Grandparents chat face to face with grandkids over iPhones. Facebook users broadcast live from concerts and games. Pundits Skype into CNN every day. Yet we lawyers still fly around the country with our legal pads to conduct depositions in person? Why? It’s costing us time, energy, and money.
Remote depositions, conducted via videoconference, put lawyers and deponents “face to face” across wide distances. The sessions can include electronic exhibits and a streaming real-time feed from the reporter. In addition to being more efficient, remote depositions can yield output that’s more effective with clients, juries, and judges.
While not applicable for every deposition, here are a few reasons to consider leveraging remote technology for some of your depositions:
Deliver better value to your client – Flying around the country, or internationally, for depositions is costly for your client. Essential witnesses should be deposed in person, but for shorter depositions or nonessential witnesses, remote depositions can be very effective.
Productivity – A four-hour deposition in another state could turn into a 48-hour ordeal if you sleep over on either end of the journey. The time, along with sleep loss, running to airports, waiting in airports, packing and unpacking, constitutes a lot of lost productivity for your firm. (The courts enable remote participation by attorneys, expert witnesses, interpreters, and treatment providers as well as child victims and inmates.)
Client insights – Insurers and other corporate clients want to know they’re settling cases at the right time and the right amount. Remote attendance gives your clients a great way to gauge the credibility of the witness and whether they should settle.
Subject matter experts can collaborate – One of the most effective ways to leverage remote deposition technology is when you have a lawyer and witness facing each other in the same room and subject matter experts linking in from afar. They can actively join the deposition or participate behind the scenes via secure, undiscoverable chat.
Work/life balance – We assisted an attorney who needed to take several depositions before she went on her maternity leave. Her doctor wouldn’t let her travel so late in the pregnancy. So, using remote deposition technology, for a straight week she took eight-hour depositions for a big case from her office in Phoenix, with the opposing counsel, witness, and court reporter in our Boston office. It worked out well for both the attorney and for her client, who saw savings in the process.
If you lead a claims department or corporate legal team, you know how important witness credibility can be to determining the proper outcome of a case. Consider the value to your settlement strategy of seeing witnesses with your own eyes (and knowing you’re saving on time and travel as well).
If you’re a lawyer, take a hard look at all of the deposition costs you incur, and see how much of that stems from traveling to be with the deponent. Then ask yourself how often that in-person experience is truly critical to your client and case.
Finally, don’t worry so much about the technology learning curve. The associates who are typically conducting depositions are naturals with the technology. They grew up with it, and it’s the way they like to work.