The ultimate deposition summary guide: FAQs, format, how-to, and tips

Kim Bookout
Deposition summaries

In the world of dispute resolution and litigation, clarity and efficiency are paramount. However, when your team receives a deposition transcript the information is rarely concise, tidy, or organized. And, if you’re preparing for trial, the clock is ticking. A successful deposition summary extracts key issues and links them to the most relevant portions of testimony in an easy-to-navigate guide. Deposition summaries are incredibly valuable but creating them is often a time-consuming and manual process. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about deposition summaries. We’ll answer common questions, provide an overview of how to write a deposition summary including formatting options, and offer tips and resources to improve efficiency. 

Whether you’re a seasoned attorney or a paralegal navigating the nuances of legal case management, you’ll find knowledge, resources, and strategies you can use streamline your deposition summary process. 


Frequently asked questions about deposition summaries 

What is a deposition summary? 

A deposition summary is a concise overview of witness testimony from legal depositions, condensing lengthy transcripts into an easily digestible format for legal professionals. 

Deposition summaries take hours and pages of witness testimony and distill it into an overview that lawyers and legal teams can reference as they prepare their case. The best deposition summaries provide enough detail that a reader can quickly understand the essence of the transcript in minutes. Additionally, the deposition summary acts as an index or table of contents that helps readers quickly find the information they need and then explore the context in more detail. 

How long should a deposition summary take? 

An experienced paralegal or litigation support professional can typically digest a deposition transcript at a rate of 20 to 25 pages per hour. However, teams that use case management software can often digest depositions faster in addition to getting a head start on deposition designations at the same time. 

How long should a deposition summary be? 

Generally, you can expect one page of deposition summary for every five to ten pages of transcript. 

While the length of a deposition summary often correlates directly with the length of the original transcript, other factors also influence the length of a deposition summary including the type of witness, complexity and density of the transcript as well as the desired format of the summary (more on this later).  

How are deposition summaries used? 

Once a deposition summary is created, it can be used throughout the remainder of the case lifecycle. 

Case preparation: Attorneys use deposition summaries to identify key testimony, relevant facts, and potential areas of weakness in their case. Using this information, they’ll add facts and events to their legal case chronology

Legal strategy: Summaries help attorneys develop effective legal strategies by highlighting important information, assessing witness credibility, and identifying inconsistencies in testimony. 

Cross-examination: Attorneys use deposition summaries to prepare for cross-examining witnesses during trial, focusing on challenging or impeaching their testimony. 

Settlement negotiations: Deposition summaries can be instrumental in settlement negotiations by providing a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case. 

Courtroom presentation: Attorneys may rely on deposition summaries when identifying testimony to designate for trial.  They may also  reference deposition summaries during courtroom proceedings to refresh a witness’s memory or to quickly identify contradictory testimony to impeach a live witness. 

Who prepares deposition summaries?

Within a law firm, deposition summaries are typically prepared by paralegals, legal assistants, or litigation support specialists. Alternatively, some law firms will engage a third-party to create deposition summaries. Preparing an effective summary requires attention to detail, legal knowledge, and the ability to effectively communicate complex information in a clear and understandable manner. 

What does a deposition summary look like? 

A deposition summary includes condensed and organized information extracted from the original deposition transcript. Here are the parts a deposition summary may include: 

Essential details: At the beginning of the summary, you’ll typically find basic information including the case name, deposition date, witness name, and other relevant case details 

Key points: Summarized statements made by the witness, focusing on relevant facts, events, and testimony. 

Page and line references: Where each summarized point appears in the transcript so the reader can find and review the section. When using legal case management software, the deposition summary will automatically include links directly to the summarized sections. 

Themes: In addition to the key points, some legal teams also include topic tags to indicate what the theme of the content is.

How to write a deposition summary 

Deposition summary format options 

When exploring how to write a deposition summary, you’ll discover there are a few ways to organize the information. Which deposition summary format you use will depend on the preferences of your litigation team and which style will be most useful for their purposes. 

Page-Line deposition summary: In a page-line deposition summary, important information is referenced to by the specific page and line numbers where it appears in the original transcript. It is detailed and the summary order follows the order of the original transcript. 

Page deposition summary: Similar to the page-line summary, a page summary follows the order of the transcript. However, instead of specific line references, it summarizes content by page ranges. This format provides a broader overview of the deposition and tends to be shorter. 

Topical deposition summary: This format organizes notable deposition information using predefined topics or categories. By grouping related information together, the topical deposition summary makes it easier to see all the relevant information about the issues in the case. Technology like Opus 2 Cases makes creating topical deposition summaries across multiple witnesses easy.

Chronological deposition summary: Rather than summarizing the transcript according to the order of the deposition, a chronological deposition summary follows the order of case events. If you are creating a master chronology in a Case Management project, you can link relevant portions of testimony directly to it.

Narrative summary: Unlike the other deposition summary formats which often use a chart to separate and organize information, this approach presents the relevant information in paragraph form. The goal is to create a cohesive story-like format, weaving together key points and events. 

Step-by-step process for writing manual deposition summaries

As you can imagine, writing a deposition summary can be a time-consuming task. It requires meticulous attention to detail, organization, and excellent communication skills. If you’re writing deposition summaries without the advantage of a legal case management solution that helps speed up the process, here are the steps you should follow: 

  1. Review the case 
    Before you begin reading the transcript, make sure you have a basic understanding of the case. This is particularly important for paralegals and litigation support staff that work on multiple matters simultaneously. Taking a few minutes to do this before you begin will help you quickly identify important facts, characters, and issues in the transcript.
  2. Skim the entire deposition and outline your summary 
    Familiarize yourself with the deposition by quickly reading through it. As you do, begin highlighting key sections and making rough notes in your deposition summary template to serve as an outline. If you’re creating a chronological or topical deposition summary, be sure to include notes about dates and topics and the pages where they’re mentioned.
  3. Draft the summary
    Go back to the beginning of the transcript and begin writing the summary according to your outline. For each entry, write a clear and concise overview following your chosen format. Summarize each section or topic systematically to ensure that the summary accurately reflects the original testimony.

    When writing the deposition summary, remember to present the information from an objective standpoint, avoid including any subjective interpretations or commentary. As you work, you can include these observations and notes for your team in separate annotations.
  4. Review the summary and check for consistency
    Review the draft summary carefully, comparing it to the original transcript for accuracy, coherence, and completeness. Edit with an eye for brevity and readability. Is there a way to convey the essential facts more succinctly?
  5. Finalize and distribute
    When your summary is complete, finalize it, save it to a shared case folder, and send to litigation team members who need immediate access.
  6. Update your chronology and characters
    Add any new information uncovered in the deposition to your case chronology and character profiles. Link these entries to the deposition.

Quick tips for deposition summaries 

Templatize to save time

When it comes to deposition summaries, time is always a factor. Whether you need to turn around one summary or a dozen, getting it done quickly (and accurately) is crucial. Start working proactively before the initial transcript comes in by creating and beginning to fill in a deposition summary template. 
Before the initial deposition transcript comes in, start reviewing the case and deposition preparation notes. Create lists of key topics, characters, and events that your team plans to cover in the deposition so you can quickly identify and tag each one.

Adopt an attorney’s perspective

A good deposition summary strikes the perfect balance between brevity and detail. Admittedly, it can be difficult to condense information while ensuring important information and nuance remain.  
To navigate this challenge, it can be helpful to take on an attorney’s perspective. What information will they need to move their case forward? What parts of the testimony will be important for trial? It’s okay to include more details if it is helpful to the lawyers on your team. Use your best judgement based on your understanding of the case. 

Take advantage of technology

The best way to write disposition summaries efficiently and effectively while moving the case forward is to leverage technology. Case management software that centralizes your work can save a ton of time.  
While performing your initial review of the transcript, legal case management software offers helpful tools for finding keywords, tagging topics, highlighting, annotating and more. This makes creating summaries much faster because you can then use those tags to create the initial outline or summary chart for a page-line summary or topical deposition summary. Additionally, each will be linked automatically and making additions or changes to your chronology and characters is quick and easy. 

To explore transcript management software and how case management software streamlines other litigation processes, check out these helpful webinars:

Deposition summary example

Here’s a helpful deposition summary example. This page deposition summary offers a concise overview of a sample deposition transcript.  You’ll notice how easy the page deposition summary is to follow along with, even for someone unfamiliar with the case. 

Page Deposition Summary Example from

Deposition summaries are crucial tools for legal professionals, especially in complex litigation. They surface essential facts that may be buried in lengthy deposition transcripts, making the information more accessible and actionable for legal teams. With the right tools, experience, and approach, you can efficiently create effective deposition summaries that move your case forward.

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