Legal Practices: Remote Depositions During a Pandemic

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The legal profession was one of the badly hit sectors due to the global pandemic. Many businesses concerned with legal proceedings had to adapt to the circumstances. As the world recovers, certain innovations have propelled the legal profession forward.   The introduction of remote depositions was a game-changer. This helped move cases along despite the lockdown protocols in other states. This technology has proven to be useful for legal professionals, especially for experienced court reporters.

What Is A Deposition?

When a witness, known as a deponent, provides a sworn testimony out-of-court, that is a deposition. This helps lawyers gather information during the discovery process. In some cases, depositions are also used during the trial itself. There are generally two types of depositions: oral and written. Oral Deposition The deposition process is usually prompted and supervised by the parties involved. The deponent, attorneys of both parties, and a qualified person who administers oaths are the only people involved in this process. The process is usually recorded by a stenographer.

All parties may question the witness. The ability of a lawyer to object to questions directed towards the deponent is limited. Lawyers are also unable to coach the testimony of their clients. Depositions are often inadmissible at trial because courts regard them as hearsay evidence.

There are three general exceptions to the rules for hearsay. First is when a party admits something during a deposition that might be against their interest. The second is if there’s a contradiction between a witness’s testimony at a trial and deposition. The last exception is when a witness is unavailable at trial. Written Deposition In this type of deposition, parties submit written questions to the witness in advance. The deponent may only answer these submitted questions alone. The lawyers of both parties are also not required to attend written depositions.

It is often difficult to ask a witness for a follow up on their written statements. This is one of the downsides of this particular type of deposition. Interrogatories, which need more organized answers, are better alternatives to written depositions.

Remote Depositions

Given the unfortunate circumstances of the global pandemic, remote depositions were introduced. These are usually conducted through videoconferencing platforms. It helped attorneys to proceed with cases in the absence of hearings and trials. Breaking Boundaries For many, this technology proved to be reliable and easy to use. It requires the smallest technological competencies to take part in remote depositions. You just have to know how to access your device’s camera and microphone. In case of technical difficulties, court reporting firms usually have consultants on standby.

The low availability of court reporters during the onset of COVID-19 affected the work of litigators. With remote depositions, court reporters can now be readily contacted no matter where they are. Although, there are also many factors to consider in making the deposition process smoother for all the people involved.

Complications with the audio and video devices can make a court reporter’s job much more difficult. Coupled with slow internet connections, creating records that are verbatim can be challenging. Participants who engage in crosstalk over the video will also leave reporters guessing to identify who said what. As much as possible, everyone should be cooperative during the remote deposition process. Unusual Predicaments This drastic shift in the legal process is also bound to experience some criticism. One of the primary concerns for remote depositions is online security. These fears are understandable given the unfamiliarity of people with the internet’s technicalities.

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There is no actual security risk when doing video conferencing. The participants need only take the necessary precautions of keeping their credentials safe. Likewise, it’s important for them to keep their applications, programs, and software up-to-date. These are usually very straightforward to do.   Remote depositions have also removed personal interactions with a witness. This is a crucial aspect. Lawyers judge a witness’s credibility during the deposition process. Being able to assess this can have a considerable impact on their client’s case.

The inability of lawyers to interact with witnesses in-person is a huge impediment. To address this, jury research and consulting companies are developing new technologies and services. They are looking into facial expression and emotional analytics to gauge credibility. Social media investigation is also in consideration.

The innovation of remote depositions has definitely driven the legal profession forward. Legal professionals often rely on traditional methods to perform their tasks. Integrating technology will help to improve various processes.

Many people expect remote depositions, particularly, to become common practice. All in hopes of bettering the discovery process. Suffice it to say, at least something good came out of the global pandemic.

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