A deposition is a crucial legal proceeding for attorneys and their clients. As part of the discovery process, you get to unearth relevant facts that you can use to strengthen your case. Traditionally, the legal system relied on in-person depositions until the pandemic turned things around, giving rise to the popularity of remote depositions.
Deposing witnesses in person still has its merits, such as creating better rapport with the witness, assessing their credibility, and reducing the chances of witness coaching. However, remote deposition has its benefits, too, especially in terms of convenience and cost savings.
While each method has its advantages, remote depositions have proved more efficient. For example, a Seattle trial team once conducted 15 remote depositions within three weeks at the height of the pandemic, which is quite a feat. They would take much longer if they were to schedule the same number of depositions in person. It would also cost them more than they spent interviewing the witnesses remotely.
The question then begs: is the cost of in-person deposition worth it? Let’s look at the factors and expenses involved in in-person depositions, then compare that with remote depositions to answer your question.
How Does an In-Person Deposition Work?
Both sides of a case can conduct a deposition. The defendant may ask to depose the plaintiff and other witnesses and vice versa. As mentioned earlier, the process occurs during the discovery stage, and any party can initiate it by sending a notice of deposition to the opponent or a subpoena to a third party (written deposition request). The process is not mandatory, but often a necessary legal proceeding as the defendant and plaintiff prepare for the trial.
Depositions do not take place in courtrooms. Instead, the deposing attorney should arrange the venue, which could be their office or a conference room. The attorney must give the witness adequate notice about their intention to interview them and inform them about the location.
During the deposition, a court reporter is present to record the proceedings. Sometimes, a legal authority can videotape the proceedings, which can be beneficial if the witness cannot appear in court among other reasons.
A witness can give a deposition without their attorney in attendance, but the attorney’s presence is always beneficial. For example, their attorney can help safeguard their interest by objecting if the deposing attorney asks inappropriate questions.
Usually, the deposition may vary in length depending on the case’s complexity. It can take less than an hour or run for several days or even more than a week.
Once the deposition is complete, the court reporter prepares the transcript and sends a copy to the deponent to confirm the testimony. If the reporter made any errors capturing the testimony or the final transcript does not properly represent the words spoken during the proceeding, the deponent may make the corrections within a specified timeframe.
Purpose of a Deposition
Depositions help both sides understand the case better in preparation for the trial. As a deposing party, the process enables you to:
- Uncover relevant case facts to refine your strategy – Uncovering information on what the opposing side knows enables you to be better prepared to counter their evidence during the trial.
- Ensure the witness provides consistent information during the trial – Deposition allows you to gather relevant case information while the details remain fresh in the witness’s mind. As a result, you can refer to the testimony during trial to gauge its consistency.
- Assess witness credibility – Since the interview is live, you can pick some cues to gauge whether the witness is being honest.
- Gauge weaknesses in your case – If the opposing side has strong evidence that weakens your case, you can conduct additional investigations to strengthen your evidence or reconsider proceeding to trial.
- Record testimony for a witness who may be unavailable during the trial – Capturing the testimony acts as security if a witness cannot appear due to illness or other reasons.
- Avoid surprise testimony during the trial – If the witness raises issues you weren’t aware of during the deposition, you can prepare in advance by gathering more evidence and avoiding surprises.
Essentially, deposition helps expedite the case by allowing the parties to prepare adequately for a potential trial. Depositions are also the catalyst for a settlement or more timely resolution of the case.
Cost of In-Person Deposition
Conducting a deposition can be costly depending on the location of the witnesses, how long the testimony takes, and the number of witnesses being deposed. Some of the costs involved include:
- Travel and accommodation expenses – If the witnesses live in a different city or town, you must pay for travel expenses. Also, if you’re staying overnight, especially if the deposition carries on for more than a day or deposing multiple witnesses, you may be forced to incur accommodation costs.
- Conference room hire – Where the witness cannot come to your office, especially those living in a different location, you need to hire a conference room to set up the meeting.
- Court reporter fees – Every deposition requires a court reporter to administer the oaths to witnesses and record the proceedings. The deposing party pays the reporter an appearance fee and the transcript fee. Some reporters charge appearance fees hourly, while others go with daily rates. On the other hand, the transcript fee is charged per page. The longer the deposition, the more it costs.
- Videographer fees – attorneys increasingly desire to video record the witness-only video of a deposition. During an in-person proceeding, this will usually involve hiring a videographer to travel to the location and set up heavy-duty equipment. Like court reporters, the longer the deposition, the more it will cost.
- Attorney fees – At the end of the day, the client pays all the hard costs. In addition, they have to compensate the attorney for the time spent preparing, traveling, and conducting the deposition.
Generally, depending on the location, the number of witnesses deposed, and how long the depositions last, an in-person testimony can cost you thousands of dollars.
Related: What Are Deposition Services?
In-Person Deposition vs. Remote Deposition
While remote deposition still requires investing in resources to facilitate the virtual deposition, it’s far cheaper than an in-person process. Some of the costs eliminated by the virtual process include travel and accommodation expenses and conference room hire. Usually, the deposing attorney and the court reporter can attend the deposition from their offices, while the deponent can answer the interview questions from their home.
Moreover, court reporter fees may drastically decrease, especially if you use a legal-first platform that offers a court reporter. Often a remote service will charge you based on the time spent on the platform. Whether charged per deposition or at a monthly rate, the cost should be far cheaper than hiring a court reporter for an in-person process.
According to Bloomberg Law News (linked above), you can cut costs up to one-third through virtual depositions. For instance, while a court reporter must prepare the transcript manually in an in-person process, the proceedings are transcribed in real-time on a legal first remote deposition platform. In this case, you will drastically reduce transcript costs as the reporter does not need to spend as much time transcribing the statement. Lastly, if you use a legal first platform, you can capture witness-only video at no additional cost, a drastic decrease from the costs required at an in-person deposition.
In addition to saving time and cost on the deposition itself, a virtual process speeds up discovery. When a case has a faster life cycle, all parties are happy. Conducting a remote deposition is convenient for all parties, making scheduling much more flexible. You can complete the discovery phase much more quickly by eliminating the need for coordinating travel and in-person attendance.
The convenience, cost-effectiveness, and efficiency of remote deposition make the cost of in-person deposition difficult to justify, despite some of its benefits. As clients get used to the low cost of remote testimony, it may become increasingly difficult to justify the high cost of deposing witnesses in person. Again, remote depositions reliably provide the same results as the in-person process at a far lower price point.
Explore a Legal First Alternative
As the demand for remote depositions rose during the pandemic-caused lockdowns, video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others became popular for many online meetings. As helpful as the solutions were in ensuring the legal field didn’t draw to a halt, they had a handful of limitations since they were not designed with legal needs in mind.
For example, deposing witnesses on the platforms requires court reporters to transcribe the statement manually. Besides, efficient recording is compromised if there are technical issues such as unclear sound.
A legal-first platform addresses these challenges by automating the entire process. This means the court reporter does not need to record or transcribe the statements, as the platform should capture the audio and video while creating a voice-to-text rough draft of the proceeding.. Once you book a deposition and participants join you for the session, the software records and transcribes the testimonies in real-time, which you can download shortly after the interview. The platform may also provide a court reporter to manage the deposition from the start to the end, among other automation benefits.
With our solution, Remote Legal, we provide you with:
- Virtual deposition platform with testimony recording and real-time transcription
- Experienced court reporter
- Rough draft transcript (immediately after the deposition)
- Video synced with transcript
- Certified transcript (a few days after the deposition)
If you’re interested in learning more about Remote Legal, contact us with your questions.
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