Overview Of Interrogatories In Discovery (2024 Full Guide)​

 In Practice Pointers

Overview Of Interrogatories In Discovery (2024 Full Guide)

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Interrogatories are a fundamental element of legal practice. Attorneys almost always must submit requests to the other party to obtain case information.

However, going about this process properly is challenging. Without a complete picture of the facts of a case, it is tough to draft relevant or suitable questions and balance the need to provide information with the duty of cooperation. Legal professionals must protect privileged data while managing the cost of the process, always considering billable hours.

Therefore, we wrote this guide to help. It provides an overview of how to collect and disperse critical information during litigation while avoiding the common pitfalls that drain even the most experienced legal professionals. Following it will improve the likelihood of crafting effective interrogatories that improve case trajectories and enable you to serve your clients better.

Understand The Purpose Of Your Interrogatories

The first step is to get clear on the purpose of your interrogatories. You want to know what you are trying to achieve.

Most interrogatories have multiple objectives, so bear that in mind.

For example, the interrogatories may want to:

  • Obtain factual information about the case. Wanted data might include requests for details about the parties involved, the potential damages, and what happened in the minutes, hours, or days preceding the cited events.

  • Discover documents. Paperwork might include financial records, contemporaneous written witness testimonies, police reports, and witness statements.

  • Identify applicable legal theories. Approaches could include questions about the case law precedents or statutes the opposing parties want to use to pursue a case.

  • Find witnesses. People who saw events unfold can enable the exploration of potential testimonies.

Learn To Respond Effectively To Interrogatories

As a legal professional, responding to interrogatories is a regular requirement. However, getting it right as a legal professional is challenging. There are no easy formulas. The usual advice revolves around providing “complete and truthful” answers, but everyone knows that already.

A better rule of thumb is to provide accurate answers. Focusing on the nitty-gritty details of what existing documentation already says is perhaps the optimal approach. Taking what the court already knows as the foundation of responses can help balance client needs with the demand for truthfulness.

When writing responses, always support them with documentation to support your answers if you have concerns. Cover yourself legally.

You can also object to unreasonable requests if you feel they are overly broad or don’t capture the essence of the care. Avoid submitting irrelevant information.

Lastly, don’t rely on manual processing of interrogatories. Instead, use advanced AI technology to support your responses. Get machine learning software to sift through submissions, extract relevant information, and draft responses for you. Then, review and edit outputs to suit your client’s requirements and tailor the case to your needs. Avoid spending hours manually reviewing and filing every request you receive.

(Taking this last approach could enable you to explore alternative funding approaches. You may be able to abandon billable hours in favor of a more predictable service provision).

Draft Interrogatories Strategically

As experienced attorneys know, drafting interrogatories is time-consuming. Therefore, always approach the task strategically.

Only ask specific questions that address the crux of the matter where possible. Avoid board or vague questions. The opposing party’s legal team may simply file objections against these, citing irrelevance, wasting your time.

Also, ask questions sequentially. Build a picture logically. Get the opposing side to answer an interrogatory that naturally leads to another. Force the opponents to follow your train of reasoning, reducing their capacity to oppose your interrogations through generic means.

Be sure to ask questions that help you better understand the case’s facts. Gather relevant information where you currently have blind spots and can’t pursue facts further from your side using witness accounts or documentation.

Also, ask questions that might reveal the opposing party’s perspectives on the case. Try to get an insight into how their side views events, including a timeline of occurrences relating to the incident in question.

Don’t wait too long to submit your interrogatories. Always follow the court’s rules and regulations, preferably administering them immediately to ensure you remain within the rules and put the other side on the defensive.

Deal WIth Objections And Motions Effectively

If you receive an objection or motion, it can be challenging to know how to respond, even as an experienced attorney. Unfortunately, these comebacks are common, even if you follow legal best practices for drafting interrogatories. You will get some baseless responses, often to delay proceedings.

Processing all of these is time-consuming so, again, rely on AI assistance. Get machine learning to extract the fundamental information and draft responses on your behalf that seek to oppose the idea that any objection is baseless.

Use these tools to review responses and look for opportunities to compel action from the opposing side. Ask whether the statute supports their claims of over-generality or whether they are engaging in excessive tactics to slow everything down. If it does, continue to press the opposing side for information.

If their objections persist, go back to the court. You may be able to get them to force the opposing side to disclose information relevant to the case.

If interrogatories ask you to disclose privileged or confidential information about a client, seek protective orders from the court. Avoid handing over sensitive information without first exploring this option.

Tools like Briefpoint provide this functionality within the app. AI systems can add objections and responses to your response, enabling you to quickly make requests and reply to the opposing party without extensive time-consuming email chains or endlessly poring over documentation. 

How BriefPoint Can Help

Managing interrogatories was previously a minefield for attorneys. However, AI tools are streamlining all aspects of the process, whether you are on the giving or receiving end.

If you’re skeptical of software to provide solutions, Briefpoint offers a demo so you can experiment with it yourself. You can see how it works in practice and whether it improves your workflow.

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