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Remote vs. In-Person Depositions

March 23, 2022

Court Reporting

Weighing Your Options: Tips for Deciding Between Remote and In-Person Depositions

As we all know, COVID upended the legal world and those impacts continue to be felt. Today we are all hoping the worst of the pandemic is behind us and we can get back to some kind of normalcy – but in the legal world, and specifically the deposition landscape, what does that mean? At Lexitas, we are seeing that some depositions are returning to in-person, but many are staying remote. In a recent survey by the Cowen Group, 100% of firms now using virtual depositions said they would continue to use them post-pandemic. This indicates that attorneys need to be prepared to deploy a hybrid approach to their depositions. 

There are benefits to each approach so here is a quick guide to evaluating specific needs of your case and witness to determine if a deposition should be taken in person or remotely. 

 

Top 3 Advantages To Remote Depositions

Top 3 Advantages To In-Person Depositions

Save time and money Critical witness/bet the company case
Speed up discovery schedules Reduces the possibility of witness coaching
Protect medically vulnerable participants Better ability to build rapport/assess credibility


When to consider remote depositions

Perhaps the most compelling reason to continue to take depositions remotely, even post-pandemic, is cost. Remote removes all travel costs, and attorneys find they can conduct more depositions in a short amount of time. Susman Godfrey trial lawyer Andres C. Healy’s team conducted 15 virtual depositions in one three-week span due to Covid-19 and found that they reduced costs by up to one-third. As we all know once your clients get used to these kinds of cost reductions it can be difficult to go back. Going remote with your depositions can also speed up discovery schedules by reducing scheduling conflicts with the other side. 

Another reason to consider remote deposition is the court reporter shortage. There is a severe shortage of court reporters in the United States. STTI reports that 1,120 stenographers retire every year while only 200 enter the field each year. At the same time, the litigation market continues to grow year over year. What does this have to do with remote? Court reporters can take more depositions in a day if they work remotely. So, you may choose to go remote if a court reporter isn’t available in person on your desired date and time. 

The in-person advantage

On the other hand, nothing beats an in-person deposition for critical witnesses in bet-the-company cases or if you’ve got an adversarial opposing counsel and have concerns about witness coaching. Many attorneys also report that they can build rapport and assess credibility more easily in person. And of course, the possibility of computer glitches goes way down – if you have a witness who struggles with technology or internet connectivity then in-person should be considered. Another situation where being in-person is preferable is when a witness requires an interpreter. A deposition can certainly be taken remotely with an interpreter but it is preferable to be in person in this situation. Lengthy depositions are also better done in person – no one wants to sit on a videoconference for 7 hours a day, it is just too exhausting. 

Conclusion

Whether it is COVID or something else, disruptions will continue to happen that may prevent in-person depositions and due to cost and time constraints, it is widely believed that some portion of depositions will remain virtual. The smart move right now is to evaluate the specific needs of your witnesses and cases and determine if you and your client are better served by an in-person or remote proceeding. 

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Brenda Keith

Chief Marketing Officer

Since 1995, Brenda Keith has worked in marketing for some of the leading companies in the litigation support industry. From eDiscovery to court reporting to trial support, Brenda’s entire career has been focused on driving scalable, predictable revenue growth in the legal service vertical.

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