Tips for Depositions: How to Get Clean Rough Drafts

The post-deposition process is of the utmost importance for any legal proceeding. While attorneys closely examine testimony and fine-tune arguments, it’s often the rough draft of the transcript that becomes essential to the process. With AI-based legal software capable of generating easy-to-search rough transcripts as soon as the deposition ends, attorneys should be able to quickly summarize the deposition and prepare for the next steps.

But the value of the unofficial transcript also comes down to its accuracy. Firms that use the right technology and take a few preparatory steps can ensure clean rough drafts, saving time and adding professional quality during the post-deposition process. Read on for tips on how to improve operational efficiency with clean transcripts, and why they’re so beneficial to any legal proceeding.

5 Tips for Getting Clean Rough Drafts of Deposition Transcripts

Every lawyer understands the importance of prep work when making legal arguments. The same principle applies in an era when remote depositions and advanced technology have become the norm. By taking a few simple steps and keeping today’s legal technology in mind, legal teams will have a tremendous advantage before, during, and after a deposition.

1) Avoiding Untranslated Words with Good Preparation and Artificial Intelligence

The merging of experience and technology is the way to avoid issues that can limit the impact of a rough draft of a transcript, often called a rough ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange). Court reporters with a well-rounded knowledge base are a must; those with limited experience can have a difficult time with industry jargon (e.g., medical terminology).

This can lead to more untranslated copy in the rough draft, which limits a transcript’s usability. For depositions with difficult vernacular, helping a court reporter build their dictionary prior to the deposition has always been a way to yield stronger transcripts. Even more important, however, is working with court reporters that have specific experience working with next-generation deposition technology.

Many of these types of issues, of course, can be overcome with high-grade AI-based software. The caution here is to be wary of services that aren’t legal-first platforms. Firms relying on software that isn’t designed specifically for legal depositions are at a disadvantage and will likely have to deal with more gray areas. With experienced court reporters and assistance from AI, there should be fewer words that aren’t translated and a much better overall work product.

2) Preparing the Witness with the Transcript as a Focus

Attorneys have enough on their plates trying to make sure a witness is prepared for deposition questioning. Unfortunately, firms can sometimes prioritize legal theory over linguistic clarity, which can lead to lower-quality transcripts. By reinforcing the importance of the transcript, a legal team can encourage witnesses to take their time and even simplify language when possible – as long as this doesn’t detract from their credibility.

Although the basic principle at play here has long been a part of depositions, keeping the focus on the transcript can help witnesses provide the clearest testimony possible. Ultimately, legal teams end up with stronger testimony and a more usable rough transcript.

Related: The Advantages of Remote Depositions

3) Make Sure the Audio is High Quality Before the Deposition

One of the easiest ways to derail a deposition transcript is by inferior audio. While ensuring witnesses speak clearly is essential as well, a technical glitch could curtail the advantages of AI-based transcripts. Taking an extra minute before the deposition to test for audio glitches and test the microphone will pay off both during the deposition and afterward.

Although taking the time to test the overall sound setup is straightforward, it’s a critical step that can cause problems if skipped. When it’s time to work with the rough draft of the transcript, pre-deposition oversights can turn into delays and frustration.

4) Be Conscious of What the Microphone Might Pick Up

Once you’ve made sure the audio setup is perfect, there’s another potential mistake in waiting: not being careful about what microphone picks up during the deposition. Moving papers during a deposition might go almost unnoticed by humans involved in the proceeding, but they also might come in very clearly in the deposition’s audio.

This can then have a negative impact on the rough transcript itself. Words or even entire sentences by a witness or attorney can be rendered untranslated in the transcript if there is too much audio interference. With this in mind, any non-critical movement should be kept to a minimum and attorneys might even need to have witnesses repeat themselves in certain situations.  

5) Nonverbal Communication is Counterproductive

Nonverbal communication can be extremely important for an attorney – just not in a deposition. While an attorney might want to encourage a witness with nonverbal cues, such gestures won’t be recorded by the court reporter and won’t be included on the transcript. Even if such gestures are picked up by the videographer, such nonverbal communication will only cause confusion in the post-deposition process and could even lead to a costly mistake.

Instead of any use of gestures or physical cues, attorneys should focus on simple, clear language and ensure the witness has a chance to fully answer the question, verbally. While this might seem elemental, it’s a more common mistake than it should be. Instead of making this error, focusing on verbal clarity and completely avoiding nonverbal communication will strengthen the quality of unofficial deposition transcripts.

The Many Benefits of Clean Deposition Transcripts

There are plenty of ways that high-quality rough drafts of deposition transcripts can help in a case. From saving time after the deposition to improving legal arguments, an accurate rough ASCII provides key assistance and points to the overall quality of the legal service. Some of the benefits include:

More Valuable Deposition Summaries

An accurate deposition summary is extremely useful in many different legal proceedings. Unfortunately, generating deposition summaries can be very time-consuming: it typically takes about an hour for every 25 pages of a transcript.

This is where AI-based transcripts can be enormously beneficial. Accurate, easy-to-search rough drafts of a transcript can allow firms to immediately begin to summarize the deposition into the most essential information. The quality of the rough draft can ultimately shorten or lengthen the time it takes to assemble the summary. Too many words left untranslated can slow progress or even potentially diminish the value of the summary itself.

Related: Technical Requirements for a Remote Deposition

Firms that work with superior rough drafts of transcripts have a clear advantage when the official transcript is available. With rough drafts that are closer to the final product, less overall time should be spent making final clarifications and many issues can be anticipated beforehand. Legal teams can then work much more effectively if they are consistently working with clean transcripts.

Improved Witness Testimony

One of the keys to a legal proceeding is maximizing the impact of witness testimony. Following a deposition, attorneys need to examine the testimony and the arguments made, with the goal of strengthening the overall legal case. This is much easier with reliable, quickly generated transcripts that can allow a legal team to immediately get to work on the next steps.

Rough transcripts can also be used to search for issues with the legal approach, but this gets more difficult if a lot of words are left untranslated. While an attorney might make a mental note that something didn’t quite go smoothly in the deposition, it can be hard to pinpoint the issue without a useful transcript. Instead of waiting for the official or certified transcript, an attorney using a top-notch unofficial transcript can begin polishing legal arguments while the deposition is still fresh in memory.

Quality Rough ASCII Drafts Can Make a Legal Team Appear More Professional

We’ve all become more accustomed to the rapid exchange of information. While having an accurate, immediately available rough transcript used to be a pipe dream, this is quickly becoming the norm for depositions. Firms that don’t adopt the right technology and pre-deposition procedures will have less useful rough ASCII drafts and might even send the wrong signal to associates.

On the leading edge, however, better-positioned firms can move quickly and confidently in the aftermath of a deposition. Instead of trying to overcome technological issues or poor pre-deposition prep, legal teams can focus purely on making the best arguments and can move forward as soon as they are ready.

Creating and maintaining a high level of professionalism can also have benefits beyond the immediate legal proceedings. From the 2022 Trends in Legal Transformation and Technology Report, efficiency was the number one benefit of legal-tech upgrades.

With the next generation of legal talent looking to maximize the impact of artificial intelligence, firms that have already made this a focus promote their own awareness of legal tech’s growing importance. Given the very high level of associate turnover post-Covid, an uptick in efficiency for regular procedures like depositions can encourage attorneys to stay.

Improving Efficiency with Better Rough Transcripts

As the need for legal services continues to grow at a rapid pace, efficiency will be a priority for every firm going forward. While new technology can provide faster and better drafts of unofficial deposition transcripts, firms that keep technology in focus throughout the stages of a deposition can maximize the potential. A few small but effective habits can help ensure clean, accurate rough ASCII drafts that can help a legal team move forward on solid footing.

If your firm is looking to improve your deposition quality, contact Remote Legal to see how AI-based transcripts can provide a critical upgrade.

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