The COVID-19 pandemic required many sectors to change their mode of operations in order to obey government guidelines while continuing with their service delivery. Judges, attorneys, court reporters, juries, and all parties involved in litigation could not meet in courts for legal proceedings. But legal activities could not wait until COVID was gone to resume proceedings. That’s why the idea of holding virtual depositions became so common during the pandemic.
Since then, courts have embraced virtual examinations, since they are effective and save time and resources for both sides. For a successful virtual examination, there are additional tips your witnesses should follow that differ from in-person examinations. In this article, we explore the differences between virtual and in-person examinations and how you, as an attorney, should advise your witnesses prior to a virtual examination.
Differences Between Virtual and In-person Examinations Under Oath.
Although the court allows you to have your examination remotely by way of a virtual examination, all the legal procedures of an examination are still in place. The only difference is that you will now need a tablet, computer, or laptop that has a microphone and webcam, video-conferencing software, and an internet connection for your virtual examination. The lawyer needs to see the witness and hear them clearly throughout the examination.
Related: What Is a Virtual Deposition Notice?
A virtual examination under oath (EUO) saves traveling time and costs incurred in an in-person examination. Although you will pay for the video conferencing platform, the costs are usually very little compared to attending an examination in person.
The lawyer can have more time to investigate claims while avoiding any physical interpersonal connection.
Tips to Observe in the Virtual Examination
The success of your claims depends on how well you will have the person you are deposing answer the questions posed to them and how they carry themselves in the examination. The following are the tips you and your clients should observe in the virtual examination under oath:
Select a Perfect Location
For virtual EUO, your location and surroundings can affect the interaction with your client and the other lawyers. It is important to be in a quiet place, free from distraction. You don’t want toddlers, pets or moving cars from outside to disrupt the examination.
Let them choose a quiet room and notify anyone sharing their space that they need some privacy and silence through the examination time. Ensure the location they choose is neat for the examination. Sitting in front of a blank wall is ideal for this case.
In case their room is not presentable at all (has many permanent and personal or distracting materials on all sides), you can use the virtual background, although that should be your last option. When using a virtual background, they should limit their movements to ensure their image is intact. A quality webcam and a different color of clothes from the one in the background will also help when using a virtual background.
Create Good Lighting
Whether you have a good window to pass enough light to your room or you are using some artificial lighting, sit in a way that no shadow is visible on your face. For example, if you sit in a position where the lighting source, such as a window, is at your back, it will be difficult for others to see you. Advise your witness to face the lighting source to make their image clearer.
If they can access professional lighting products such as a ring light, it is the right time to use them. They should set them up early enough before the examination and if they’re using battery-powered equipment, they should have enough charge to last throughout the examination.
Project Your Voice
Remember, the lawyer cannot rely on any other body language such as gestures, because they can only see a small part of your client’s body. Most of the time, the lawyer will not consider any communication from a gesture, including when they can see it clearly.
Let them use a professional microphone if they have one, or talk closer to the tablet or computer’s microphone for a clearer voice. Test the quality of the mic before the examination to avoid inconveniences.
Applying vocal tips as they speak will also make them sound clearer. This includes not speaking too many words per minute to ensure the examiner and every participant can comprehend every statement they make.
They may slow down their pace to around 140 words per minute and pause a little after key points in their answers.
Position Your Camera in the Right Way
You can tell whether your camera position is correct by taking a short video just before the examination. A pro tip to the best position is setting the camera’s lens half an inch higher than their eye level. They can use a stack of books, a short stool, or anything within their reach to ensure their lens is stable at their eye level. This is the ideal angle to record the face and part of their shoulders.
This position will also enable them to make eye contact while in the examination. Eye contact is important to show that they are listening actively and paying full attention to the examiner.
They should not mistake making eye contact with looking at the attendees’ faces on their screen. They should look directly at their webcam to ensure the other parties view it as if they are being looked at directly.
When the attendees’ faces show at the bottom of their screen, looking at them for a long time will make your client appear as if they are looking at the ground. To avoid this, they should move the faces closer to their camera, hence they will look at the attendees’ faces while keeping eye contact throughout.
You don’t want to struggle with the platform settings during the examination proceedings. Learn the technology in the platform, the settings, functions, locations and system support early enough. Be the solution when your client needs any help in navigating their platforms.
Arrange all the documents you would need in an easily retrievable folder and ensure they are in the order you would need them to be. Check whether your platform is easy enough for your client to use and whether it helps you organize your documents easily.
A platform where you can upload your documents and exhibits ahead of time, This will ensure you are not stammering through the examination trying to find the right document for your client or fixing video angles.
Choose a Quality Video Conferencing Platform
The quality of the video deposition platform you choose will also affect your virtual examination. A quality platform offers high-definition audio and visuals, which are very crucial in an examination. It will offer easy-to-learn software and minimal trouble when doing your customizations. In an examination, you may need to capture the witness video or customize its layout. Ensure your platform has all the characteristics of your intended actions during the examination.
Choose a video platform made for legal proceedings, for what you need is more than just video conferencing software. A platform with a virtual court reporter to help you troubleshoot any technical issues should they arise during the examination.
You need a secure platform that observes all legal standards and has all the functionalities you would need for your remote examination. This will save you money to hire more assistants such as video techs and personal assistants and ensure you have an efficient, trouble-free examination.
Test Your Devices a Day Before the Examination
A day before the examination time, put your client into a test and ensure everything is working. If their laptop or phone isn’t working properly, plan on replacing them. Check how they present themselves and advise them accordingly.
Test the video and audio qualities and do any necessary adjustments. Ensure they can also navigate the video platform easily, to at least do basic things such as muting and unmuting themselves. When you are ready, distribute the video conference link to all parties involved, including your clients, to ensure no late rush.
Choosing the Right Remote Video Conference Examination Software
Choosing the right remote video conference examination software is the first step toward a successful examination. Failing to attend or cooperate with an examiner could lead to losses.
A platform that will help you answer all the questions from the examiner audibly and without technical issues is what you would need for a successful examination. One that contains personalized legal features including witness-only high definition video or audio, certified transcript, exhibit management and rough draft. If you are looking to have a quality examination under oath powered by an easy-to-use all-in-inclusive platform, check out Remote legal. Remote Legal Court Reporting is a legal proceeding platform made to address all the requirements of remote litigation processes. Contact us today and enjoy a high quality virtual examination experience.
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