Mental notes

I take the worst notes when I take a deposition. Seriously, my handwritten notes are typically worthless. My notes are little more illegible chicken scratch, some underlines, and maybe some arrows. I don’t have a problem with taking notes in other contexts or when another lawyer is deposing a witness. It’s just when I’m the one deposing someone. I don’t recall having problems taking notes in class, although I may have had issues when my 1L civil procedure professor wore me out for a half-hour using the Socratic method.

I wonder what’s causing it. I’m sure some of it is feeling under the gun mentally. During a deposition, I’m focusing on the witness’ answer and/or thinking about my next question. My brain fails to translate my thoughts about the witness’s answer onto the written page. I think some of it may be my reliance upon outlines. I don’t write out my questions in advance, but I typically use topic outlines to organize my deposition questions. I tend to check off a lot of entries on my outline as I go down the lists.

At least my failure to take good notes has forced me to develop a good habit. I try to write a report summarizing the deposition within a day or two after the deposition. I’m afraid I’ll forget it all if I don’t summarize it promptly. Waiting for the transcript can take a few weeks.

What tips do you have for taking decent notes while you’re deposing a witness?

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