When and How to Use Deposition Summaries

Esquire Deposition Solutions

The power of a well-written deposition summary is apparent to anyone who has ever successfully prepared for an examination. Busy students don’t have the time to re-read thousands of textbook pages and lecture notes. Nor do they have the time to decide – for a second time – which classroom materials contain the critical information most likely to be tested by the exam. The best performers study with distillations of the course curriculum. They review outlines and reading notes.

Deposition summaries offer litigators a high-level look at deposition testimony without the need to review the entirety of transcripts that run hundreds, if not thousands, of pages.

That’s how litigators succeeded in law school and on the bar exam too, with outlines and notes.

Deposition summaries have the same power to organize, summarize, and synthesize hours’ worth of deposition testimony. A deposition summary – typically delivered as a digest of significant testimony arranged by topic, date, or any other useful organizing principle – can be a real time-saver for busy litigators. Deposition summaries offer litigators a high-level look at deposition testimony without the need to review the entirety of transcripts that run hundreds, if not thousands, of pages. Deposition summaries are also an efficient way for litigators to share with clients the most significant aspects of a recently completed deposition.

Deposition summaries also provide a new perspective on a case matter. A well-written deposition summary may unearth hidden inconsistencies in deposition testimony, suggest new causes of action, or identify possible defenses to legal claims that have been asserted against the client.

Types of Deposition Summaries

Today, deposition summaries are produced in several different formats, depending on case need and litigator preferences:

  • Summarized testimony. This form of deposition summary closely follows the deposition transcript, condensing numerous transcript pages into a brief summary of what the writer believed was the most important information gleaned from the witness.
  • Deposition highlights. Summaries written in this format provide a highly condensed, terse summary of the witness’s testimony (e.g., “Witness was not present when the altercation took place”). They provide something akin to a “table of contents,” a jumping-off point for the litigator to dive in and read the actual transcript.
  • Key facts and dates. In this format, the organizing principle is not a reference to a transcript page but is, instead, a critical occurrence or issue. For example, all the testimony given about a hospital patient’s signature on a consent form might be summarized and collected in one location.
  • Multiple witness testimony. A deposition summary written in this format summarizes the testimony of several witnesses on the same topic or occurrence. This format is useful for spotting inconsistencies in testimony among key witnesses.

Nearly all types of deposition summaries provide what is known as a “page-line” reference: an annotation with a reference (or hyperlink) to the precise transcript page and line number containing the summarized testimony.

Common Uses for Deposition Summaries

When used internally, deposition summaries are powerful tools for case management, litigation strategy, and preparation for future depositions or the trial of the case.

When used as a client communications tool by outside litigation counsel and insurance claim litigators, deposition summaries can be shared as-is, or edited and embellished with the litigator’s personal impressions of deposition testimony and its strategic significance.

But these powerful analytical tools come at a price. Deposition summaries are expensive to produce. It can take eight hours (or more) for an experienced paralegal to summarize 200 pages of deposition testimony. And the cost goes up if the same work is done by an associate or litigation partner. A deposition summary produced through these efforts will need to be compelling in order to justify such a significant commitment of time and resources. Often this is the case, but not always.

Artificial Intelligence Steps In

One promising development is the recent emergence of artificial intelligence technologies that make the job of writing deposition summaries both more cost-effective than human-generated summaries and more useful to busy litigators. We touched on this subject in prior articles about the uses of artificial intelligence for deposition preparation, the ethics of AI deposition assistants, and the possible utility of ChatGPT for generating areas of inquiry during depositions.

AI-generated deposition summaries can provide a high-level narrative summary of the deposition as well as a page-by-page description of the witness’s testimony.

Although the benefits of artificial intelligence are often oversold, it seems clear that, when ethically used by lawyers mindful of their duty to exercise independent legal judgment over the handling of all client matters, AI-powered deposition summaries will prove their worth in time – by proving quicker, better, and less-expensive results than humans working alone with traditional litigation tools.

Esquire Deposition Solutions’ own deposition summary service, Intelligent Summary+, is a compelling example of how artificial intelligence can be leveraged to improve litigation outcomes. Building upon Esquire’s pre-existing focus on transcript accuracy and data security, deposition summaries created by Intelligent Summary+ are organized thematically to highlight key legal and factual issues in the case. These deposition summaries are helpful starting points for drafting motions and briefs. They can also suggest promising strategies for impeachment and direct examination of deposition witnesses during trial of the case. Client confidential information used by Intelligent Summary+ is protected by Esquire’s rigorous data security protocols, and will never be used to train AI models.

When one of your cases is in need of a construction expert, estimates, insurance appraisal or umpire services in defect or insurance disputes – please call Advise & Consult, Inc. at 888.684.8305, or email experts@adviseandconsult.net.

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