore, the testimony can be recorded or read into the courtroom testimony.


Depositions may also take the form of written questions called interrogatories. These questions require that the receiver answer the questions in writing as well. Witnesses have a specific period to respond.

Other Forms of Discovery

Other forms of discovery include subpoenaing, which requires the other party to produce documents or records for examination. A subpoena represents a court-issued written order for investigating case-related files or papers.

Outsourcing the Work for Depo Summaries

Basically, a deposition then is sworn out-of-court testimony that is used to back arguments and questionings during a trial. If the deposition is summarized, the lawyer can follow the information given by a deponent and stay more organized.

The idea behind a summary then is to emphasize the key points to streamline the legal process during a judicial proceeding. Therefore, the condensed document must be easy to read and follow. Outsourcing the work is important, as the person compiling this information must have a strong background in this type of trial preparation.

What Kind of Summary Do You Need?

Don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure the summary you use conforms to your legal and evidentiary requirements. Deposition summaries can either make or break a case. Therefore, make sure your summary backs up your deposition transcript, as summaries come in different styles. For example, page-line and topic-by-topic are two common formats. Carefully review your options to ensure the best results.

Sheila LaCivita is the owner of 4 Corners Depo. She got a paralegal degree with distinction from UCLA and has been helping lawyers with deposition summaries. She wants to share her knowledge and experience with others.

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