The Benefits and Pitfalls of Remote Depositions
Remote depositions can have many benefits, from time savings and efficiency to increased productivity. But there can also be challenges presented by the remote platforms utilized to hold such proceedings. While many have become comfortable with platforms such as Zoom, WebEx, and Microsoft Teams, the truth is that these platforms fall short when it comes to exhibits and other legal workflows, potentially making depositions more difficult and less secure. But there are platforms available that can help you manage these pitfalls allowing you to leverage the benefits of remote depositions. It’s a matter of choosing the right tools for the job and going through strategic preparation.
First, let’s address the benefits of remote depositions. Cost and efficiency are the most noticeable benefits. The cost of running an in-person deposition can include travel, location, equipment rental, and additional workload to find a local court reporter to appear in person (some locations are more isolated than others). All these costs can be streamlined when no travel is involved, and you’re able to use the space and equipment always at hand. Your pool of staff also opens up when it can be state-wide instead of town-wide. For expert witnesses, the cost of travel and accommodation can be eliminated entirely. As stated by the ABA “Expert witnesses, who are often out of town, were traditionally flown into town by law firms and their clients. They often insist on business-class tickets and business-level accommodations, not to mention reimbursement for transportation and meals.”1 Limiting the costs of an expert witness makes utilizing that powerful testimony a more likely option.
Time management also becomes a benefit, because, as they say, “time is money.” Eliminating the need for travel, equipment setup, and printing hard copies of the exhibits that must also be shipped to all parties makes the back-end setup for a deposition faster. The process can be as easy as logging in on the day of the deposition, uploading your digital exhibits, and immediately starting questioning. Beyond just eliminating the physical setup, platforms like vTestify can enable an attorney to effectively navigate and guide the witness and other attendees through documents easily, removing the cumbersome task of waiting for each person to find a place in the document to start questioning. This does not remove the ability of the witness and others to freely read through the exhibit, as that function still exists. The feature instead provides full functionality no matter what your role in the proceeding may be, allowing for more pointed use of the questioning time. Speaking of time, the turnaround time for the final video and transcript can also be shortened with remote tools. For instance, high-definition video processing provides quick access to the full video. Stamped exhibits are immediately available once the proceeding has ended, and no processing time or shipping delay occurs. vTestify’s testimony review tool can also be leveraged to make note-taking post-deposition a breeze.
Let’s now focus on ways you can avoid the pitfalls of remote depositions. One of the most common centers around internet connection problems or credibility. Many people have experienced an instance where a video conference suddenly cuts out, of the connection is delayed. One of the ways to prevent this is to have a solid internet connection, and which would be needed for all users in attendance remotely. To ensure that a location has a good setup it is recommended to test ahead of time using the devices you anticipate using on the day of a proceeding. If given the option, having your computer be hard-wired to the internet is another way to add improved quality to your internet connection. Testing can be done easily, using tools that can be found through search engines, such as “Speedtest by Ookla”. These types of tests can quickly tell you if there is an issue. If you do identify an issue we suggest contacting your internet service provider, or finding a more stable in-home connection. The most common users to experience internet degradation is often the witness. So to avoid any unknown issues, you could host the witness in a hybrid remote setting, or test with that individual beforehand to troubleshoot in advance of a proceeding.
Since depositions are unique events where all eyes are on a witness, we often suggest that all attendees, including opposing counsel, are on camera creating a more comfortable and comprehensive experience. Additionally, preparing ahead of time and familiarizing yourself with the remote platform that is being used are good rules of thumb. This ensures that you can navigate through the deposition without stumbling around identifying where specific buttons are located. Most court reporting agencies will allow for testing and training to ensure attendees are familiar with the platform and are prepared for the day of the deposition. vTestify also provides demonstrations and training to assist in preparation. The platform itself also allows for securely uploading documents and pre-stamping exhibits in advance of a deposition, giving individuals time to prepare in the exact space the event will occur.2
Once you have prepared and become comfortable on the platform of your choice, remote depositions become another tool that you can pull out to save yourself and your client time and money, and allow you to achieve the ultimate goal, better evidence.