Remote Depositions in a Post-Covid World


What started as an emergency development has now become a critical part of the legal infrastructure. Remote depositions, formerly somewhat rare and limited tools for times of absolute necessity, have now flourished in a hybrid world where efficiency and flexibility are essential. 

As a leading expert explained to the American Bar Association, lawfirms are acting more like businesses as dynamics have shifted following the pandemic. With demand for legal services rising and a renewed focus on cost-cutting, remote depositions can be a conduit to leaner budgets and more efficient proceedings.

By forcing the swift adoption of new legal tech, the Covid-19 pandemic has also illuminated other ways that remote depositions can be invaluable. Beyond the objective numbers, legal-first software can open pathways to the best possible argument in a proceeding—all while maintaining a very high level of document security. 

Although in-person depositions aren’t going anywhere, mastering remote depositions can strengthen a firm’s entire outlook and maintain competitiveness in a challenging legal environment.  

Why Remote Depositions are Now Essential

Saving money on travel expenses (or, in some instances, avoiding travel entirely) has been an important feature for many industries in the last two years, including the legal field. To that end, estimates suggest travel expenses are roughly one-third less for a remote deposition compared to ones handled in person. 

But even though this is certainly an important dynamic, it’s the full spectrum of benefits that have made remote depositions so important during and after the pandemic. Some of the less-discussed benefits include:

  • Witness credentials and legal strategy can be the sole focus
  • Faster overall process
  • Convenience of storage
  • Maintaining a high level of document security
  • Ability to offer discounted rates to clients

Throughout history, lawyers have often been forced to move on from key witnesses simply because they were unavailable. Geographical challenges in particular have always threatened to hinder proceedings, particularly for lower-profile cases that have limited budgets. Remote depositions have fundamentally altered this equation. Lawyers can now focus purely on assembling credentialed witnesses that fit the overarching legal strategy. Firms are now able to make stronger and more cohesive arguments than ever before.

Remote depositions also counter one of the biggest complaints about the legal profession: proceedings appear to take too long from the perspective of non-legal professionals. Because remote depositions take advantage of automation and the speed of digital recordkeeping, lawyers can offer improved case-management efficiency. This translates into quicker overall proceedings, with less time needing to be committed to overcoming the challenges of the pre-digital age.

RELATED: Preparing Your Clients to Thrive During Remote Depositions

Alongside the added efficiency in all three phases of the deposition process, remote depositions make it much easier and more convenient to store relevant documents. With everything held in one location, lawyers have easier access to critical documents while still maintaining the security standards necessary for storing these legal documents.

With a more efficient deposition operation from top to bottom, firms are then able to pass along key savings to clients. By being able to offer more services for less overall cost, today’s tech-enabled firms can retain a competitive edge alongside a reputation as a forward-looking law group.

How Law Firms Are Running More Like Businesses Than Previously

While some firms are already using advanced legal technology to confront challenges and take advantage of the opportunities it presents, firms slower to adapt can struggle on multiple levels. Failing to adopt modern technology can hurt the bottom line with unnecessary costs and limit a firm’s ability to reach new clients.

To experience the full potential of the new environment, firms also need to utilize platforms that can maximize savings, as not all software is created equal. With the best remote deposition platforms, firms should enjoy condensed fees during a deposition. 

For example, instead of paying a host of different experts (e.g., a videographer and technology experts), the top legal-first remote deposition platforms can reduce these fees with efficient, built-in court reporters who can perform multiple tasks.

RELATED: Is the Cost of In-Person Deposition Worth It?

Further solidifying the immovable importance of today’s legal tech, corporate legal departments have already shifted behavior to reflect the new world. A 2021 Walters Kluwer survey showed that more than 90% of legal departments are planning to ask about a firm’s legal tech during the hiring process in the coming years. Even with a talented group of associates, law firms that don’t offer high-quality remote depositions will immediately be at a disadvantage.

Security Remains an Indispensable Component

As the business end of the legal field takes a more prominent position, the importance of security can’t be overstated. While security has always been critical in the legal industry in general, the rise of cyber threats along with increasing caseloads means that document security is now paramount. An American Bar Association study showed that about 29% of firms dealt with a security breach in 2021, showcasing just how at risk a proceeding can be with insufficient cybersecurity.

This is why firms are best served by adopting more advanced forms of remote deposition technology. Videoconferencing platforms not designed specifically for legal purposes can lead to unnecessary and very serious security risks. Firms need to be confident that their sensitive documents will be available only in highly secured digital locations.

Litigation Trends Reinforce Lessons from the Pandemic

Now that remote depositions are no longer a novelty, longer-term trends are beginning to take shape. In its summary of key litigation trends going into 2023, BTI Consulting illuminates a complex restructuring in the legal world that requires the assistance of modern legal tech. Here are four of the most important trends:

  1. There has been a significant bump in caseloads
  2. New forms of litigation are emerging
  3. In-house turnover is on the rise
  4. Budget audits are increasingly important

After weathering the Covid storm, law firms found a welcomed challenge waiting on the other side: a significant increase in overall caseloads. 

The increase in litigation volume means that firms have a stream of opportunities to expand their footprint, although that won’t be easy without an assist from automation-assisted legal tech. BTI cites an uptick in union activity, social media backlash, ESG considerations, and workplace dynamics as some of the areas where litigation is picking up.

Unfortunately, firms often end up trying to handle increasing caseloads with less stable personnel; high turnover in the legal field is significantly obstructing firms from reaching their potential. According to a recent Georgetown/Reuters study, turnover significantly increased from 2019 to 2021 at the top 100 firms in the U.S., leaving firms struggling to handle higher levels of demand. Even salary raises did little to stabilize workforces, with associates tending to value a law firm’s culture over monetary considerations.

One of the ways a firm can improve or maintain its culture is on the technical front. Firms that tap today’s best legal technology send a message that they are keeping up with the times and are adopting technology that can lighten an associate’s workload. This is especially important for attracting and holding top young legal talent, as the new generation of lawyers will expect the benefits of remote depositions.

With less stable workforces and more demand for services, budgeting also has become more important than ever. Although trimming office space has been one tool for firms looking to cut back, remote depositions can lower costs while actually increasing productivity and enhancing the overall work product. With that dynamic at play, the role of remote depositions has become exceedingly clear.  

Productivity is Now Expected from Anywhere in a Post-Pandemic Environment

Like the rest of the business world, law firms were forced to quickly adapt in the spring of 2020. While some business leaders protested the shift to a hybrid work environment, the data has largely silenced the critics. Studies show that remote workers are not only happier in a general sense, but they also tend to be at least as productive as they were in the office. Often, there is even a bump in productivity as workers experience lower stress levels and no longer waste time commuting.

This sustained—or even elevated—productivity in the new hybrid economy has also made a significant impact on legal services. As employees in other fields are now able to be productive from anywhere, law firms are subject to the same expectations thanks to the sudden ubiquity of remote depositions. The days of being unable to capture a deposition due to physical challenges are over; clients and lawyers now expect to be able to utilize remote depositions to fill any gaps that may have been difficult to overcome in previous eras.

Even though the post-Covid world has its added complications, there are plenty of opportunities for enterprising law firms. With the right software, lawyers can now quickly set up remote depositions with difficult-to-reach witnesses without having to be tech experts. 

In many cases, lawyers can maintain legal services that equal or even surpass in-person depositions with features like mid-deposition breakout rooms. While popular mainstream tech options can’t offer the features and security law firms need, today’s best legal-first platforms provide all the tools a firm needs for successful remote depositions.

Legal Firms Are Now on an Exciting New Frontier

With the ability to perform depositions from anywhere, cut unnecessary expenses, and provide a more efficient all-around process, law firms can enjoy the silver lining on the other side of the pandemic. Although the transition was abrupt, today’s top legal tech options can provide industry-specific digital tools that can put a law firm in control. Instead of working through the quirks of software designed for more informal purposes, higher-grade deposition technology can serve as an expert guide through the three phases of a deposition.

To see what a single-source solution built for the modern legal environment can do, contact Remote Legal to schedule a demo and get started.

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