In my last post, I explained why I believe plaintiffs' lawyers should always meet with a treating physician privately before a deposition begins. I said it surprises me when lawyers don't take advantage of this opportunity. Just as surprising is the fact that some defense lawyers don't ask about the meeting during the deposition.
It's true most doctors don't go out of their way to help you when you pry into the details of their conversations with the plaintiff's lawyer. But you should be able to elicit a list of topics the two talked about, which will give you some insight into the issues the plaintiff's lawyer thinks are most important--or about which he thinks he is most vulnerable.
If you don't want to risk the doctor's thinking you're bullying him, save this line of testimony for the end of the deposition. Usually you won't discover anything new, but sometimes the doctor feels obliged to spill something the plaintiff's lawyer would rather have left unsaid. (This seems to happen most often with young doctors, who sometimes have such an obsession about being "fair" that they will begin volunteering information they think is helpful to the defense. It's the sort of baffling behavior that will make the plaintiff's lawyer very uncomfortable.)
And just as the plaintiff's lawyer has done everything he can to make the doctor like him, you should too. Before the deposition begins, as the court reporter is setting up, try to engage the doctor in small talk. Tell the doctor about the doctors in your family. See if you can find a friend in common in under thirty seconds. If your opposing counsel begins interrupting so that the court reporter can swear the witness, you'll know you're doing something right.