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Last Rev. 10/29/16 10:50am

Estimated Costs of One 1st-Class Deposition

A deposition or examination before trial is a legal proceeding conducted by an attorney for one of the parties to take the testimony of a party or third-party witness under oath, with the attorneys for all other parties having an opportunity to be present and cross examine the witness. The proceeding is taken down by a court reporter and transcribed into what is known as a "deposition transcript". There are various extras that can be ordered from the court reporter to increase the total cost of a basic deposition transcript (including a data processing file; extra copies; a rough copy within minutes after the deposition is concluded; mini-pages with 6 pages of transcript per mini-page; and an index of each word to enable quick lookup of various names or subjects.

Some parties spend a lot of money in defending themselves or in pursuing their claims. Other parties spend substantially less. I want to show you how this works when a deposition or "examination before trial" is to take place. In my longest case (18 years to complete), the defendants with a room full of attorneys took my client's deposition for a total of 16 days, as I recall, and my client's brother for about 12 days, as I recall. The courts today would not permit this to take place, and limitations have been placed on depositions in various courts throughout the United States. In the Southern District of New York there is a 7-hour limitation, but the Court can be expected the increase that to 14 hours (or 2 days) in complex cases such as an antitrust case, where it theoretically takes much longer to get to the story out of any knowledgeable witness.

When I want to save money on expenses (and I am aware that there are tradeoffs in conducting a deposition on something less than what I'm calling a "1st-class" basis) I will conduct a deposition by telephone from my office, with the witness in some other city and state, with his/her lawyer giving advice to the witness and lawyers for the other side almost always being present at the place where the witness is being deposed. I am generally the only person not appearing in person at the deposition. Thus, I don't get to see the face of the witness (to determine if or when the witness seems to be lying); I can't see the witness for the lawyer or any of the lawyer for the opposing parties giving helpful hints to the witness (something which would be unethical but I presume does take place on some occasions if no opposing lawyer is present); there sometimes are difficulties in hearing or being heard; it is more difficult to cross examine on documents, because the documents have to be faxed to the opponents in advance, thereby losing my opportunity to suprise the witness with a specific document (although his/her lawyers already should know what documents I'm going to use). You can see some of the problems that I create for myself and my client when I reduce the costs of a deposition. My total cost for a deposition done this way? About $625, but this does not include the value of perhaps 10 hours of my time (a ballpark estimate of the time I will spend on any one deposition from considering who to depose, to preparing for and taking the deposition, rescheduling the deposition, reviewing documents for the deposition, and reviewing the transcript of the deposition often 3-5 times at various times before trial, during trial, and in preparing for any appeal. Thus, my ballpark estimated cost (basically for the AT&T conference call, $50 witness fee, $150 process server's fee; $400 deposition transcript, $25 for copying costs, and about 10 hours of legal work amount to a grand estimated total of about $625 plus 10 hours of legal work. A discussion of deposition costs is available at Article on Deposition Costs.

Now, let's look at the costs of what I call a "1st-Class Deposition". I make the following assumptions:

  1. Federal court antitrust action;
  2. Out-of-state deposition requiring travel and 2 nights of accomodations;
  3. 2-day deposition of 14 hours (with the court's approval in a pretrial order);
  4. Video taped with certified court videographer (14 1-hour tapes keyed to the transcript);
  5. Court reporter produces a transcript of 2,000 pages;
  6. Attorney taking deposition orders expedited transcript and most extras;
  7. 3 attorneys representing the party taking the deposition are working on the deposition;
  8. 2 attorneys (or 1 attorney and 1 paralegal) representing the party taking the deposition are in attendance at the deposition;
  9. Average hourly rate for the lawyers and paralegals involved is $375;
  10. Travel expenses (air, taxis) and hotel/motel accomodations for 2 days amounts to $2,500 per person, or $5,000 total;
  11. Videography expenses to have VHS tape of the 14 hours of deposition (1st hour $300, hours 2-14 @ $125/hour), and conversion to DVD or CD (2 hrs @ $150) for a total of $3,220 (including a .0825 sales tax)
  12. Court reporter's charge for 2,000 page expedited (2-business days) transcript @ $10/page amounts to $20,000; plus $300 in attendance fees (@ $75/half day); rough draft of transcript available immediately or cleaned up and available within 24 hours @ 2/page amounts to $4,000; mini-page transcript $110 (2,000 pages with 6 pages per page), for a grand total to the court reporter of $24,410

There are various phases in the taking of a deposition and the use of the resulting deposition transcript. I am going to provide a ballpark estimate of the legal and paralegal time to be spent by the hypothetical New York law firm responsible for taking the above hypothetical 14-hour deposition of one of my main clients:

  1. Meetings and time spent by one or more lawyers to determine to take a deposition of my client; to clear dates for and schedule and then reschedule the deposition; to notice the deposition - total assumed hours: 3
  2. Preparing for deposition including review of produced documents, preparing a book of questions and exhibits to be used at the deposition; outlining the questions and areas desired to be covered; reviewing this work by various attorneys and discussions - total assumed hours: 50
  3. Travel to and from the out-of-town deposition - total assumed hours: 28
  4. Preparing the night before and morning of the deposition and conducting the deposition, including working breakfasts and lunches, and dinners - total assumed hours: 48
  5. Post-deposition analysis, review, discussion, followups and other activity using the transcript and marked exhibits, prior to trial - total assumed hours: 30
  6. Trial preparation immediately before trial using the deposition exhibits, including preparing witnesses to some extent - total assumed hours: 10
  7. Use of deposition transcript and marked exhibits during the trial - total assumed hours: 3
  8. Use of deposition transcript and marked exhibits for the appeal - total assumed hours: 3
  9. Hours spent reviewing or using all or part of the 14 hours of videograph VHS tape or CD or DVD during the period starting with the day of receipt of the video media up to and including the trial and any appeals - total assumed hours: 56

There are a total estimated number of hours amounting to 231 for the 14-hour deposition, the resulting 2,000 page transcript and the 14 hours of video material (VHS and CD or DVD), times an estimated average hourly rate for the partners, senior associates, other associates and paralegals involved, amounting to $86,625 (231 hours times $375 average).

Also, I'm estimating that there would be 50 hours of secretarial time, at $50/hour, or an additional $2,500 charged to the client by reason of the one 1st-class deposition.

The total:

  • Travel .................... $ 5,000
  • Videography ............... $ 3,220
  • Court Reporter ............ $ 24,410
  • Attorney/Paralegal Time ... $ 86,625
  • Secretarial time ........... $ 2,500
  • Total: ..................... $121,755

Compare this with my cost of $625 (out-of-pocket expense) and 10 legal hours (X $375 or $3,750), or a total of about $2,400, about 2% of the cost of the 1st-Class Deposition.