Pros and Cons of Recording Zoom Depositions

Virtual depositions are becoming more and more common every day. With the rise of digital video conferencing platforms, attorneys can conduct depositions remotely without the need to go through time-consuming commutes. 

But this raises a lot of questions, like are Zoom depositions admissible in court? What are the risks that might arise when recording Zoom depositions? Is there a better option?

In all important aspects, remote depositions via Zoom or other platforms function almost entirely like in-person depositions; however, recording zoom depositions has its fair share of pros and cons. 

This article discusses the pros and cons of recording Zoom depositions, potential risks that might arise when deposing a witness remotely, and how the platform you use for your remote deposition can make a difference.

Can a Zoom Deposition Be Recorded?

Remote depositions through Zoom can be recorded within the platform. Zoom does allow for recording, but this recording is not automatic. Someone will need to push “record.” You’ll also need to specify where you want the video to be saved. 

Which brings us to the question: Are Zoom recordings admissible in court?

The answer is yes, provided the recordings meet the standards and expectations of the law. 

Note that a remote deposition conducted on a video conferencing platform isn’t the same as a video recorded deposition. The former uses remote technology to conduct a deposition, while the latter records and preserves the video to serve as a substitute for live testimony in the future. 

The law has certain requirements for recording depositions which must be observed to make them admissible as evidence. These requirements are enshrined in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, under Rule 28 and Rule 30, and stipulate the following. 

  • The oath must be administered by an independent person
  • The attorney’s and deponent’s appearance and demeanor should not be obscured or distorted in the video
  • The witness’s testimony must accurately be reflected in the deposition
  • The recording should not be interfered with by any party
  • The integrity of the deposition must be maintained throughout the process

Rule 30 requires the recorded depositions to be certified by an independent professional.

For a recorded video to become admissible in court, the counsel must prove the integrity of the video. In other words, the court must ascertain that the recording was conducted following laid down protocols and that it constitutes the full and unedited deposition. 

Although attorneys or court reporters may conduct a remote videoconference deposition via Zoom, the recording cannot be admissible if it’s not certified by an independent professional, as was seen in Alcorn v. City of Chicago.

Related: How Do Remote Streaming Depositions Work?

How Do You Get Started Recording a Zoom Deposition?

Recording zoom depositions is similar to the process used on any video conferencing platform, and it’s reasonably straightforward. You’ll need basic equipment, including:

  • A laptop, computer, or smartphone. 
  • A reliable internet connection 
  • A Webcam or good smartphone/tablet camera
  • A Backup camera

Once you have the right equipment and your deposition is scheduled, it’s a good idea to start with some basics, such as:

Test Your Internet

Test your internet connection by streaming a video or opening a complex webpage. If you notice buffering or a lag in loading speed, your internet connection may not be able to handle the demand of the video conferencing software. 

If possible, you should connect your computer to the internet via ethernet rather than over Wi-Fi. If connecting via cable isn’t an option, try moving closer to your router for a stronger signal. 

Pre-Load Exhibits

If you’re using a mainstream platform like Zoom, this might mean creating a folder on your desktop to store exhibits until you’re ready to send them to participants using whatever method you’ve determined is the most secure given your platform.

If you’re using a platform designed for legal proceedings, take the opportunity to upload all of your documents in a secure folder directly on the platform, ready to quickly share, timestamp, and annotate at the right moment.

Dress Appropriately

Depositions are legal proceedings regardless of where they’re conducted, and it’s good practice to dress appropriately for the benefit of the case. A general rule of thumb is to dress as you would for a formal event. 

What are the Risks that Might Arise When Recording Zoom Depositions?

As with anything done over the internet, remote depositions involve some level of risk. In the case of a deposition conducted on a mainstream videoconferencing platform, these risks include security as well as some technical risks. Here are the most common risks associated with Zoom depositions in general. 

Security Issues

One of the primary risks when using a mainstream platform to conduct or record remote depositions is security. These platforms are not built for legal proceedings and therefore usually do not have the heightened legal industry security standards. This risk can be avoided by using a platform built for the legal industry.  

Equipment Failure

Equipment failure is one of the main problems many people experience when conducting remote depositions of any kind. Recording remote depositions require using basic equipment that has the potential to malfunction. 

This risk can be mitigated by testing all equipment prior to the deposition. Make sure your computer is compatible with the microphone, webcam, and any other equipment you may be using. Also, ensure all the software updates are installed before the deposition. 

Internet Failure

It’s not uncommon to experience internet problems, especially when using Wi-Fi. A failed or poor internet connection will end the video call and ultimately cancel the deposition. As mentioned, this problem can be mitigated by using a direct connection instead of Wi-Fi. 

Technical Understanding

When recording Zoom depositions or depositions on any platform, it’s critical to ensure that the parties on each side of the screen have the digital competence to use the equipment and are comfortable with the process.

Although you may be comfortable working with the platform and operating the equipment, the other parties might experience challenges doing so. This is especially true when trying to conduct a legal proceeding on a mainstream platform not built to accommodate the necessary aspects of the proceeding.

Technical challenges, if not addressed, can be time-consuming and possibly even bring the entire deposition to a halt. 

Pros and Cons of Remote Depositions

There are many benefits to remote depositions in general, including Zoom depositions, and some cons that need to be considered. Let’s go over remote depositions, in general, to understand why remote depositions work well, how the platform used to conduct the deposition can make a difference, and why they may not be perfect for every situation. 

Pros of Remote Depositions 

Remote depositions can be beneficial in many ways, particularly to clients. After all, who wouldn’t want the option to have depositions from the comfort of their home or another familiar place? Here’s why many people prefer remote depositions over in-person depositions. 

1. Convenience

Remote depositions provide a great deal of convenience to all participants in the legal proceeding. For example, litigants don’t need to manage traveling to court, finding parking, or worrying about security, as they can attend the hearings from the comfort of their homes or offices. 

2. Time Savings

Remote depositions are not only merely convenient, they also save a great deal of time. Time is a valuable asset, and being able to skip both traveling and organizing the details of an in-person deposition location can benefit a firm.

Remote depositions can increase productivity, especially when using a platform built for legal proceedings that includes everything needed for an efficient and effective deposition. These platforms include everything needed to get the job done according to legal standards. Pre-loading exhibits, time-stamping exhibits, picture-in-picture viewing, certified transcript availability and more all allow for a streamlined deposition that leaves time for other tasks or additional cases.

3. Significant Cost Savings

Cost savings is one of the obvious benefits associated with virtual depositions. Lawyers who have to travel frequently to attend depositions spend a significant amount on transportation, food, and accommodations. 

Even if the client is paying for the costs, there will always be a sticker shock. Remote depositions, on the other hand, ensure cost savings as you don’t need to travel, eat out, or book accommodations. Within the course of a regular day at the office, the deposition can be conducted and completed–regardless of whether the participants live 30 miles or 500 miles away.

Cons of Remote Depositions: Platform Choice Matters for Legal Proceedings

Although remote depositions are convenient, time-saving, cost-effective, and allow attorneys to be more productive, they’re not without drawbacks–and this is especially true when using a mainstream video platform to conduct the deposition. 

Most of the cons for conducting remote depositions in general or recording Zoom depositions revolve around the broadcasting process and the legality aspects of remote hearings. Let’s go over Zoom depositions and see why they might not be the best option for you. 

Not Built for Legal Proceedings

Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing service designed to power all communication needs, including meetings, webinars, chat, phone, and online events. As such, Zoom wasn’t built specifically for hosting legal proceedings. 

That said, some of the basic tasks necessary for an effective deposition may be difficult or time-consuming to achieve. For example, it may be difficult to send files securely unless depositions are being held over a specialized software purpose-built for legal proceedings and maintaining legal industry-standard security. 

Lack of a Court Reporter

Since mainstream platforms like Zoom are not necessarily intended for legal proceedings, they don’t provide the kinds of tools that are most needed by attorneys for getting the job done efficiently and correctly. For example, the right legal platform will provide court reporter services built into the platform, making it simple to set up the deposition per the appropriate legal requirements. Nothing like this is available on mainstream platforms.

Inadmissible Evidence

It’s possible that conducting and recording Zoom depositions will not lead to an end document that is admissible in court. As mentioned, strict requirements must be followed to make remote deposition recordings admissible as evidence. If those requirements aren’t followed or the transcripts aren’t certified by an independent party, the court may render the transcripts inadmissible. 

How Can Specialty Legal Software Help?

Even though Zoom is advertised as end-to-end encryption, mainstream platforms don’t generally offer legal industry-standard security. In addition, recording depositions, presenting exhibits, and handling other procedures through the platform require lengthy, time-consuming protocols, simply because these platforms aren’t meant to accommodate these kinds of proceedings.

These limitations of Zoom and the growing demand for remote depositions amid COVID have facilitated the continued growth of specialized remote deposition software. Easy to use and including every feature needed for an effective deposition, these specialized platforms have become the standard for remote depositions.

Related: What Is a Remote Deposition Software

With specialized legal deposition software, both witnesses and exhibits can be examined in greater detail.  Markings and annotations can be easily added to exhibits. The body language and expressions of participants are captured in HD.

Along with the best video conferencing features, specialized remote deposition software can also include professional legal services such as court reporters and accredited interpreters.  

Choose the Best Software for Virtual Depositions

Mainstream platforms like Zoom are some of the most widely used videoconferencing platforms. In general, they are all convenient, relatively easy to use, bring time and cost savings, and can potentially lead to increased productivity. That said, the use of these mainstream platforms for recording depositions isn’t without risks and drawbacks. Remote Legal offers a remote deposition platform with everything you need for a secure, effective, and streamlined legal proceeding. Schedule a court reporter, pre-load exhibits, annotate exhibits, prioritize the participant you want to observe, get both rough draft transcripts and certified transcripts as needed, and so much more. Ready to experience remote depositions on software specifically built for legal proceedings? Schedule a demo with us today.

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