The Most Important Unwritten Rule: Depositions Should Start at 10:00 AM

We, as lawyers, learn many, many rules from many, many texts, including statutes, cases, regulations, and such.  But what allows a practitioner to rise above the rest is his or her knowledge of the unwritten customs of the practice of law.  These practices vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, state to state. The most universal of them all, though, is the old familiar rule:  no depositions should start before 10:00 AM local time. Really, this informal custom is part of the glue that holds our profession together.

Really, this should be incorporated into some future draft of the state and federal rules of civil procedure.  Generally, most lawyers follow this unwritten custom, taking into account the fact that colleagues planning to attend a deposition may want to stop by their own office first or travel from another city before arriving at a deposition.  The standard 10:00 AM start time even permits an attorney flying in from a far away jurisdiction to possibly catch an early flight and arrive on time.  If not, this standard start time allows those who fly in the night before to accustom themselves to their new surroundings and make it to the deposition without unnecessary haste. All in all, the custom preserves some level of peace and tranquility.

I raise this issue because lately I have seen a number of notices calling for the deposition to begin at – gasp – 9:00 AM.  Oh, the humanity! Mind you, these instances were not circumstances where the deposition needed to start earlier than 10:00 AM. Rather, the noticing party just decided to set the deposition start time at 9:00 AM. Alas. Of course, there are exceptions to the informal rule, typically doctor depositions, because physicians may only be able to present themselves at some unusual time before or after business hours. And, of course, there’s always the occasional witness who may only be available at some strange and unusual time. But generally, depositions should start at 10:00 AM.  No question.