Apr 03, 2023

How to Prepare for Remote Depositions

A finger touching a hologram to initiate a remote deposition

When the US began to shelter in place, the wheels of litigation came to a grinding halt and decades-old practices suddenly were in question. ‘Remote’ depositions used to go forward in places like Tahiti. Then, a remote deposition was a workaround to a global pandemic and allowed you to avoid commuting, lugging boxes of exhibits, and even wearing a full suit. Fortunately, once it became clear to many that conducting these proceedings from the comfort of home is not as challenging as one might think, cases rebooted and litigation began to move along again, and remote depositions have become the rule, not the exception.

In this new age of remote depositions, virtual trials, digital reporting, and online witness prep, simple steps in preparation are the difference makers in successful remote proceedings. One step, often overlooked, is a willingness to accept that you may not be as tech savvy as you’d like—there’s no shame in relying on your preteen IT expert or Google to ensure you will be able to adequately hear participants in advance of your remote deposition, arbitration, trial, or hearing.

Here are the five best practices that should be applied when conducting remote deposition:

Get Everyone on the Same Page

When preparing your deposition notice, clearly indicate that this deposition will take place in a virtual setting. Specify that everyone, including your reporter and videographer, will participate via the remote videoconferencing platform of your choosing. Deposition vendors can provide the actual date- and time-specific connection details for you to include in your notice. Clarifying that this is a remote deposition will aid in preventing inquiries about how or where to appear. Additionally, make sure to address time zones in your notice, and confirm that everyone has the correct version of your 10:00 AM.

It’s also helpful to attempt to establish a protocol for the case in agreement with your adversary. If the case has a set of rules that have been prearranged from the start, each deposition will be more straightforward. Some conditions that can be agreed upon in advance include:

  • What video call vendor to use—so all parties familiarize themselves with the same platform. At Claritas we are happy to test with everyone in advance so all parties are prepared.
  • How exhibits will be presented
  • What additional security is required (e.g., host controls, passwords, waiting room, breakout rooms)
  • What kinds of devices and internet connections are required
  • Dress code expectations

Test Your Technology and Actions

You may use your laptop, desktop, or tablet every single day, but unknown settings that prevent a connection do exist and are not a problem you want to have to sort out 10 minutes before a deposition is to start. Contact the vendor hosting the deposition, whether you are taking or defending, to run a test on the actual device you will use the day of the deposition. You’ll want to make sure that everyone can see and hear you and that you know how to turn off your camera and microphone should you want to go off the record.

You should also test out any documents you may want to present, or any other programs you need to work on. Test, test, test!

Make a Plan for Exhibit Presentation

Throughout the transition to remote depositions, various methods of exhibit presentations have been tested. The tried and true best option for depositions is to use a specific exhibit management software. These programs, such as Claritas Capture™ are account based, password protected, allow for upload and prep in advance, and officially mark the documents for you as you go. Exhibits are integrated into the same platform as video conferencing and real-time viewing. This option is especially best for depositions or cases with a large volume of documents, as they will all be stored in your account and accessible for the life of the case.

Request Additional Services in Advance

Similar to an in-person event, there may be additional services you require for your remote deposition. For example, if you will need a certified video of your deposition, the videographer may also need to appear remotely. Most videographers connect to the feed using broadcast software so they can record a video of only the witness. This video can be certified and synched to the transcript.

Streaming in real-time text is also a great feature for a remote setting. At Claritas, our software uses multi-channel recording and cloud-based ASR to generate live streaming text for viewing throughout the deposition. Our technology also allows our reporters to edit that text for any errors as its being generated, so what you’re seeing in the deposition is accurate.

Most Important of All…Be Patient!

While some attorneys and witnesses are better than others at this, I can’t overstate the importance of setting the tone for a successful remote deposition by channeling a good dose of patience. The first 10 minutes of the deposition, the first document you present, and the first problem you encounter will inevitably feel like it’s taking an eternity to sort out.

The internet is bound to flicker, laptops will run out of battery power, phone connections will sound like you’re underwater. Technology is wonderful until it’s not. As an example of these unavoidable tech hiccups, we recently had a deposition during which the witness just disappeared—turns out, his house was struck by lighting and the power went out. Another time, the internet went down at the taking attorney’s house, and he had to conduct the rest of the deposition from his car.

Then, there’s always user error. The phrase “you’re on mute” has become as commonplace as “objection to form.”

Remote depositions were once presented as an alternative to in-person proceedings. Then they became necessary to keep litigation in motion during this global pandemic. Now, they are commonplace and convenient. By implementing these simple best practices, remote depositions are far less daunting and significantly more streamlined. In addition, they offer substantial time and cost savings, which should lead you to consider incorporating them into your litigation process on a regular basis.

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