When the pandemic banished everyone to their home offices, litigators turned to remote depositions to keep their cases moving. It wasn’t pretty at first. Technical glitches and logistical hurdles abounded. In those early days, you were lucky to cover half as much ground with a witness remotely as you could in person.
But in time, even the most change-averse lawyers began to adapt and overcome. Through (at times, painful) trial and error, a body of best practices emerged. So did a burgeoning market for innovative remote deposition services and solutions designed to assist litigators in getting the most out of remote testimony.
Today, remote depositions are coming into their own as an option for conducting oral discovery. Litigators have learned that virtual testimony can be just as productive and cost-effective as examining a witness in-person, especially when they implement the following tips.
Tip #1: Lay the Foundation for Your Remote Deposition
Successful remote depositions require a digital mindset. Litigators must anticipate the practical implications of taking testimony via a remote connection and ensure everyone can participate effectively. To that end, several days before the deposition, they should confirm that all participants have:
- A quiet, private location from which to participate
- A reliable internet connection
- Suitable computer, audio, and video hardware
- The current version of the software that will serve as the connection platform
Give yourself enough lead time before the deposition to troubleshoot and solve any problems or needs that arise. It’s always possible to find a participant a spare office or working laptop so long as you’re not scrambling to do it at the last minute.
In the same vein, be sure that your court reporter has the technical proficiency and requisite licensing to oversee your remote deposition. For example, if the witness will attend from a location in another state, you may need to ensure that the reporter can administer oaths in that jurisdiction.
Tip #2: Practice, Practice, Practice (and Encourage Others to Do the Same)
Never assume you can wing a remote deposition by relying on skills you’ve honed conducting in-person depositions. Taking remote testimony is different. But with a little practice, you can soon feel comfortable with the tools of your digital environment.
A week or two before your deposition date, set aside 30 minutes (or more if needed) to practice using the hardware and software with a colleague. Aim to master the mechanics of asking questions, sharing exhibits, and lodging or responding to objections via the designated deposition platform. Practice is essential if you’ll be taking or defending the testimony with a software platform or version you haven’t previously used.
It can also help to encourage other participants to practice with the platform. Send them links to a demo of the platform (if available) and any protocols and procedures you’ve agreed on with opposing counsel. Your aim should be to ensure a minimum level of proficiency for all participants, which serves everyone’s interest.
Tip #3: Agree on a Protocol for Dealing With Glitches
As a corollary to planning for the digital environment, it’s also helpful to anticipate interruptions and breakdowns during a remote deposition and adopt rules for resolving them. What will you and your opposing counsel do if, for example:
- Someone’s internet connection unexpectedly lags or goes dark mid-deposition?
- The court reporter can’t hear someone speaking?
- The deponent’s video cuts out, but the audio still works?
- A party can’t access or open the digital copy of an exhibit?
Seek agreement with your opposing counsel about allocating the time spent addressing glitches and what to do if they can’t be resolved within a certain limit. A protocol agreed upon in advance enhances predictability, ensures fairness, and reduces conflict. A purpose-built remote deposition solution can also minimize your risk of glitches.
Tip #4: Use Purpose-Built Remote Deposition Solutions Whenever Possible
Early-2020 remote depositions mostly happened over generic video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. Those tools served the essential purpose of connecting the world during an unprecedented and chaotic crisis, but they lacked features designed to facilitate litigation discovery. Lawyers and court reporters often struggled with the unexpected complexities of using those platforms to share exhibits, have privileged asides, capture usable videography, and take accurate transcriptions.
In the years since, legal tech has evolved. Today, litigators can elect to take remote depositions via legal-first virtual platforms. Current remote deposition software and services offer a panoply of features that solve many of the problems lawyers encountered in the early days of the pandemic. By using a leading remote testimony solution, you should be able to:
- Coordinate scheduling among the parties and book a court reporter qualified to swear in the witness and transcribe proceedings remotely
- Upload and mark exhibits in advance or on the fly during questioning
- Connect all participants to a single platform that provides the audio, video, real-time voice-to-text transcription, and exhibit-sharing features you need to conduct a productive deposition
- Have confidential sidebar discussions with clients in virtual breakout rooms
- Receive a rough draft of the deposition transcript within 30 minutes of the deposition’s end
- Order courtroom-ready videography with overlaid transcription text
- Order certified transcripts in any digital or hard-copy format you need
Using a purpose-built solution makes a remote deposition as productive as taking testimony in person. Top-quality remote deposition software solves problems before they arise and offers intuitive tools for accomplishing the nuts-and-bolts tasks of logistical planning, questioning witnesses, reviewing exhibits, lodging objections, and advancing your client’s interests. It pays for itself, and then some, in efficiency gains compared to the challenges of using generic video conferencing platforms.
Tip #5: Grace and Patience Pay Dividends
Remote depositions are undoubtedly here to stay, but many lawyers are still climbing the learning curve when taking and defending virtual testimony. And the experience of sitting for a remote examination will continue to feel unfamiliar to most witnesses for the foreseeable future.
It pays to show everyone participating in a remote deposition — especially witnesses and opposing counsel still learning the ropes — a modicum of grace and patience. The day will come when it will be reasonable to expect all participants to feel comfortable with the virtual environment. But although remote deposition solutions go a long way in making the experience easier and more intuitive, we’re not there yet. So, cut your fellow participants some slack. Chances are you’ll need them to return the favor sooner or later.
Get to Know Your Options with the Right Legal Platform
Unlike sitting in a conference room with a witness, stenographer, and opposing counsel for in-person testimony, the remote deposition environment continues to evolve. It’s up to today’s litigators to stay current on the latest innovations. When you don’t have a remote deposition to schedule or a discovery deadline to meet, taking time to explore your options can make your life significantly easier when you do.
Remote Legal is an innovative provider of remote deposition technology and services. We offer purpose-built, virtual testimony software solutions designed with busy litigators and support staff in mind. Contact our team today for a demo of our industry-leading remote deposition platform.
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