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February 15, 2008

Redux: Slick Answers to Lazy Interrogatories.

Color me silly, but I love and respect written discovery during the pretrial process in American federal courts. Years ago, a fed-up U.S. district court judge, throwing up his hands during arguments by lawyers on a motion to compel discovery responses, referred to answers to interrogatories as "slick lawyer answers to lazy lawyer questions".

I feel his pain.

Once a new second year associate who worked briefly for our firm (after one year at another firm) complained that we were putting too much thought into a set of interrogatories under Rule 33, Fed. R. Civ. P. Our new hire patiently explained to me that interrogatories and other written discovery were in fact "simply a way for lawyers to bill time so they could make money, and nothing more." He was adamant about it, too.

Nice guy, and I liked him--I always try to take his cab when I'm in Pittsburgh.

But complex and hard-fought civil cases really do turn about 90 per cent on the quality of the discovery questions and requests, including deposition questions, and the responses to them. And well-thought out and strategically-timed written discovery is the best way there is to prepare great depositions--and get ready for trial.


Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzb├╝hel Desk) at February 15, 2008 11:00 PM


I agree. My own pet peeve is the six pages of "Instructions and Definitions" that lawyers routinely include with their interrogatories and document requests. I've done away with those all together, figuring that the rules of civil procedure are going to apply anyway, so why waste the time and paper creating a new set. Plus, if your answers ever do get read to a jury during a trial, hopefully you'll score points for writing like a real human being and answering the questions as directly as you can.

Posted by: T.J. Conley at February 18, 2008 01:36 PM

TJ, we like you, man.

Posted by: Holden Oliver at February 20, 2008 11:20 AM

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