Having invoked the Pirate Code’s Right of Parlay — guarantying safe passage — our heroine is greatly surprised when Captain Barbossa says she cannot leave the ship: “The code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl” (“Pirates of the Caribbean”). At times, it seems the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure might have been written by pirates. There are rules to be found there to be sure, but by and large they are more what you’d call guidelines. And nowhere is that more so than the seven-hour deposition limit in Rule 30(d)(2).

It certainly sounds like a rule: “Unless otherwise authorized by the court or stipulated by the parties, a deposition is limited to one day of seven hours.” No ambiguity there. “Limited to,” not “let’s shoot for.” Seven, not seven and a quarter. Clear. Solid. Ah, but then Jello is a clear solid. The rule is a myth — because its second sentence neatly takes away the certainty of the first: “The court must allow additional time consistent with Rule 26(b)(2) if needed for a fair examination.” Not “may,” but “must.” So the deposition must be limited to seven hours, but the court must allow additional time if needed for a fair examination.