Traveling 12 hours to take a two-hour deposition just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s not cost-effective for the client, and certainly not time-efficient for the legal team.
These are good reasons why video conferencing should become more common during the deposition process. However, lawyers can have a complicated relationship with technology, which is why the industry lags behind others in adopting new and more efficient methodologies enabled by technology. This includes a reluctance to use video depositions to allow for the examination of witnesses in remote locations.
Firms may be reluctant to try these tools because they feel they lack the technical know-how to avoid any possible pitfalls and risks. We’ve compiled a step-by-step guide for holding a legal video conference deposition to help inform you in this process.
Considerations When Conducting a Video Deposition
The use of e-tools by lawyers is increasing, and resources like eLaw Exchange can guide firms as they begin to use said tools. The organization suggests a set of best practice considerations for conducting a video deposition, including:
- Technical considerations, such as whether the witness has access to a high-speed video connection by phone or another digital device.
- Witness considerations, such as ensuring their dress and conduct are appropriate, in the same manner as a face-to-face deposition.
- The types of legal proceedings leveraging the video conference, including depositions, arbitrations, mediations, status conferences, discovery, settlement, or other crucial activities.
- The setup for the deposition, which could include operator assistance on the witness side of the proceeding.
In addition, look for a video conferencing service that offers end-to-end encryption to ensure the security of the recording.
Steps for a Successful Video Deposition
Step 1: Set up video conferencing
Web-based video conferencing solutions like LiveLitigation can be set up in minutes and can be securely embedded on your law firm’s website. We can help your team train to use these tools, but they are designed to be very user-friendly, for ease of setup by even novice users on any kind of device. Once you feel comfortable, it’s time to set up the deposition.
Step 2: Schedule the deposition
The best web-based video conferencing applications work on any device by emailing a link to the conferencing and recording tool. These invitations should be completely secure and encrypted, requiring a unique key to connect each attendee to the service. Work with the witness to secure a date and time for the deposition. The email notice to take the deposition should clearly indicate participants on both ends of the video conference, as well as time zones and locations.
Step 3: Secure the location of the deposition
You may choose to work with a partner local to the witness who can record the deposition with professional video cameras, while you conduct the Q&A online. The partner can set up equipment and ensure the reliability of the network connection. They can use a local office meeting room or even a hotel suite to ensure a seamless process. You may decide to use larger monitors, high-end cameras, or have a proxy technical or legal staff member on-hand to support the deposition.
However, if the deposition is short or the witness is in a location where you do not have an established partnership, or perhaps the witness cannot be enticed to travel to a secondary location, you can video conference via a laptop, mobile, or other digital device using a common Internet and Wi-Fi connection, as long as they have an enabled video camera.
One important consideration relates to the participation of the court reporter. While they do not always need to be with the witness, it is advisable, and some states even require it. This argues for the deposition to occur in a controlled suite environment with a remote team facilitating witness participation.
Step 4: Exhibits
There is always advanced planning required when the deposition requires exhibits. An easy solution is to use secure emailing to send documents that can be printed, or to send the documents for review by tracked mail. However, electronic exhibits are increasingly being used. With the right video conferencing platform, these documents can be screen shared, or even better, presented, marked up and submitted “on the fly” in the event. If you are using the “old style”, manual system for presenting exhibits, be sure to hold the exhibits up individually for the camera so the videographer can zoom in, or you can use the embedded camera in a digital device to take a screenshot. Of course, the better option is to use the video conferencing service’s built-in file handling feature to mark-up and present the exhibits digitally to all deposition participants.
Address these issues upfront with the court reporter or your remote team to ensure a seamless transition of these documents during the deposition.
Step 5: Review video conference conduct rules for a more professional video deposition
To keep the video deposition running smoothly, it’s a good idea to provide the court reporter with names and titles of participants, just like any other professional interview. Ensure one person speaks at a time and mute your microphone if a sidebar conversation occurs. Make sure there are no distracting background noises the camera may pick up on, such as the rustling of paper or clacking of keystrokes.
Being videotaped can make some people nervous initially, so make sure the witness is aware of common body movements and their potential interpretation:
- Frequent eye movements, blinking, or glancing off-screen can make the witness seem untruthful.
- Placing a hand over the mouth can muffle speech and also make witnesses seem deceptive.
- Crossed arms indicate reluctance or defensiveness.
- Finger-pointing can come across as aggressive.
If the witness has never participated in a video conference, they may laugh inappropriately or exhibit some other inappropriate behavior due to a simple case of nerves. Prepping your witness beforehand can help.
A video conference deposition will save you and your firm time and money, and the same for the witness.
Important Considerations for Your Video Conferencing Service
Conducting a video conference deposition requires selecting the best online service tool to ensure quality and reliability. Look for these features and benefits from your video conference partner:
- Compatibility with all major browsers, including Chrome, Edge, and Safari.
- Full HD audio and video.
- Integrated Realtime Streaming
- Screen sharing that views clearly on any digital device.
- Internal, secure & non-discoverable group chat features during the video conferencing.
- Electronic/Digital Exhibit Handling – Online Presentation, Mark-up & Submission of Exhibits
- End-to-end secure encryption with meeting-specific key logins.
- Full recording of meetings in audio and video with downloads and playback features.
If your firm is ready to explore video conference depositions, talk with the expert team at LiveLitigation. We have more than a decade of experience in using video conferencing to facilitate communication. Talk to our team to see a demo and explore the possibilities.