The legal process is something that we’re often afraid to change. It’s steeped in history and tradition and there’s been little room in the past for innovation. The unexpected changes brought about by Covid have meant that we have moved to relying on video more than ever before.
This has led to exponential growth in the use of remote depositions. It’s been a necessity so that the legal system could continue to operate. The problem is that carrying out a video conference deposition using ordinary, off-the-shelf products is not really fit for purpose.
Here is some advice on how to carry out depositions using video conferencing software built for the legal industry.
What Is a Video Conference Deposition?
A deposition itself is a written recording or witness testimony that is given out-of-court in legal proceedings. Its purpose is to be used in the legal discovery process and/or for later use in court. Depositions are usually completed by recording testimony which is then transcribed.
The problem with a virtual deposition is that it’s hard to tell the nature of a witness from a written version of testimony. For example, you can’t pick up body language or facial expressions that are often helpful in deciding how credible a witness is.
This is where a video conference deposition comes in useful. It is carried out using a video conferencing system that captures and transmits both video and audio. This can be recorded, streamed, and stored depending on what your needs are.
How Has the Pandemic Halted Legal Proceedings?
Covid19 has had an impact on every aspect of our lives. Everything we do, and how we do it, had to change almost overnight. Legal proceedings have been affected in a way that is like nothing we’ve seen before.
There have been court closures, delays, and a need to quickly navigate a new way of working. It’s caused a huge backlog in cases and presents itself as an access to justice issue.
The impact has been felt across almost all aspects of the legal process, too. We’ve seen a move to remote hearings, and advancements in legal tech have been brought forward in order to keep the judicial world moving.
Video conferencing is one of the pieces of technology courts have used in order to facilitate remote proceedings. Even as we move out of the pandemic, it looks like the future of these proceedings will include the use of video conferencing.
Related: What Is Remote Deposition Software?
Video Conference Deposition vs Recording a Deposition
The main distinction between video conference depositions and simply recording a deposition is that the video conference software is the means of conducting a deposition. When done properly, it can act as an effective substitute for live, in-person testimony.
Recording a deposition, on the other hand, is only used for the purpose of preserving it in video format. The contents of a recorded deposition will then usually be transcribed to form a written document.
Can a Deposition Be Taken on Zoom?
There are a number of problems with taking a deposition on Zoom, mainly because the platform is simply not built for handling the uniqueness of legal proceedings. Remember the lawyer who turned himself into a cat? It made international news at the height of the pandemic.
The availability of these filters and capabilities are due to the fact it’s designed to be used for fun and not for conducting legal hearings. There are a whole array of security concerns when using Zoom for this purpose, especially when it comes to the encryption of data.
As a legal professional, it probably gives you nightmares to think about the potential privilege and evidential issues this might cause later down the line. Some of the other issues that come with using a service like Zoom to depose are:
- It is difficult to safely share exhibits as there are often screen sharing issues
- There are logistical issues with court reporters and stenographers
- The storage of information isn’t always secure
- There can be quality issues that disrupt the hearing
Technically, yes, Zoom can be used to take a deposition where the court allows it. It’s much better, however, to use a piece of video deposition software that is tailor-made for legal proceedings.
How to Conduct Your Deposition by Video Conference
When it comes to conducting your deposition, there are certain steps you should take before, during, and after. You should also use a system that is designed for your needs.
- Carry out at least one test beforehand to make sure you know how to use the system. Make sure that the tech is working and that all of the documents due to be relied upon are ready and available.
- Before you begin, remind the deponent to be mindful of their environment. This includes making sure the lighting is good, the camera is aimed directly at their face, they’re dressed for court, they have no distractions, such as other people or cell phones, and that they know exactly what is expected of them.
- Decide on who will lead the deposition. This helps to cut down on awkward silences and people speaking over each other.
- Make sure all other windows and tabs on the computer are closed down so as to not slow down or interfere with the conferencing software.
Use sidebar rooms to speak with your client
There may be times throughout the deposition that you wish to pause and speak privately to your client or even the judge/other attorneys.
Make use of the availability of sidebar rooms in order to have private, non-recorded conversations outside of the main hearing.
Capture high-quality witness video
One of the issues with using a piece of software like Zoom to carry out your deposition is that it can often be poor quality and unreliable.
Instead, you should use a piece of video deposition software that gives you HD-quality video of the witnesses. The video of the witnesses should be time-stamped and available for immediate download as soon as the deposition is over.
Use video that is encrypted end-to-end
Carrying out your deposition needs to be done in an environment that is safe, secure, and confidential.
Using a system that encrypts the data helps to eliminate security concerns while making sure your legal industry needs and compliance regulations are met.
Think about exhibit management
Being able to quickly access your exhibits and keep them organized is key to a successful deposition.
Your video conferencing service should allow you the ability to pre-load exhibits ahead of time and keep them private until you need to use them. It should also be flexible enough that you can load extra exhibits as and when you need them throughout the duration of the deposition.
Be sure to also send your exhibits in hard copy to everyone involved in the deposition beforehand. You can do this in a sealed envelope if you want to keep things confidential until the time of the hearing.
It’s also important that you can mark and annotate exhibits in this live environment, especially if you’re asking the witness to do this.
Use a system that does it all
Using a video deposition software provider that offers its own court reporters means you do not need any other additional programs to modify recordings to use at trial or for introducing exhibits.
For remote depositions to work, the court reporters should have both multi-state and national jurisdictional knowledge about oath administration and transcript formatting. The court reporter should also be familiar with the technology and able to provide troubleshooting where necessary.
Be sure to tell the court reporter before you begin if you want a video recording of the deposition as this does not happen automatically.
The ideal system should provide you with a certified transcript, video, exhibits, and a rough draft. It should be an all-in-one piece of software to make the process as smooth as possible.
Provide a record of the matter
To conclude, make sure that you complete all of the admin you need to make sure the deposition is admissible, and you have a record of who attended and what evidence was introduced.
Choosing the Best Video Conference Deposition Software
Remote Legal Court Reporting can provide you with a one-of-a-kind system that gives you all the tools you need to conduct your deposition. Built with the unique legal proceeding requirements in mind, the software is simple to use and manage. It’s also cost effective, as you pay by the hour versus the included capabilities and services.
If you’d like to see how the system could work for you, schedule a demo and try it out for yourself today.