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Corporate counsel, outside attorneys teaming up for better depositions

As general counsel, you typically let your outside attorneys manage your cases. You can’t be everywhere at once and only have so much bandwidth to monitor each discrete activity—from the initiation of a suit through judgment—in each of the dozens or hundreds of matters on your plate.

In a perfect world, you’d attend every deposition of every important witness. You would participate in the questioning, deftly detecting credibility issues, presentation flaws, and knowledge gaps. You would work closely with outside counsel to refine your strategy accordingly, ultimately making better decisions about whether to settle, when to settle, and what potential witnesses to enlist for your side.

Well, the world isn’t perfect yet, but it’s headed in that direction.

A growing number of corporate counsel are attending depositions remotely, via videoconference, watching—and in some cases helping—their outside attorneys question opponents’ expert witnesses. They’re assessing these hired guns with their own eyes and, I certainly think, achieving better outcomes.

Consider, say, a pharmaceutical products liability case where your opponent’s expert witness, a biochemist, is being deposed about the potential side effects of a drug your company manufactures. The biochemist’s words are credible enough, but he’s rumpled, introverted, and presents as an advocate rather than an impartial expert witness. Will a jury trust him, like him, and buy into his assertions? By attending remotely, you can see the witness live and make the call.

This is the texture you miss if you’re not in the room. By attending remotely – dialing into a videoconference – you effectively are in the room. You can do everything but question the witness yourself. With the right technology, you’ll see and hear on your own computer a video stream of the deponent testifying. You’ll also see a real-time transcript as the court reporter captures it, which you’ll be able to highlight and annotate. You’ll have a chat window where you can send non-discoverable messages to your counsel as they depose. You can also chat with other parties who have dialed into the conference. After the session, you’ll be able to capture a key 60-second clip from the proceedings and send it your CEO.

With depositions being the new trial and “bet-the-company” litigation increasing, remote depositions are an important new capability that can save your company money, safeguard its reputation, or, in the case of bet-the-company litigation, maybe even save the company entirely.

We’ve seen 20 percent year-over-year growth in remote depositions over the past three years. More and more corporate counsel are asking us about this technology, having heard good things by word of mouth.

Yet, we know there are corporate counsel out there who haven’t jumped in. If you or your outside counsel are on the fence about this technology, I’d say two things to convince you that this is the right decision at key moments in litigation. First, if you can operate a PC, and it has a webcam, you can painlessly host a remote deposition. It’s all done through the cloud. Secondly, I’ve found that in practice, the remote deposition process encourages a collaboration between corporate and outside counsel.

You may have seen glimpses of remote deposition technology on “Suits” or “The Good Wife.” Those TV shows are fiction, but the value is real. When you can’t be everywhere at once, being there remotely can be the next best thing.


Michael Saltman

Mike has over two decades of experience growing and leading businesses in the litigation management arena. He has specific expertise in litigation management, deposition services, insurance claims and law department operations helping corporate clients grow the bottom line.