Are Remote Depositions Here to Stay?

Are Remote Depositions Here to Stay?

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to substantial changes in the legal industry. Courts across the country are cancelling in-person hearings and depositions, and instead, choosing virtual meetings on online platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco WebEx, and GoToMeeting.

As new coronavirus cases continue to emerge and with the risk of mutations and future pandemics, social distancing seems like the only way forward, at least for the foreseeable future. In addition to a large number of companies and organizations going remote, now the US legal system has also started favoring remote depositions.

Why Remote Depositions Will Work in 2021

In the beginning of 2020, nobody could have predicted that a viral outbreak would claim the lives of over 2 million people and disrupt the global economies all within the span of a few months. In other words, we were not prepared for social distancing. Neither were the traditionally-sized court rooms. This is where remote depositions and court proceedings have saved the day.

To avoid the entire US legal system crashing to a halt, courts and attorneys have learned to adapt. The Florida Supreme Court issued an Administrative Order in March ’20, allowing the use of remote technologies to conduct legal proceedings. This order permits litigants to use tools such as Skype and Zoom to depose and swear-in the witnesses remotely.

Other courts were quick to follow in the footsteps of Florida, and similar orders have been issued by courts throughout the country. While remote depositions were born out of a necessity, they have certainly resulted in significant benefits for attorneys as well as their clients. It wouldn’t be surprising if this new trend remains even after the pandemic comes to an end.

The Practical Benefits of Remote Depositions

Here are a few reasons why remote streaming depositions may become the new norm going forward:

Reduced Travel Expenses

Litigation is expensive, period. The time and cost of travel for several attorneys to take depositions can add up quickly. Remote deposition, on the other hand, allows law firms to reduce the number of attorneys needing to travel to conduct in-person depositions.

No Risk of Travel Delays 

To say that attorneys are a busy bunch will be an understatement. With jam-packed calendars and long working hours, a lawyer’s schedule has little to no margin for error. So, any travel delay due to, say, an airplane mechanical problems or winter storms, can wreak havoc on their billable hours and productivity. Not to mention the major inconvenience of having to cancel an important deposition.

Since remote streaming technology offers an important back-up option for attorneys to participate from any location as long as they have internet, it completely eliminates the possibility of delays.

Better Training Tool for Young Associates

The majority of legal firms invest in cultivating the litigation skills of their junior litigators or associates. The preferred way to do this has always been to send these young lawyers to attend depositions conducted by the senior attorneys in the firm. This is obviously an expensive and time-consuming process that the firms have had to undergo, without any guarantee of returns.

With remote depositions, it’s become much simpler and cheaper. Now the firms can mentor and train their newest law firm associates by simply allowing them to watch the live stream from their offices or homes and take notes for future discussions. Similarly, the senior firm partners can watch the young associates in action during the depositions and evaluate their skills while sharing valuable insights.

Opportunity to Accomplish More

Remote depositions also help optimize a lawyer’s productivity – they can be present for more than one deposition scheduled in a single day, in a different state or even a different country. With no need to travel between multiple locations, litigators can now cover more ground without working themselves to the bone.

Key Takeaways

Many attorneys have become used to conducting remote depositions in the past few months. They now know that the ability to separate parties into rooms, and the entire screen-sharing technology as a whole, can lead to a remote deposition that’s simply more efficient than an in-person one.

And attorneys are not the only ones who are reaping the benefits of remote depositions. Clients have also observed that conducting a deposition over a remote streaming platform can lead to significant cost savings. With no travel, accommodation, food, or office services expenses, remote depositions are a lot cheaper and faster as well.

Another interesting thing to note is that court reporting services and other third-party vendors have also created a new source of income with remote depositions. To accommodate parties and attorneys who either can’t travel or don’t want to travel for an in-person deposition, many such vendors are offering remote services.

Considering all the benefits to the parties involved, there is less reason for courts to require in-person swearing in and depositions. But only time will tell whether this new way to conduct legal proceedings will become a permanent thing.

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