Written by: Daniel Goodson // Dec 8, 2020
Last updated: Dec 8, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic may have sent many industries into a screeching halt, but not the legal profession. In these times of health uncertainty, the judicial system has had to find ways to ensure the wheels of justice still turn. Like other industries, law has incorporated the use of remote services to perform necessary functions, and this includes depositions.
Despite the initial challenges, these essential legal proceedings have continued to run increasingly well as more and more firms have transitioned to remote work. Keep reading to see 5 tips for remote depositions as the pandemic continues to interrupt in-person proceedings and force them online.
5. Pick the Right Remote Deposition Platform
Successful remote depositions begin with the right video conferencing platform. Although the pandemic has seen a boom in Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings, these platforms just won’t cut it for the judicial system. Legal experts agree that this important legal procedure demands a digital platform that offers advanced protection, features, and functionality:
- Advanced security that protects all data
- Private communication features
- Multi-user conferencing capability
- Real-time transcription
- Exhibit management tools
4. Eliminate All Distractions
You want your virtual deposition to mirror the privacy of an in-person deposition as much as possible. It’s essential that everyone participates from a location that eliminates any and all disruptions that could compromise anyone’s attention. This includes audio, visual, and background distractions that impact participant engagement.
Remember, you want to be able to view participants’ unfiltered reactions, body language, tone, and facial expressions. Therefore, it’s important everyone follows a few simple steps to ensure the most focused deposition possible:
- Pause, turn off, and close any programs or devices that may pose a distraction.
- Mute your microphone when not speaking on the record.
- Pick a room for the deposition that offers privacy, silence, and a strong internet connection.
3. Send, Request, and Review Documents in Advance
One of the biggest challenges of remote depositions has proven to be the exchange and distribution of documents. This includes exhibits, police reports, medical results, email communications, and other materials that are required by multiple parties. Due to the recent health restrictions and delays in shipping, sending and receiving materials well in advance has become more important than ever.
Although the use of electronic discovery documents is now considered standard, it’s still important to prepare, send, and review everything well in advance. Unlike in-person depositions where you can print or resend an electronic document with minimal delay, remote depositions do not allow for such last-minute workarounds. Sometimes participants may not have the required software or programs to access documents. In some cases, file sizes may prevent normal sharing.
No matter how confident you are that all necessary documents have been sent and received electronically, ask participants to check on their end. Doing so a day in advance will allow you to resend or request anything and prevent costly delays that derails your entire schedule for the week.
2. Perform a Test Run
Like ensuring all parties have the required electronic documents, it is vital you perform a test run well in advance to avoid any embarrassing, potentially damaging missteps during the actual discovery with opposing parties. A comprehensive test run with all involved individuals on your team will help relieve stress and force you to address any issues before game day:
- Become familiarized with the conferencing platform.
- Ensure your background and lighting are suitable.
- Help refine your scripted instructions.
- Guarantee everyone has the minimum system requirements, reliable internet access, and necessary software.
A full test run should include the use of all tools, technology, and features you will be using at the real deposition. This includes learning the conference platform basics of uploading documents, muting your audio, turning off your camera, and starting private chats.
1. Prepare Witnesses
In many cases, the entire deposition process is new to deponents. Performing it virtually just adds another layer of complexity and stress. That’s why it’s so important to prepare witnesses well in advance:
- Ensure they have the proper technology and internet speed.
- Remind them to dress professionally.
- Ask them to speak slowly, clearly, and with strong enunciation.
- Advise them where to sit for the best lighting and audio quality.
- Require their participation at a practice run (see above).
Remind them that no matter what their familiarity with online conferencing platforms, they probably have not encountered the one you’ll be using at the deposition. The entire legal proceeding will only go as well as the witness’s performance, so ensure they have all the training and support they need.
Ready to Prepare for a Career in Law?
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