Gathering virtually has become more pronounced and popular as a result of the novel time the world is experiencing. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there may not have been a focus on training new legal minds to function effectively in a virtual world; however, to continue being a productive lawyer, one must have a firm grasp on how to practice law in concert with the online, remote environment that exists. Virtual depositions and trials may initially have their challenges, but once the attorney masters the process and becomes confident with the technology, remote platforms can have several benefits.
New lawyers who are interested in honing their skills and becoming better advocates can find resources and support at The Skilled Advocate Company. Our passion is to help lawyers learn how to become better trial lawyers. To learn more about workshops and related advocacy services, call (561) 293-8510.
How Do Virtual Depositions and Trials Work?
Considering that virtual legal proceedings are not likely to go away anytime soon and will probably continue to be a widely used method for litigation practice, it may be worth taking the time to become familiar with how these legal proceedings work. Even if the pandemic is resolved, there is likely a substantial amount of evidence to indicate that legal proceedings may continue online, at least in some capacity. There are several aspects to consider when conducting virtual depositions and trials, including:
- Choosing the right equipment
- Picking a platform
- Meeting with a certified legal videographer and excellent stenographer
- Determining who will swear in witnesses
- Securing tech support
- Displaying and categorizing exhibits properly
Choosing the Right Equipment
Every attorney should have a reliable computer, tablet, or laptop that has a webcam and a strong internet connection. Many home internet services tend to be viable enough to keep a secure and strong connection. To be sure that your connectivity is stable, it is important to consider engaging in a practice session to ensure that all of your equipment works properly. Rental options may be available for clients who do not have access to suitable equipment.
Review the steps before the actual deposition to ensure that each party involved has working equipment, appropriate internet strength, and sufficient comfort within the virtual environment. To allow the real event to run as smoothly as possible, provide guidance on how to actually operate within the virtual platform in the following ways:
- Instruct participants to proceed calmly and wait a short time after a question is presented before answering to keep communication clear, reduce the chances of talking over other parties, and give the lawyers the opportunity to object if needed
- Acknowledge that lag can happen
- Practice questioning to help witnesses feel more at ease with the process
Picking a Platform
There are several virtual platforms that can be utilized to facilitate a secure remote deposition. Typically, the chosen platform will provide a unique link that all parties will receive along with directions for use. Within the platform, participants may have access to the following features:
- Video on or off
- Participants list
- Screen sharing
- Background blurring
- Breakout rooms for private, closed meetings
- Access to real-time court reporting transcripts
- Scheduling options
Make sure that all parties understand all of the platform features, and feel comfortable using them.
Meeting with a Certified Legal Videographer
To be admissible in court, a certified legal videographer must be present to manage a deposition. This individual will be responsible for informing all parties when they will be speaking both on and off the record. Sometimes, an attorney will want the video to look a specific way to benefit their client. In this case, connect with the videographer prior to the deposition to discuss any style preferences. Consider visiting with The Skilled Advocate Company to learn tips regarding the best ways to use a legal videographer and stenographer.
Determining Who Will Swear in Witnesses
As with in-person hearings, witnesses must be sworn in for a virtual proceeding. The Association for Court Reporters and Captioners explains that every state has its own laws for remote notarization or oath administration. Often, the court reporter will be able to swear in the witnesses, but this is not always the case. In the absence of implicit laws indicating who is acceptable, the parties involved in the case can all agree that either a notary or court reporter will be acceptable.
Securing Technical Support
Virtual organizers often offer technical support to quickly resolve any problems that arise. Securing any included and/or backup tech support in advance can help to further the ultimate goal of conducting an uninterrupted hearing.
One of the benefits of the virtual option for legal proceedings is the ability to share exhibits electronically. Attorneys can choose to present exhibits themselves, have an assistant present them, or utilize a deposition manager to share the exhibits. The technology surrounding virtual exhibits can prove to be challenging, and it is important to understand both the advantages and challenges of presenting exhibits virtually.
Benefits of Virtual Legal Proceedings
Some lawyers may experience a learning curve when it comes to mastering litigation in a virtual setting. Training and support for operating in this unique environment can help. The Skilled Advocate Company can assist lawyers in improving their online skills and furthering their ability to adapt to this alternate workspace.
Once the virtual process is understood, all parties involved can realize unique benefits. First, there is no need to travel to and from hearings. This is particularly helpful for witnesses who have limited transportation options, live far from the courthouse, or strained finances. Second, because the sessions are virtual, there is no mask requirement to hinder counsel’s ability to read a witness. Third, the convenience and accessibility of virtual proceedings can mean an overall substantial time and cost savings for all parties.
Learn More About How To Be Effective During Virtual Legal Depositions and Trials
Virtual depositions and trials are a new reality of the legal profession that attorneys will need to engage in at some point during their career. According to the findings reported by the United States Federal Judiciary, several judges have concluded that virtual proceedings are fair and efficient, paving the way for more and more digital technology and virtual proceedings to enter into the litigation process.
If you are a new lawyer who is unfamiliar with these types of legal processes, or an experienced attorney who wants to enhance their legal skills through training and support, consider calling The Skilled Advocate Company. To learn more about co-council, advocacy, and mentoring services, call (561) 293-8510 today.