An article in The Atlantic recently asked, “Why Are So Many Law Firms Trapped in 1995?” That’s a fair question, but the author recognized that things are changing, pointing to many areas where lawyers are adopting technology to modernize their practice.
Deposition rooms in particular have been mired in the past. The average lawyer from 1995 would feel very comfortable in many depositions taking place in 2015. Change has come about very slowly, despite the crucial role depositions play in modern litigation. The last few years, though, have brought much-needed change to the deposition room as lawyers increasingly have adopted legal technology solutions to improve the process. Here are seven ways technology is improving depositions:
Want to see what the witness just said? Take a look at the live streaming transcript on the monitor in front of you. The basics behind this technology may not be new, but recent years have seen dramatic improvements to the way the live transcript feed is delivered. No longer is the process plagued by hardware conflicts, strange billing systems and the like. As a result, more attorneys are taking advantage of live transcription to stay on top of what’s happening in real time.
Deposition video likewise is not brand new, but modern technology has made it more powerful than ever. Digital video and cloud technology combine to give attorneys unprecedented access to deposition video, synced with the transcript and ready for use as the case proceeds. Better videography brings more options as well. It’s not uncommon to see multiple cameras in the deposition room, recording different angles and what the witness is doing with exhibits. When the parties use digital exhibits, a skilled videographer can capture the witness’s screen and later marry it with the deposition video and transcript to make an attention-grabbing presentation..
For years, attending an out-of-town deposition meant either getting on a plane or just listening in over the phone. Sometimes lawyers have to travel, but being physically present at a deposition is not always necessary or even possible. Most court reporting companies now offer remote deposition technology that combines streaming video, audio, and transcript to allow users to attend and participate in a deposition regardless of their location. The same technology allows depositions to be taken remotely as well, saving thousands in travel costs.
Digital Deposition Exhibits
A single case may involve thousands of exhibits across dozens of depositions. For decades, the only option was to print out multiple paper copies of those exhibits and lug them to and from the deposition in boxes or binders. Modern technology such as the eDepoze litigation software platform has changed all that. Now attorneys are preparing for depositions using electronic documents, then marking and distributing electronic exhibits during the deposition using software built to mirror the paper process. Digital annotation tools allow for exhibits to be enlarged, highlighted and annotated by the witness and other participants. Perhaps best of all, the parties walk away with immediate access to the official, stamped exhibits without having to wait for the court reporter to scan and deliver them later.
Adios, Sticky Notes
Lawyers on the same side often have to communicate during the deposition, but how do you suggest a question for the examining attorney without interrupting the flow or, worse, having your conversation caught on the record? For the most part, the answer has always been to pass sticky notes down the table. Now, the same technologies that allow for remote depositions and the use of digital exhibits also allow for members of a case team to communicate with each other electronically in a private, unobtrusive way. No need to worry about remembering to take that pile of sticky notes with you on the next break.
Stronger Security for Sensitive Information
This one also is related to digital deposition technologies. Some lawyers might balk at the idea of a streaming video deposition because they have heard stories about how Skype or other videoconferencing platforms can lack requisite security. But remote deposition solutions offer high levels of security commensurate with the sensitive information often handled during depositions. On the other hand, many lawyers probably don’t give much thought to the security of paper deposition exhibits. After the deposition, are they going into the court reporter’s trunk, where they will be stored overnight or over the weekend? What happens if they are lost or stolen? Digital exhibit technology makes the process more secure by employing encryption and other security measures.
By opening new doors to remote participation and simultaneously driving down costs, deposition technologies have brought new levels of collaboration to the deposition process. Client representatives can participate in a deposition from their office, watching the video feed and interacting with their counsel in the deposition room as if they were there in person. Similarly, expert witnesses and colleagues can monitor and participate in depositions without incurring travel costs. Exhibits marked at a deposition can be used the next day by colleagues in a different deposition without having to mark them again. Between depositions, team members can collaborate using central collections of digital exhibits and transcripts.
Ultimately, depositions are about one thing: increasing your client’s chances of reaching a successful resolution of the case. The technology you use in the deposition room should help bolster those chances as well. The 1990s might be fun to relive when watching Friends and Seinfeld re-runs, but lawyers can and should step into the present by using modern technology to improve the deposition process.