Everything You Need to Know About a Remote Deposition
15 November 2022

Everything You Need to Know About a Remote Deposition

Until recently, a vast majority of depositions were conducted in person. Many litigators rarely or never participated in remote depositions if given the option. However, everything changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lawyers were forced to adapt quickly to the changing world; the only option was to take advantage of remote working technologies. However, these tools were intended to be used only temporarily. 

But law firms and court reporters have adopted permanent software solutions to save cost and convenience. So now, everyone in the justice system can leverage technology to lower litigation costs and efficiently manage court processes.

Also, it's not always possible or convenient to gather all parties together for a deposition at a physical location. But, again, with the rapid advancement of technology, attorneys no longer have to travel the distance to depose witnesses. Virtual depositions have become a staple for pretrial discovery practice, saving time, money, and travel stress.

What Are Remote Depositions?

Depositions are an essential part of the discovery process in a litigation case. It involves taking the sworn, out-of-court oral testimony of witnesses. Usually, it occurs at the office of the court reporter or at one of the law firms involved in the case. All participating parties are required to be physically present during the proceeding. This was the case until remote depositions were introduced.

The Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(4) provides that “parties may stipulate-or the court may on motion order that a deposition be taken by telephone or other remote means.” In line with this provision, the legal profession has been forced to conduct depositions by video conference.

Remote depositions are conducted on a platform agreed to by the parties. This includes lawyers, court reporters, witnesses, and other parties involved in the case. They are not required to be physically present in the same location when the deposition is taken.

Some lawyers use software like Zoom videoconferencing, Webex meetings, etc. However, using a technology platform specifically designed for remote depositions is best. With live remote video depositions, all participants can connect to secure, reliable videoconferencing software from their computers or mobile devices from anywhere in the world.

During the deposition, witnesses may not communicate with anyone except through the platform. They are restricted from using gestures, handwritten communication, test messaging, emails, or instant messaging. If technical difficulties ensue, which makes the completion of the remote deposition impracticable, proceedings can be resumed at a mutually agreed date.

Are There Benefits to Remote Depositions?

Remote depositions may not always be the best way to depose witnesses. However, they offer great benefits over in-person depositions. Some of these include the following:

  • You can depose witnesses worldwide, including expert witnesses who would have had to travel.
  • It is easier and more convenient as participating parties do not need to travel to court in person. Thus, remote deposition saves litigants significant money on travel expenses and attorneys fees.
  • Remote depositions allow lawyers to capture testimony for witnesses living in high-risk areas where traveling is not advised.
  • Opting for remote depositions improves your chances of securing court reporter coverage. It also reduces the likelihood of delays and unavailability. 
  • A remote deposition is a clear choice for legal document-sharing capabilities and accurate and complete transcripts.
  • Again, participating in virtual depositions trims litigation costs and increases case management efficiency. In addition, this helps improve your client's relationships and sets you apart from your competition.
  • With recorded video depositions, lawyers can capture witnesses' responses and opposing counsel’s reactions. This also includes gestures and facial expressions.
  • It can be conducted anywhere with a suitable recording device and a reliable internet connection. This allows attorneys to be more productive, take on more business, and better serve their clients.
  • Finally, when conducted on a purpose-built technology platform, remote depositions yield digital deliverables that can be stored and easily accessible when needed. Thus, all exhibits, videos, documents, and transcripts can be available on one platform, reducing the risk of being lost or misplaced.

The Disadvantages of Remote Depositions

While there are great advantages of virtual depositions, it still has their drawbacks and limitations. For example, accidental screen sharing during depositions can cause embarrassment and adversely affect proceedings. In addition, one can accidentally share their browser history, private photos, etc.

Also, most video conferencing platforms are unstable, which can be stressful for all participating parties. Unless the deposition is held on a platform built explicitly for that purpose, it may be difficult to perform certain functions. It can also give rise to potential security complications.

For court reporters, it may be difficult to type, sort files, manage the computer, or facilitate other aspects of the proceedings simultaneously. So, there is a potential for things to be missed, omitted, or mismanaged, except the remote deposition is handled by experienced court reporters.

Essential Tips for Conducting a Successful Remote Deposition

Preparation for the challenges associated with virtual depositions is key to a successful proceeding. Therefore, consider the checklist below before your next remote deposition.

  • Practice in advance with the same technology that will be used during the deposition proceeding.
  • Ensure that all parties have the technology to participate effectively in the deposition. 
  • Plan ahead to remove all outside influences that can disrupt the flow of proceedings. So pick a quiet place void of distractions.
  • If you plan to use exhibits, have them open and arranged in the order you plan on using them.
  • Ensure to check your local rules to determine if your state requires a stipulation to permit a court reporter or law firm to conduct a remote deposition.
  • Virtual depositions can run longer than in-person depositions, so it's helpful to set out time limits for the proceeding.

Final Thoughts

Today, a large percentage of cases are settled before trial. Hence, expertise in conducting remote depositions is important due to rapid technological change.

Virtual depositions are convenient and allow for easy access to exhibits, case files, and media. But first, ensure you use a technology platform specifically designed for remote depositions.