Defending the Boss: Preparing CEOs, Directors and Other Senior Executives to Testify in Depositions

Zach McGee
March 21, 2016


While preparing any client to testify at a deposition can be a challenge depending on the particular witness and facts of the case, CEOs, directors and other senior executives frequently present unique challenges for the lawyers defending them. Those challenges range from a reluctance to devoting an appropriate amount of time to prepare, to an inability to say “I don’t know” to certain questions (aka “CEO syndrome”) to trying to prove the other side “wrong” during the deposition. Whatever the particular challenge, these witnesses need special care and feeding.

Zach McGee – a senior executive and former litigator with extensive law firm and in-house litigation experience preparing CEOs, directors and other senior executives (including lawyers!) to testify at a deposition – will provide concrete advice to in-house and law firm litigators on preparing their own clients, including how to take advantage of the latest technology in witness preparation.

The program will cover the following topics, which have been tailored to preparing CEOs, directors and other senior executives for providing testimony at a deposition in civil cases:

•Taking the deposition seriously and devoting enough time to prepare;
•Covering crucial witness preparation basics without talking down to the witness;
•Educating the witness on discoverable subject matters pertaining to the entity that the witness does not, but should, know about;
•Fully utilizing the witness’s level of sophistication to your advantage;
•Limiting testimony to what the witness actually knows, did and/or remembers, as opposed to what “the Company” knew or did in either a general or collective sense;
•Focusing the witness on how to give a “winning” deposition, while not necessarily trying to win the case on deposition; and
•Using a witness preparation video to fully prepare witnesses to testify.

The program will include a demonstration of “Deposition Testimony: 5 Simple Rules,” a witness preparation video that allows clients to see the right way – and the wrong way – to testify, and the many ways careless deposition testimony may be harmful at trial. The video uses dramatic vignettes and practical narration to teach clients five simple, but critical, rules for testifying in a deposition.


Zach McGee, Senior Vice President, Business Affairs, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA

Zach leads worldwide business affairs for Sony’s home entertainment division. Before moving to Sony, he was the Senior Vice President, Head of Business & Legal Affairs at Miramax, a leading independent film and television studio. Before joining Miramax, Zach was a Vice President, Legal Affairs, with NBC Universal, Inc. Prior to moving in-house, he was an associate with Davis Polk. Zach clerked for the Honorable Michael B. Mukasey, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and he received his Masters of Business Administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Zach also has taught negotiation ethics for lawyers as an Adjunct Professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University.

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