Remote depositions are now an immovable fact of life in the legal world. While they’ve really been around on the federal level for decades, the marriage of improving tech and necessity has recently made remote depositions standard procedure for law firms of any size. The ability to utilize today’s top legal technology gives these firms enhanced flexibility while trimming costs, all while the efficient stroke of automation saves time and lowers the possibility of human error.
But not all remote depositions are created equal. Although law firms initially rushed to whatever videoconferencing platform they were most comfortable with, superior software options now give firms more control than ever before.
With legal-first video conferencing designed specifically for handling depositions, firms are no longer in the Wild West of the remote deposition age. By moving away from limited platforms that struggle to meet the technical requirements of legal proceedings, attorneys can now embrace the full advantages of the hybrid world.
A Shift in Popularity: a Brief History of Remote Depositions
When the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sanctioned telephone depositions in 1980, the U.S. legal system officially embraced the idea of mobile testimony. Law firms had to quickly make way for a new era that provided flexibility for witnesses and legal representatives. As usual, the firms that made the quickest adjustments were able to take advantage of the change.
By 1993, the rules were changed again to consider the possibility of testimony via other electronic formats, such as nascent satellite technology. But even though this allowed for some added elasticity, remote depositions were seldom used in the 1990s for a host of different reasons.
More than anything, the technology limitations made remote depositions less reliable than in-person testimony, keeping remote depositions as a last resort for most law firms for the next couple of decades. As video technology blossomed in the 2010s, however, more firms began to utilize remote depositions as a path forward when in-person testimony was difficult or impossible.
Related: The Advantages of Remote Depositions
Despite technological improvements, remote depositions were still relatively rare all the way up until everything changed in 2020. While it was a global pandemic that started the shift, it took court orders and changes to formally elevate the status of remote depositions.
As a leading example, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court set the tone by embracing new technology and sweeping away attempts to delegitimize depositions that weren’t done face-to-face. With remote depositions offering a clear path forward for both civil and criminal proceedings during a global crisis, the entire legal system was forced to adapt.
Why Remote Depositions are Sticking Around
The uptick in remote depositions in 2020 was simply astounding. Per PricewaterhouseCoopers, as many as 90% of depositions were being handled remotely at the crux of the pandemic. Highlighting the sticky nature of remote depositions, more than 50% of depositions moving forward are also expected to have at least some remote participants. Some of the key reasons why include:
- Clients’ lives have changed
- A significant drop in deposition-related costs
- Improved technology
- Reliable new pathways for depositions
It isn’t just the legal system that has shifted in recent years; clients themselves now have revised expectations surrounding legal technology. Because the average client has become ever more reliant upon technology, any firm that doesn’t have a strong grip on today’s legal tech can appear antiquated. Flexibility and mobility are now expected from nearly all industries, making it nearly impossible for firms to keep up while ignoring new industry trends.
The most obvious factor, of course, is the promise of lower overall costs. Some experts estimate that law firms can trim the cost of a deposition by about a third—mostly by cutting travel expenses. The software utilized can also have additional savings, especially with software designed specifically for legal proceedings.
The best legal software solutions condense the number of participants by providing tech-savvy court reporters that go beyond traditional roles. Instead of having a notary, tech expert, videographer, and tech reporter, more efficient platforms can offer court reporters that provide these skills as well, cutting overall costs by lowering paid personnel.
We’ve also come a long way from the early days of videoconferencing, which might have more in common with the onset of satellite depositions than today’s legal-first platforms. Enhanced new technology makes it much easier throughout the pre-deposition, deposition, and post-deposition components.
With easy-to-upload documents, effortless time-stamping, and private attorney-client breakout rooms, today’s top options have brought remote depositions into maturity. With lower associated costs, streamlined documentation, and expanded customization, firms can now move forward with depositions that may have been out of reach in previous eras.
Key Components for a Successful Remote Deposition
Although the general components remain the same for remote depositions as for in-person depositions, remote proceedings might require some planning and special considerations. Some tips to consider:
- Communication beforehand remains paramount
- The deposition location must be appropriate
- Make sure the court reporter is fully apprised
- Correlating documents should be received days in advance
The last thing anyone wants is a surprise on the day of a deposition. To this end, coming up with a universal agreement between all parties before a deposition begins is critical. Everyone involved should understand where various parties will be, how videoconferencing will be used, and whether a translator will be necessary.
Anyone appearing on video will also need to be stationed in a room with good lighting and acoustics. Keeping everyone on the same page prior to the proceeding is a major step toward a smooth deposition.
It’s also important to make sure the court reporter is aware of the specific requirements. Does the deposition actually require a certified transcript? Are there any unique details that the court reporter should know about? Because the court reporter is typically charged with assembling the parties on the platform, communicating clearly with the court reporter beforehand is essential.
Just like with any deposition, the pre-deposition process is also the foundation of remote proceedings. For documentation, the American Bar Association recommends receiving all files at least a few days ahead of the deposition, giving legal teams an opportunity to ensure they are in good order. Your legal tech software should then allow all documents to be easily uploaded to the platform in advance so they are ready to go as the deposition begins.
Technical Requirements to Keep in Mind
The time to deal with any technical problems is well before a deposition formally gets started. A test run of the following can give you an edge in avoiding problems and delays:
- Internet connection
- Tech capabilities of the devices
Simply put, the internet connection can make or break a remote deposition. While a location with cable internet should provide a reliable, speedy connection, it’s important to know if satellite internet might potentially be used.
Despite the advances in satellite internet technology, it is still susceptible to higher latency and spotty service. Inclement weather or cloud coverage can also impact a satellite internet connection. If satellite internet must be used by a deponent, testing the connection and even looking at the expected weather can help avoid problems. In most cases, it’s better to arrange for a mobile hotspot than use satellite internet.
It’s also important not to take anything for granted in terms of the devices that will be used. While a lawyer might be familiar with the capabilities of their device, it’s crucial to ensure that all devices can handle the requirements of the proceeding. The cameras and microphones need to be in good working order and easy to operate, making a troubleshooting test run extremely helpful.
Technical glitches can be enormously frustrating for all parties involved—especially when the solution could have been found in the pre-deposition phase. Experts even advise counsels to formulate a written agreement that defines the technological expectations for the deposition.
The Post-Deposition Process is Critical
While many video platforms can at least get a legal team through the deposition itself, it’s the post-deposition process that often illuminates the most significant differences. Although many videoconferencing platforms are built for speedy hookups, the lack of a legal focus can mean a diminished work product at the end of the day. Remote deposition tech should be able to facilitate easy document downloads while providing a searchable transcript very quickly after a proceeding concludes.
Single-source solutions built for legal experts also can give you more control than other software not designed with the attorney’s needs in mind. In many cases, firms end up paying for certified transcripts that are not even required, trimming the cost savings that are expected from a remote deposition.
The best legal software today also provides robust security built for the challenges of today’s digital environment. If you intend for docs to be hosted by your third-party software after the deposition, having the appropriate level of security becomes a fundamental part of the post-deposition process.
Legal-First Software Can Provide a Crucial Edge
A law firm that shows technological prowess through all phases of a deposition will look like a firm built for the future. As clients and other firms become more and more used to digital bookkeeping and the advantages of automation, sticking with limited tech solutions can make simple procedures more difficult than necessary.
Experiencing the full benefits of today’s legal tech can let attorneys focus purely on the legal components of a deposition, simultaneously saving time and money thanks to an uptick in efficiency.With simple pricing, customizable features, and an attorney-first platform, Remote Legal can provide expert support through all phases of a remote deposition. Whether your firm is just starting with remote depositions or simply looking for a more efficient software solution, contact us today to see how Remote Legal can provide the upgrade you need.
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