What Is Deposition Transcript Software Used for and Is It Evidence?

Depositions are an essential component of the discovery process for every trial, big or small. Attorneys conduct these pretrial question-and-answer sessions under oath, and having the conversations accurately documented is critical. Fortunately, deposition transcription software is a tool available to court reporters to ensure every spoken word is correctly captured. 

Reviewing and analyzing deposition transcripts is critical for identifying and correcting typos and other errors and preparing for trial. However, deponents may materially amend their testimony during the transcript review process in some instances.

Deposition transcripts can also help attorneys analyze testimony and identify pertinent information for use at trial. Before trial, lengthy depositions are summarized, allowing attorneys to quickly and easily locate critical information and exhibits.

How Does Deposition Transcript Software Work?

Attorneys for both the plaintiff and defendant depose witnesses during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. The resulting deposition transcripts, also called depo transcripts, are legal records documenting the out-of-court expert or eyewitness testimony taken under oath. 

The deposition transcript is a written legal record of all statements made by the lawyers and witnesses during the deposition, including questions, responses, and audible side comments. Judges and juries treat deposition transcripts the same as courtroom testimony for evidentiary purposes. 

Essentially, the transcript becomes a factual, certified account of what questions were asked and the answers provided. All deponents are sworn in under oath, thereby giving the court standing to hold the dishonest party in contempt of court for perjury.

Depending on the case, a deposition transcript can be a few pages or a few hundred pages. Deposition transcript software provides court reports with a modern solution to manual transcription via stenotype or other shorthand techniques. This can help improve the accuracy of the transcription and speed up the time it takes to deliver a transcript while also freeing up the court reporter to focus on other important duties.

[Related: Stenographic and Digital Court Reporters vs. Digital Recordings – What’s the Difference?]

Are Deposition Transcripts Admissible as Evidence in Court?

Yes, deposition transcripts are admissible as evidence in court. Either party may enter deposition transcripts, either produced manually or with deposition transcript software, as trial evidence. Some lawyers even condense the length of depositions for analysis by having junior attorneys or paralegals write deposition summaries.

Purpose 1: Trial Evidence

You must formally notify the court of your intent to use a deposition transcript in a trial and specify whether you will use parts of it or the entire document. A party’s deposition transcript might be used against them if they misrepresented information at the time. 

Not only do transcriptions help you obtain someone’s version of the facts, but they also allow you to do so while your witness is under oath. The witness’ testimony can then be used to either contradict or corroborate evidence in the court record, thereby solidifying the factual basis for your legal claim.

Purpose 2: Discrediting a Witness

Deposition transcripts can be used to discredit a witness at trial. Discrediting a witness’ credibility statements can be compelling depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

Generally, a party cannot discredit a witness unless specific conditions are met. It is only advantageous if the witness is essential to the opposing party. You should speak with a transcription provider about their knowledge of local, state, and federal rules of your jurisdiction’s civil procedure.

Can Witnesses Change Deposition Testimony?

A witness’s answer may change between the legal deposition and the trial. You can use the court reporter’s transcript from the deposition to discredit a witness during the trial.

The vast majority of jurors have never heard of a deposition or court reporter’s role. This situation is an excellent example of why educating the jury through cross-examination is critical. Strategic questioning serves to emphasize the significance of testimony changes.

How Deposition Transcript Software Produces Transcripts

Litigators are accustomed to the court reporter’s presence in the deposition room, intently listening to testimony and objections while simultaneously recording them on the steno machine or through more modern deposition transcript software. 

However, much occurs between the time the deponent enters the deposition room and when the deposition transcript is delivered. More professionals are working behind the scenes than you can imagine.

Let’s take a closer look at the process:

Step 1. Reporting

The court reporter and all parties, such as attorneys and witnesses, attend the deposition. Additionally, a legal videographer may be present. During the deposition, the court reporter’s role is to record what attorneys, witnesses, and other parties say. They accomplish this task using a stenotype machine and potentially in conjunction with deposition transcript software in shorthand.

Step 2. Scoping

Scoping is the process of converting a stenotype to English. It is a critical step in the process of creating a deposition transcript. The scopist ensures proper spelling and punctuation throughout the scoping process.

They also use computer-assisted translation (CAT) software for more accurate results. While the court reporter may conduct the scoping, a professional scopist may also be hired.

Many court reporters prefer to work exclusively with one or two scopists to expedite the production of deposition transcripts. The Journal of Court Reporting (JCR) says that a skilled scopist will eventually recognize which words the court reporter frequently misses.

Step 3. Proofreading

A proofreader reviews the English version of the deposition record. The proofreader checks the transcript for errors during this stage of the deposition transcript production process.

While the proofreader cannot change what was said during the deposition, they can correct spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors. This level of precision is necessary as the litigation attorney will use the deposition transcript to prepare for trial or submit it as evidence.

Step 4. Reviewing

Finally, the court reporter reviews the transcript. This final step may appear to be a needless duplication of effort, but it is critical in producing the best deposition transcript possible.

After reviewing it, the court reporter attaches a certificate. This certificate verifies that the completed transcript is accurate, complete, and to the best of the author’s knowledge.

H3: [Related: What Is Remote Deposition Software?]

What File Formats Does Deposition Transcript Software Offer?

Your court reporter should ask about the format in which you wish to receive your transcript. They can usually present you with several options. However, some file formats are more common than others.

Here is an outline of the different available formats:

  • File Type 1. PDF: PDF files are the most universally accessible format in which your transcript can be received. While a PDF file cannot be used to create a word index, it can print a condensed transcript.
  • File Type 2. PTX: PTX format is viewable through an e-transcript viewer. You can print the transcript in its entirety or a condensed format along with a word index from within the viewer and the option to export to Word or PDF format.
  • File Type 3. ASCII: ASCII files are requested by attorneys who require the transcript to be uploaded into litigation management software such as Time Matters.

Occasionally, attorneys will state that they “only require an e-tran” when they mean a PDF or the ability to receive the file electronically. It’s beneficial to understand the distinctions between PDF, e-tran, and ASCII so that you’re not surprised by the file type or inability to open it.

The Deposition Transcript Technological Shift

While depositions have long been a staple of legal practice, the ones conducted today bear little resemblance to those undertaken decades ago. The paper transcript has been phased out to favor an electronic, multimedia experience. Today’s lawyers anticipate that any deposition will include hyperlinks, video files, and other sophisticated features.

Other features associated with deposition transcript software include the following:

  • Feature 1: Customer portal access
  • Feature 2: Live transcription reporting
  • Feature 3: Virtual depositions
  • Feature 4: Exhibit presentation
  • Feature 5: Video captures

With all of the technological advancements available on the market today, determining which tools you need for a particular matter can appear challenging. A court reporter with experience should be able to help you navigate deposition transcript software options and select the best tools for maximizing the value of your subsequent deposition.

The Right Tools Can Make the Difference

The ways in which we practice law have shifted due to technological advancements and deposition transcription software. While the sea of legal apps and software on the market may appear overwhelming, the right provider can assist you in selecting the most appropriate technology for each case and caseload.

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