Deposition Exhibits: There Is a Better (Digital) Way

Depositions are critical. Litigators know that an entire case can rise or fall because of testimony given by a deponent. The vital nature of depositions warrants a great deal of preparation in advance by the deposing attorney. In many cases, the documents shape the deposition questioning. It can require a great deal of attention to determine which documents will be used as exhibits.

Here’s a quick picture of how my deposition exhibits used to be prepared. The potential exhibits are identified by the lawyer in advance and turned over to the paralegal. The paralegal then makes copies and prepares a separate file folder for each document. During the deposition, when ready to admit a particular document, the lawyer describes the document to the paralegal. The paralegal then begins to search through the bankers’ box full of file folders. Once located, the copies are distributed around the table, one is marked by the court reporter, and the deposition continues.

I gave up that method because it seemed so disorganized and difficult. Plus, it required a paralegal spend quite a bit of time to get the documents ready, which meant that I had to know which ones I intended to use far in advance of the actual deposition. The system I currently use takes a fraction of the time to prepare, is far more organized, is easier to use during the deposition, and makes life much, much easier for me, for my paralegal, and for the court reporter.

Here’s how it works.

First, I determine which documents I think I’ll want to use. It’s a low-commitment decision, though, as you’ll see. I err on the side of more, rather than less, documents, so if I think I may want to use it, I add it to the “yes” pile.

Once I have a general sense of the documents I intend to use as exhibits, I group them into general categories, instead of admitting each document one at a time. Some documents may end up as a stand-alone exhibit. An employee handbook is an example of a document I’m more likely to move in as a single exhibit. But performance evaluations, for example, are documents I’m likely to group together, sorted chronologically, and call them just one exhibit. Once categorized, these groups of documents become my exhibits.

Of course, all of the documents are already scanned in and my review is usually on the computer instead of in paper, but if, for some reason, they’re not yet in electronic form, they would get scanned in now. I assemble the exhibits (the groups of documents), pulling the pages or documents I want into a single PDF file–1 PDF for 1 exhibit.

Next, I add page numbers to the exhibits in Acrobat. To do this in Acrobat 9, just go to Document > Headers and Footers > Add. The Add Header and Footer dialog box opens.



Place your cursor in the box that matches where you want the page number to appear. If your documents are bates stamped on the bottom right, you may want to put the page number directly underneath that number or you may find it easier to put the page number in the middle of the page, keeping the two numbers separate.

So, let’s say you want to put your page numbers in the middle of the footer area. Place your cursor in the box labeled Center Footer Text. (#1). Then choose the font type and size that you prefer. (#2-3). Click Insert Page Number. (#4).

I prefer to include the word “page” before the number, just so it’s clear that the number is not otherwise part of the document. To do this, you could type the word page in the box in front of the page number but there is a better way. Click the link that says Page and date number format. (#5).

In the new window that appears, you’ll see a drop-down menu of choices for how page numbers are formatted. Choose the one you prefer–in my case, I chose “Page 1” or “Page 1 of n”–and then click, Ok.



Back in the Header and Footer dialog box, there is one more option worth considering. Click the Appearance Options link. (#6). In the new window that appears, check the box next to Shrink document to avoid overwriting text and graphics. This ensures that your page number won’t cover up the contents of the original document.



Ok, you’re almost done. We’re almost ready to add the page numbers. Instead of going through these steps for each exhibit, though, we’re going to do all of them at once.

To add page numbers to more than one PDF at the same time, click the Apply to Multiple button in the bottom right corner of the dialog box. (#7). Then select Add Files from the drop-down button in the new window that opens and browse to your other exhibits to add them to the list. (To select more than one file at the same time, press the Ctrl key and choose as many documents as you need).


Once you have a list of all of your exhibits, click Ok.

The Output Options dialog box opens.


Here, you can decide how Acrobat should handle the newly numbered documents–whether they should be saved automatically, whether they should be saved with a name different than the original file, etc. This is just a matter of personal preference, so make your selections and click Ok.

Now all of your exhibits have page numbers, making the deposition much easier. You’ll be able to say, “Please turn to page number 13 of Exhibit 2” and everyone can quickly and easily locate that page. This is especially important in my system because I’m grouping documents together, so the bates numbers do not run sequentially.

If you want to do it right, there’s one more step to the process. Using the custom stamp created by guru Rick Borstein, you can add an exhibit stamp to each document with the name it would normally be given–in my case, the witness’ name and the exhibit number, i.e., Smith 2.


You can learn how to install and apply the custom exhibit stamp at Rick’s wonderfully informative blog, Acrobat for Legal Professionals.

When all of the exhibits have a stamp and page numbers, I have them copied and inserted into binders with numbered tabs. At the beginning of the deposition, I give the witness, his counsel, and the court reporter a copy, and keep a copy for myself and for my paralegal. We use this binder throughout the deposition and don’t have to stop for the tedious document search or to have the cour
t reporter mark each exhibit. It’s not only a tremendous time saver, but it allows me to concentrate on the questioning instead of file folders and gives me a guaranteed way to know that I’ll cover all of the documents I need to cover.

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One response to “Deposition Exhibits: There Is a Better (Digital) Way”

  1. this is awesome and well thought out. It seems easier to do once you go through it a few times. Thanks for sharing. should make depositions more organized.

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