If you want to dramatically reduce litigation costs, cut out the number of depositions you do. To figure out whether or not you should really be deposing a witness, read my article "5 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Deposition," published today at Lawyerist.
One commentator, lawyer Stewart Weltman, explains how unnecessary depositions became such a fixture in modern practice.
A few decades ago, large firms with "virtually unlimited budgets" began to depose every witness with any connection to the case, no matter how tenuous. Soon smaller firms also adopted the practice.
Weltman notes that in some firms the "no stone unturned" approach also served a second function. Depositions of unimportant witnesses were used to train new lawyers, who wouldn’t derail the case if they flubbed the deposition.
I experienced this training method myself. When I began my career in the early 90's, associates were frequently allowed to depose witnesses that a partner had deemed unimportant. It wasn't only because the associate was unlikely to derail the case. Given the witness's unimportance, the associate wouldn't have to know very much about the likely trial strategy, or even the case itself, in order to prepare. It was regarded as an efficient way to train a lawyer — and still is today.
As a young lawyer, I didn’t recognize the dangers of this practice. Namely, it promotes the false belief that a lawyer can depose a witness without fully understanding the case. This idea is backwards. Only by putting case strategy first can you begin to make good decisions about which witnesses should be deposed.