Depositions are commonly an essential and critical component of the litigation process. A deposition is a procedure in which attorneys obtain evidence for a case. The deponent (witness) being questioned may share information via their description of events or as an expert witness. The deponent is under oath and questioned by the “taking” attorney.
But a deposition doesn’t always happen in a physical courtroom, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many courtrooms. Many legal proceedings were postponed, creating a backlog of cases. Fortunately, attorneys had an option, turning to remote deposition services.
Remote deposition services are provided to record all that is shared at the deposition, meticulously noted by a court reporter. In the case of remote depositions, a court reporter is also remote, working from a live proceeding streamed through a remote online deposition platform.
What Do Deposition Services Provide?
A deposition service, whether in-person or remote, ensures the deposition process runs smoothly and the parties involved have a reliable, accurate record of the proceeding.
A deposition service has several functions, including:
- Managing the scheduling and date for the deposition hearing
- Arranging to have all necessary participants present at the scheduled time
- Ensuring that each witness will be taken through their required testimony in an organized fashion
- Recording everything that is said at the deposition hearing, using a stenographer
- Organizing and managing any necessary video recordings of the proceedings
Remote depositions weren’t always the primary means of conducting a deposition, but the pandemic made them the only option for a time. Today, remote deposition services are rivaling their in-person counterpart because of the many benefits they offer, including,
- Saving attorneys, witnesses, and all proceeding stakeholders travel time and expenses
- The witness will be able to focus on the content of their deposition testimony and not worry about coordinating their schedules with other people to make it work
- The convenience of having all exhibits, documents, video recordings, transcripts, and participants’ contact information in one place
Depositions are a critical part of the litigation process. For this reason, it is essential to conduct them as efficiently and as smoothly as possible. If in-person depositions aren’t convenient or cost-effective, remote depositions are an excellent alternative.
The COVID-19 Impact?
Before the pandemic, remote depositions were used primarily in cases with non-local witnesses, including parties who live in different countries or reside outside a court’s jurisdiction. It was an easier way to bring together all parties involved without location constraints.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, remote depositions have become less of an option and more of a necessity due to physical distancing and self-isolating recommendations from the CDC.
The global pandemic generated extraordinary circumstances that necessitated lawyers, law firms, courts, and other members of the legal sector to adjust to new methods of doing business at breakneck speed. Attorneys all over the country quickly adapted to the use of remote deposition systems and got more comfortable conducting depositions online.
How Remote Depositions Are Adapting Online
Remote deposition platforms have come a long way, offering tools and features that closely mimic real-world events such as breakout rooms, on-screen annotations, and live exhibit sharing. These platforms allow everyone to participate in the deposition from anywhere in the world. The only thing required of participants is that they have a computer with video and internet access. It only takes one of the lawyers to set up the deposition on the platform. All participants can click on an emailed link to join the proceeding.
A virtual deposition is especially convenient since it allows you to conduct your sworn testimony from the comfort of your own home or office. Holding in-person depositions can also be costly, especially if a case involves out-of-state witnesses. Airfare, lodging, transportation, and conference rooms, are just some of the costs of in-person depositions for out-of-state witnesses, not to mention the time and administrative hassles of tracking them all.
Remote deposition services significantly lower client costs while maintaining the opportunity to acquire critical information from witnesses.
The employment of a remote deposition must meet certain criteria by the court of jurisdiction, including the need for a high-quality video conferencing system, live audio/video streaming capabilities, and sufficient bandwidth.
Remote depositions are held under controlled conditions so parties involved can have their own legal counsel present to protect their interests. The proceedings are documented on video or digital recording, typically by a stenographer, court reporter, or videographer. The attorneys involved in the deposition remain at their own offices while questioning witnesses via teleconference.
Who Shows Up to a Deposition?
While anyone can attend a deposition, typically the only people present in most depositions are the lawyers representing both parties, the person being questioned, a court reporter, a videographer, and an interpreter may also attend if necessary. Some remote deposition services streamline the process and reduce costs by training a court reporter to also serve as the videographer, notary, and platform expert.
Some remote court reporting platforms also enable attorneys to invite judges or witnesses to the proceeding while it’s already in progress. Being able to add people on-demand greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to conduct a proceeding.
How Is a Deposition Recorded?
The primary purpose of deposition services is to record the legal proceeding. For remote depositions, both a video and a transcript record all testimony. Some platforms use AI-based transcription for near real-time transcripts. They also enable attorneys to search for keywords or phrases and sync the transcript to the video recording – even during the proceeding.
It should be noted that there are differences between verbal testimony and what is written down in the transcript. The official transcript serves as an objective account of the testimony, but it does not reflect the tone or emotions expressed by either party. Body language, tone, and even how a witness is dressed can often play a role in how credible they appear. Capturing all of this in a video ensures none of it is lost when an in-person proceeding doesn’t happen.
Today, attorneys are using video depositions more than ever before due to advancements in technology. Video recording allows for real-time playback of testimony, and attorneys can use video playback to object to certain questions more effectively. It also allows for more than one attorney to question the witnesses.
Depositions can be recorded via audio or video, but many states also require written transcripts to accompany the deposition videos. Some remote deposition services take 10 or more days to produce a certified transcript, while others take seven days or fewer.
How Much Does a Deposition Cost?
Freelance court reporters are generally paid by the page. The cost is determined by the length of the attorney’s deposition. The longer a deposition, the more money a court reporter makes.
In contrast, modern remote legal services platforms charge for time spent on record. This means that attorneys/firms/clients receive complete access to the streaming video and the real-time transcripts of those depositions at a fixed cost per deposition or a flat rate per month without any additional charges for uploads, downloads, or licensing per attorney. This saves time and money compared to traditional methods, which greatly rely on a court reporter’s rates.
Remote deposition services offer a software-based platform that works with videoconferencing equipment to streamline the process of video depositions. Depending on the service, attorneys and the remote court reporter can participate in depositions from their offices while remote deponents participate through home computers.
Other Reasons to Consider Remote Deposition Services
Although some cases may still require an in-person deposition, there are several good reasons we haven’t discussed that make remote deposition services a viable option.
Remote depositions work for defendants and plaintiffs alike. They can be equally beneficial regardless of whether the litigant is on the plaintiff’s side of the defendant’s side of a case.
Related: Pros and Cons to Remote Depositions
Remote deposition services are particularly beneficial in cases involving large numbers of witnesses or litigants. They allow for multiple parties to take part in a single deposition without requiring each person to gather together in a single location. This is especially helpful when an entire company needs to provide testimony in a single case.
Deposition streaming is becoming more and more important, especially for cases that involve out-of-state witnesses or deponents who cannot appear in court due to distance, disability, illness, or any other legitimate problem.
Remote depositions can also be used when litigants would rather not be deposed in person because of the nature of a case. For example, testimonies for sexual harassment and assault cases may benefit from remote deposition services over traditional methods..
Attorneys also realize that it is important for them to have access to archived testimony to review what has been said in cases and how it applies to future cases. Video deposition services platforms provide attorneys with crucial access to archived testimony via streaming video and real-time transcripts.
Typical Features of a Remote Deposition Service
Video streaming is currently the industry standard for remote deposition services. Most platforms stream depositions in real-time and provide easy access to archived depositions that can be accessed at any time. Live transcripts and note-taking tools are also common features that many of these platforms offer.
The most important factors to consider when choosing a remote deposition service include.
- A deposition specific video conferencing solution
- Witness only HD Video recording
- Live voice to text stream
- Exhibit management
- Breakout Rooms
- No Zoom overlay
The majority of these deposition services provide lawyers with the ability to file recordings for court or to archive them online in a secure area that can be accessed at any time. Deposition videos that are time-indexed and archived in a secure area can be particularly beneficial for litigants and lawyers alike.
A deposition-specific video conferencing solution is normally needed to ensure that remote depositions can be recorded in HD quality video and audio. Traditional video conferencing solutions built for businesses may not produce sufficient quality recordings, offer specific features needed for legal proceedings, or provide robust security features. The limitations of such popular platforms make it essential to choose a deposition service that is built specifically for legal proceedings.
Meet the Experts
Remote Legal is born out of traditional court reporting firm Precision Reporters. We have built a legal first proceeding platform that works to address the needs of the litigation process. Our platform offers valuable features such as certified transcripts, videos, rough drafts, videos synched to the transcript, exhibits. It is not just Zoom with a stenographer anymore. We are mirroring the in-person deposition experience in our online platform.
Beyond the technology, our team of court reporters brings deep expertise and knowledge in conducting remote legal proceedings. This, combined with the single-source solution, allows for a modern way to conduct a deposition, capture the record, and produce a transcript. To bring your services to the next level, contact us today.
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