Leveling the Playing Field
April 5, 2021
This past year many of us have learned to work in many different ways, and from many different settings. Change can be challenging, with some trial and error. One positive thing that our attorney-clients have told us is that the need for zoom meetings and remote depositions, to keep cases moving forward, have allowed them to work with experts throughout the United States, without the difficulty of scheduling coordination or the expense of travel. Like many in the workforce, trial lawyers have been called on to be resilient as they remain dedicated to their pursuit of justice. Remote depositions have allowed cases to continue to progress, and have left a favorable impression that zoom meetings and remote depositions may be here to stay.
Below Are Some Best Practices For Conducting A Remote Deposition:
1. Prior to the deposition be specific about the location of the witness and the court reporter. The notice should also specify the video conference platform to be used and the specific link.
2. Check connection points, speed, and audio quality prior to deposition, and be prepared to provide a webcam, if necessary.
3. During the actual deposition, slow down your presentation or questions, since video conferencing has lag time and speak clearly. Limit background noise. Agree to the parameters of the deposition ahead of time, and consider reserving all objections until the end of the deposition, so only one party speaks at a time.
Remote Deposition Preparation Tips for You and Your Videographer
As an attorney, the recorded video created from the remote deposition can be a great tool for you to use in your case. Some tips to ensure you are able to get the most out of the video include:
- Determine your goal for the deposition at the outset. Do you expect to play the video at trial? Then you will want to review the rules of evidence that apply to depositions in your jurisdiction. If you plan to use the deposition in order to jumpstart the settlement process, you may have additional freedom in making your plans.
- Know what you want in the final product. Will you need subtitles? Chapter headings? Translation from or to another language displayed on the screen along with the testimony? An interpreter? It is important to figure out your requirements in advance and discuss them with your deposition videography company so the right equipment and personnel will be on hand for deposition day—and the right editing technology will be available afterward to create the video presentation you need to win your case.
- Get the right location. Sure, it is conventional to gather everyone around a big table; just make sure the room you rent has plenty of floor space to accommodate all the video equipment and to allow the videographer freedom to move about to focus on the current speaker.
- Consider the use of exhibits very carefully. How a witness interacts with specific physical objects can become part of a compelling deposition video and can be crucial in getting your point across to the jury. Tiny objects or even paper documents may need to be enlarged so the camera can capture details. You may need to advise your videographer in advance of potential glare off shiny surfaces, such as metallic items or laminated documents. If you are going to have a remote video deposition, it may be helpful to discuss your exhibits with your court reporting firm and videographer prior to the deposition so everyone is prepared, and the documents are not too much of a challenge or slow down your pace and rhythm.
- Limit Audio Interference – Background noise can be extremely irritating and distracting for both the witness and the viewer. Some tips that can make a big difference in sound quality include:
- Turn off cell phones and any other unnecessary technology.
- Avoid placing papers near or against microphones. Check with the videographer for proper microphone placement.
- Instruct essential parties to remain silent during questioning.
- Limit “talk-overs” by taking turns speaking.
- Remote Deposition Preparation Tips for Your Witness
As with any testimony, remote deposition witness preparation is essential to controlling—as much as possible—how a testimony will play out. The preparation period lets the expert witness get comfortable with how you will question him; at the same time, you are also giving the expert witness reassurance and allowing them to be prepared for what may be in store from the opposing counsel.
In essence, it is a time for both you and your expert witness to reach a mutual understanding on how to compose and deliver honest testimony in the most compelling way for the court and jury.
When preparing an expert witness for a remote deposition, it is important to make sure they understand the need to present themselves as responsible, confident, and trustworthy. Before your expert witness is placed in front of the camera, advise them to remember to:
- Speak clearly
- Ask questions to clarify what they are being asked before answering
- Give concise, specific, and truthful answers
- Dress appropriately
- Stay alert for double negatives from an opposing counsel trying to confuse you.
Power, innovation, and intellect have allowed smaller firms to represent and seek justice for more clients with less overhead. It is affordable for small firms to operate more efficiently, and helps even the playing field.
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