The Covid-19 pandemic has flipped the court reporting industry upside down. Before 2020 roughly 95% of depositions were conducted with all participants in the same room, everyone sitting around a physical conference table. Flash forward to this year and now well over 80% of depositions are conducted with all participants remote. Accomplishing this shift towards remote has required a rapid increase in digital transformation. For a remote matter to go off without a hitch, everyone needs to be prepared with the right technology, internet connection, platform, and procedures. One poorly prepared participant can lead to burdensome delays. Don’t be that person.
Here are 12 tips, tricks, and best practices for attorneys using vTestify to help with your digital transformation journey towards remote.
1. Run the connection test as early as possible before the deposition – this is imperative for the witness. While connection issues are rare, the single best thing you can do to prevent delay of proceedings is to run the quick self-serve connection test. Doing so a day, or even a few hours, before your matter begins will allow for time to troubleshoot in the event an issue is discovered. Discovering a connection issue five minutes before the start of deposition can be a deeply stressful and disruptive experience. The good news is that it is completely avoidable with a connection test that would only take 5 minutes of your time to verify there are no problems. After all, the most important thing to focus on is the matter at hand, not the technology platform.
2. Close unnecessary programs and browser tabs to optimize computer resources. Not only will this reduce any potential for your computer to freeze up, but it will also reduce outside distractions while the deposition is ongoing. This is especially important if you are running on an older computer.
3. Consider using headphones to reduce potential audio echo issues. Now that remote video conferences are the new normal, we all know the usual suspects of audio feedback. These issues usually arise in the webcam hardware that is being used, such as an older, or less sophisticated webcam. You can identify this person by noticing if their audio indicator is activated while not actually speaking. If your computer often causes audio echo issues in other platforms, it will be important that you wear a set of headphones to eliminate this feedback loop for your remote deposition. This will help the court reporter capture the record without any additional inconvenience.
4. Exhibits may be stamped and labeled at the time of being shared onto the record. A common problem with assembling ad-hoc tools, such as a multi-purpose video conference platform and generic document repository, is that exhibits are either stamped before or after the matter. This QA process of exhibits adds burdensome delay and can lead to service delivery bottlenecks. vTestify allows you to quickly stamp on the fly. We even see attorneys stamping their own exhibits.
5. PDFs with large file sizes can be reduced with Adobe’s free compression tool. Google search “Adobe free PDF compression.” While vTestify accepts large file sizes, it can be helpful to the court reporter to compress the size of your file for documents over 90 MB. In post-production, the exhibits will be combined into a single PDF and hyperlinked to specific mentions within the transcript. However, the software that performs the hyperlinking has max file size restrictions resulting in added time processing your transcript, or the exhibits not being linked to the transcript.
6. Microsoft Office files automatically convert to PDF upon upload. This will save you time doing the tedious work of manually converting files to PDF after the deposition has concluded. Additionally, Office files convert into a pixel perfect rendering that optimizes the view for digital platform. Excel files will scale the page dimensions so that a whole tab will occupy one page, optimizing the presentation of digital exhibits.
7. Identify yourself while stating objections to assist the court reporter. This advice is especially relevant for complex litigation with a large number of participants on the remote deposition. If numerous parties are orderly objecting, it will help the court reporter to state your last name and objection to reduce the level of multi-tasking needed to process the sound of unique voices while capturing the record.
8. Remain muted while not speaking. This is a common courtesy for all video conference meetings, but essential for remote depositions. By this point in the pandemic, we should all have a lot of practice with the mute button. For remote depositions, you have to consider that someone is carefully listening and transcribing as fast as humans speak. This is much more difficult in a remote environment because of the potential for audio interference. Do your part to help the court reporter and your remote deposition will run smoothly.
9. Avoid speaking over other participants to reduce transcript crosstalk inaudibles. If people speak at the same time in the same room, the human ear can easily focus our attention on a specific speaker, and the court reporter will be able to capture what the witness is saying. In a remote environment, this becomes much more difficult because of the principles of auditory scene analysis. vTestify has built-in speaker isolation to help with transcript scoping, but reducing the need to rely on speaker separation technology will result in faster transcript delivery.
10. Use headphones to playback the ScriptSync audio redundancy privately during a deposition. With ScriptSync, you or a colleague could review testimony audio clips while the deposition is ongoing. However, you will likely not want to disrupt the ongoing matter. In order to play the clips privately, you will need a set of headphones.
11. Picture in Picture Mode: right-click witness video, select “Picture in Picture,” then set your exhibit to full screen. This mode will give you a highly focused view of only the witness and the exhibit being presented. Being able to pick up on nonverbal micro-expressions will help simulate the experience of the same room deposition.
12. OCR your documents prior to uploading to enable keyword searching within your exhibit. vTestify makes it easy to be able to search within your exhibits to quickly draw attention to a specific page within the document. The search parameters will list each mention of the entered keyword or phrase, including the context around the word to streamline your exhibit experience.
Here is a helpful infographic summarizing the tips we’ve covered above.