By Adam Weaver, Alaris Managing Director
Videoconferencing has come a long way since its inception, reducing travel costs and providing greater efficiency in the discovery phase of litigation.
Via videoconferencing, you can depose witnesses in remote locations. In addition, other parties in disparate locations can also attend. This technology offers a virtual face-to-face experience, making it a handy alternative to the time-consuming hassle and added expense of travel.
In over two decades of providing videoconference services, we have come across all kinds of situations. As a result, we offer the following tips, to help ensure that your next videoconference goes smoothly.
- Videoconference location - Most court reporting firms can secure videoconference locations for you. Many of the videoconferencing platforms now have apps that allow you to bridge a connection, enabling attendance from three or more locations. Prior to the deposition, your court reporting firm should run a connection test on the devices that will be hosting the videoconference to ensure a flawless connection.
On the off chance a location can’t be secured, mobile videoconferencing is an option. All it requires is a wi-fi connection and a device such as your laptop with webcam, tablet or phone.
- Reporter location – It’s optimal to have the court reporter in the witness’s location. This ensures that the reporter will be in the best possible position to create a clear and accurate record of testimony. It also enables the reporter to administer the oath in person.
If circumstances dictate that the reporter attend remote from the witness, you should check the local rules in regard to administering the oath. If there is a prohibition against doing so remotely, a mobile notary could be scheduled to administer the oath to the witness onsite.
- Video recording - A common misconception about videoconferencing is that a video record is also being made, but that is not necessarily the case. If you desire video recording, please be sure to make specific arrangements for a legal videographer to be present with the witness. Alternatively, depending on the program used, the videoconference platform may feature a recording function. Check with your videoconference service provider to ensure you receive the deliverable you desire.
- Time zones – Keep in mind the time zone of the witness as well as that of attendees in other locations, to ensure that everyone involved is aware of the proper start time. Wait time can quickly become expensive, especially when deposing an expert witness or dealing with a space that’s being rented by the hour.
- Exhibits - Prepare your exhibits ahead of time. Since you’ll be attending the deposition from a remote location, you won’t have the benefit of asking your legal assistant to make a copy for you to hand to the witness.
Consult with the court reporting firm ahead of time regarding exhibits. Oftentimes they can produce the exhibits locally to provide to the witness.
Many of the new videoconferencing platforms also allow you to show and share documents electronically, a useful tool when you’re working with a limited number of exhibits or if a last-minute exhibit is needed.
- Arrival - Allow yourself ample time to get situated prior to the deposition. Showing up early allows you to review your notes, organize your exhibits, get the lay of the land, and communicate any last-minute “good to knows” to the reporter.
- Visual distractions – Be mindful of the wall behind you. “Busy” wallpaper, mirrors, glass walls or windows can divert the attention of the witness. Because the witness will be able to see you, remember to dress professionally. Make sure your witness is dressed professionally as well.
Just like a video-recorded deposition, the videoconference will highlight your body language. Attendees can see everything that you do, so avoid working on other tasks, eating, fidgeting, or other distracting behaviors.
Bottom line, advance planning and good communication with your court reporting firm are the keys to a successful videoconference deposition.