Like many industries, legal services changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to court sessions being held online rather than in-person, proceedings like legal depositions also had to be held virtually. While remote depositions have been used regularly by firms for over a decade—when circumstances made them a necessity—the pandemic forced law firms to turn to remote proceedings as, essentially, the only option for questioning deponents.
This sudden reliance on remote depositions came with many challenges. Firms were forced to cobble together various mainstream platforms and methods in an effort to perform an effective and efficient deposition—but the available resources left this process frustrating and with much to be desired. Firms also had to coordinate a court reporter during an ongoing shortage. Amidst the challenges, advanced technology emerged to streamline the process and impact both legal depositions and the legal industry itself.
Deposition Challenges and Court Reporter Shortages
One challenge which faced—and continues to face—the legal industry and other industries is a labor shortage. This shortage impacts the legal field largely in the area of having a skilled court reporter available when needed. In many areas of the country, it’s difficult to find and schedule a court reporter when you need one, as not enough new court reporters are entering the field, and court proceedings often take precedence over remote depositions.
One way to address this major challenge has been with technology. All-in-one platforms designed for the legal industry can now provide court reporters built into the platform, making both scheduling a court reporter and a deposition more simple.
Mainstream Technology Challenges
While Zoom and other similar technologies are ideal for connecting with family, there are several reasons why these video conferencing services are not ideal for the legal profession. Among the issues law firms faced with using Zoom were faulty connections, users who were not necessarily tech-savvy, and security issues.
Before a law firm could use these platforms successfully over the long term, these issues had to be addressed. There were also some other challenges to overcome, including:
- Making exhibits easier to share
- Finding a stenographic court reporter comfortable with live transcription
- Syncing of video and audio files
- Allowing for private conversations between witnesses and their attorneys
Firms needed specialized software that would provide legal industry standard security and offer all the resources needed to perform a successful remote deposition that was actually efficient—one where they could handle every element of the process as it came up in the proceedings without complex workarounds.
Technology’s Impact on Remote Depositions
As legal-built software emerged, the legal industry took notice and depositions taken remotely continued to grow, even after the pandemic. Today, they offer a time and cost-saving option that has become a regular part of the legal landscape. Indeed, there are many benefits to taking depositions remotely, including:
- More efficient processes — Depositions performed online free up time for lawyers to work through other elements of a case. With travel out of the picture, multiple depositions can be scheduled on the same day and allow a lawyer to be more efficient with their time.
- Reduction in costs — in years past, if a lawyer needed a deposition from someone who lived across the country, it meant travel. The convenience of remote depositions means a less costly process for both the lawyer and their clients.
- More flexibility — In many cases, deposition participants can struggle to schedule a timeframe that works for an in-person proceeding. In addition, some participants have physical limitations that prevent them from meeting when needed. Remote depositions can be easily handled outside of traditional business hours regardless of whether all needed parties are in the same location.
It is easy to see that the impact of remote legal depositions has been largely positive, providing attorneys with greater flexibility, cost savings, and increased accessibility.
Identifying the Right Remote Deposition Platform
When looking for the right remote deposition platform, it’s important to assess all the different elements of a process and ensure that the platform can accommodate each one. Cobbling together different platforms to get witness videos, mark and share documents, engage a court reporter, get a transcript, etc. can be ineffective and more time-consuming than time-saving. An all-in-one platform, on the other hand, changes the game for remote depositions, streamlining them and making them well worth the effort. There are several things to consider to ensure a platform fulfills everything a firm needs.
Overcoming Technology Challenges
Law firms should choose platforms that are intuitive and simple to interact with. They should also choose one that includes a court reporter who has an in-depth knowledge of the technology. This allows the reporter to immediately address the challenges which lawyers, witnesses, or other needed parties may have when dealing with new systems.
Handling Exhibits From Lawyers and Witnesses
During the remote deposition process, there must be easy access and handling of exhibits. Adding new exhibits, as well as proper labeling and display, should be possible from within the platform. Available tools should allow for annotations, witness initialing, and sharing capabilities.
Addressing Video Needs
Unlike traditional video conferencing services, legal-specific conferencing should include high-definition (HD) video. Capabilities should exist for custom layouts, picture-in-picture video, and transcript/video syncing. Witness video should be an automatic, predictable feature of the platform.
Addressing the Privacy Concerns of Technology
Witnesses may need to consult privately with their attorney during a remote deposition. During an in-person deposition, this process usually means they will go to a separate office and confer with the door closed. Remote deposition platforms should provide a virtual version of this, ensuring privacy and appropriate processes to effectively address this need.
Accurate Transcription Needs
One of the outcomes of a successful remote deposition is a transcript of the entire proceeding, recording everything said with the highest level of accuracy. A platform designed for the legal profession should integrate this capability seamlessly.
With today’s AI-based technology, transcripts can be produced almost immediately after a deposition, with a court reporter’s oversight. For those cases where a certified transcript is not needed, this may be enough to keep the case moving forward, cutting out the wait time. In the case where a certified transcript is required, the right platform will offer that option as well.
Technology Designed for Legal Professionals
Technology evolves and is designed to solve specific problems. Legal professionals who take remote depositions need technology that addresses the needs of diverse situations, and the solutions that have developed continue to impact the industry as a whole.
Remote Legal is a single-source solution that gives law firms the ability to achieve everything required for a successful remote deposition—including a qualified court reporter and notary who can swear witnesses in, handle exhibits, capture testimony, and provide playbacks when necessary—in one streamlined, intuitive platform, with no software download required. If you’re ready to see how we can help make your remote depositions easy, contact us today for a demo and see how it works.
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