Achieving an appropriate degree of confidence can be tricky for clients called to testify in a deposition. Too little confidence can be crippling; too much, foolhardy. It falls to the litigators to find the balance when preparing a client to be deposed. No small feat.
The recent rise of remote depositions has added a new wrinkle to the task. Lawyers prepping a client to testify remotely must account for the requirements, protocols, and idiosyncrasies of the virtual medium. Here are some tips for how to do it effectively.
Sort Out Tech and Logistics First
Your client needs appropriate hardware, an internet connection, and a private setting to participate in a remote deposition. Get those issues sorted first before you dive into the substance of their expected testimony. If necessary, walk your client through the remote deposition platform, confirm the compatibility of their hardware, run through their options for the locations where they can testify from, and test the speed of their connection at the chosen location during the times of day when the deposition will occur.
Sorting out your client’s tech and logistics is a precondition to the other preparatory steps below. It’s also an essential element of building up your client’s confidence. It minimizes the risk of glitches, lags, and other technical complications disrupting the testimony and throwing your client off their game. It leaves ample time to make arrangements to address deficiencies. And it allows you to gauge your client’s technological sophistication (or lack thereof) upfront so that you know how much time to spend training them on the software and hardware they’ll use.
Experienced litigators know that if a client feels familiar with the setting of a deposition, it can boost their confidence. In the in-person deposition context, lawyers conduct prep sessions at the planned location or one sufficiently similar to mitigate a client’s nervousness about the physical setup. You can and should do the same in the remote realm.
After addressing your client’s tech and logistical needs, try to conduct all of your preparation sessions — including reviewing documents and conducting mock examinations — remotely on the virtual platform the parties plan to use. Even if you could meet in person, opt for the remote option. Your goal should be to maximize the amount of time your client spends in the online space to be used for the deposition.
Remote-only deposition preparation improves your client’s proficiency with the deposition software’s functions, familiarizes them with its layout, and allows them to adjust settings to their comfort level. It also increases their ease in reviewing exhibits in a digital format. You and your client can find opportunities to identify and address practical issues like lighting, screen and camera height, potential interruptions, and background noise.
As a bonus, remote preparation also gives you a refresher on the platform to be used for the deposition. As you and the client explore its features and limitations together, you can build trust and give your client confidence in your abilities as well as theirs.
Frame Deposition Pointers in a Virtual Context
The standard advice you give a client about sitting for deposition should account for the virtual setting. For instance, many litigators coach their clients to wait for opposing counsel to finish asking a question and for any objection before answering. For a remote deposition, emphasize that this advice doubles in importance because of the possibility of audio lag or automatic muting when two participants speak simultaneously. In other words, the virtual context heightens the need for a deliberate pause before answering.
Other examples of how to frame standard deposition advice for the remote realm include:
- Counseling clients to speak up immediately if they encounter a technical glitch that interferes with their ability to understand or answer a question;
- Warning a client not to communicate with you orally or make stray comments on a microphone that everyone can hear;
- Emphasizing the importance of the deponent not giving in to the human instinct to fill silences, which can feel especially prolonged in a remote setting; and
- Reminding your client that they’re likely being recorded at all times during a remote deposition and not just when answering questions.
Framing the advice you give your client in virtual terms prepares them for the unique experience of answering questions while at a physical distance from their questioner. The added context can bolster their confidence and improve their deposition performance.
Remote depositions require far more upfront coordination among the participants than in-person sessions. You can’t just show up to a virtual session. Instead, you have to get everyone on the same technological page and rely on each other’s ability to operate in the remote setting. If even one participant falls short of the minimum tech requirements or proficiency, the entire deposition can grind to a halt, wasting time, effort, and money.
To avoid that situation, consider involving opposing counsel and the court reporter in aspects of your (non-substantive) deposition preparation with your client. For example, it might make sense to do a dress rehearsal a day or two beforehand to make sure every participant can connect to, see, and hear each other. Or you may benefit by giving an opposing attorney a preview of the location your client will connect from and the hardware they’ll use, which can head off potential objections to, say, what’s visible in the background of your client’s frame or the quality of their audio feed. Ask opposing counsel for similar transparency.
It may feel unusual to collaborate with your opponent in this manner. But remote depositions, though growing in popularity, are still a new and evolving method of oral discovery. Collaboration averts costly and unproductive hiccups, which in turn gives your client confidence.
Use Purpose-Built Deposition Software
Until recently, one of the biggest knocks on remote depositions was that they fostered as many (if not more) complications as they resolved. Take exhibit management as an example. In an in-person deposition, a lawyer hands a document to the witness after a court reporter marks it. Simple.
But in a remote deposition conducted via a generic video conference platform, reviewing an exhibit with the deponent may require an elaborate protocol for sending an exhibit to multiple remote parties and ensuring everyone is looking at the same digital image before questioning the witness about it. Many an early remote deposition devolved into confusion about who was looking at what.
Today, however, litigators can avoid those confidence-sapping complications by conducting depositions via purpose-built remote deposition software. The leading solutions feature a suite of tools and services that simplify and streamline core deposition tasks. They’re intuitive and convenient to use for lawyers and their clients alike. With a quality remote deposition solution, you can:
- Book a technologically proficient court reporter qualified to record a deposition and administer oaths in the deponent’s jurisdiction;
- Conduct the deposition start-to-finish on a single software platform that offers audio and video streaming, AI-assisted voice-to-text transcription, and exhibit review tools;
- Upload and mark exhibits to a secure server before the deposition or on-the-fly during questioning;
- Have confidential, sidebar discussions with your client in a virtual breakout room;
- Capture high-quality videography with overlaid transcription text;
- Obtain an immediate rough draft transcript once a deposition ends;
- Order certified transcripts in any required hard copy or digital format.
Using purpose-built virtual deposition software eases your client’s performance anxiety and allows them to focus on the substance of their testimony. And that fuels their confidence.
Preparing participants for a remote deposition doesn’t have to be any more challenging than its in-person equivalent. Tailoring your advice for the virtual realm will help you stay on track with boosting your client’s confidence. Keeping these tips in mind and utilizing a legal-first platform solution will help ensure that the process runs smoothly and your client is fully prepared for what’s to come.
Remote Legal is an industry-leading developer of remote deposition solutions built with litigators and their clients in mind. Contact us today for a product demo.
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