Many questions surrounding how to execute a remote digital deposition have surfaced in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 crisis. Lisa Dees, a digital court reporting expert, joined Verbit for a live webinar, Best Practices for Remote Digital Depositions, to provide our legal community with a step-by-step guide to executing virtual depositions.
Dees serves as the program manager at Justice AV Solutions (JAVS), which provides digital audio and video recording solutions for court reporting, as well as courtroom integration. Dees offered viewers a wealth of expertise, beginning her career as a stenographer and then transitioning into the digital reporting arena. Dees has served the courts, worked for the private sector and now lends that expertise to software development to help professionals as the industry evolves.
Dees was joined by Tony Sirna, legal strategist and customer success manager at Verbit, who highlighted the current market need for remote depositions with court closings, the suspension of procedures and an overall reduction in depositions due to social distancing measures.
The procedures and key points legal professionals should be aware of according to Dees can be found below, and the full webinar can be accessed here on-demand.
How do I get ready to conduct a remote appearance?
Dees shared the basic requirements needed for depositions, as well as noted that these same tactics and tools can be used for virtual court appearances. Court appearance requirements can vary state to state, so individuals should look to research and adhere to the rules of their respective court, she said.
To get started, professionals will need a recording software, such as Notewise by JAVS, a video conferencing platform, such as Zoom, a strong Internet connection, a laptop or a desktop computer, external speakers along with the built-in speakers for your laptop or your desktop computer, a mutable microphone and a webcam, preferably an HD camera.
It may seem intuitive, but Dees stressed that Internet connection is one of the most important pieces of this puzzle. She said she recommends using a wired connection if possible to avoid interference and for safety measures.
“You want a broadband wired or wireless, 3G or 4G/LTE. If you cannot use a wired connection and you have to use Wi-Fi, try and use a router that you set up that is specifically and solely for your connection. With kids homeschooling now, with everybody being stuck at home, we’re all sharing that Wi-Fi router. They’re streaming videos, they’re connecting to classrooms remotely, so if you can set up a second Wi-Fi router, do it. They’re easy to set up, they come with simple instructions, and just make sure not to share the information with anyone; that one’s yours,” she said.
Dees said a bandwidth of 2.5 megabits per second up/down is the minimum if you’re going to be recording video. She recommends doing a free Internet speed check using a tool like Ookla.
Dees went on to discuss the importance of capturing strong audio with speakers and microphones.
“Confidence monitoring is probably one of the most important things that we do as a digital reporter,” she said. It allows us to listen to the audio after it’s been written to disk. That’s how we get the confidence of the audio quality is the quality we need for the transcription team. So I can uniquely tell Notewise what speaker I want to monitor for my confidence monitoring. I’m going to choose to do that through a set of headphones, just like I would in person. Yet, I’m going to want to listen to the live audio from the Zoom video conference and I will send that to my USB or Bluetooth speaker. So to me, it’s going to be exactly how it is when I’m sitting in the room with them.”
Additional elements covered:
Dees went on to address the importance of redundancy, ensuring a backup recording. She also explored new tactics Zoom has put in place to ensure privacy and prevent “Zoom-bombing,” which can occur when people join other’s video conferencing uninvited. She also discussed the four settings unique to Notewise that allow it to properly record video conferences.
Exhibits were also top of mind for live viewers, including how to handle exhibits that are proprietary source code. Dees recommended this entry level program for digital exhibit stamps.
“Probably the No. 1 question I’m asked, if not the first question from everybody that I talk to about this, has to do with exhibits. How do we handle exhibits? First thing I’m going to say is get this settled before you get on the conference call. Get it resolved at the time that the attorney or the court is setting up with you to schedule the video appearance. Decide who’s going to be presenting the exhibits and how.”
Dees went into some of the ways this exhibit process can be completed, and stressed the importance of notations and deciding whether the attorney or the reporter is going to mark the exhibits ahead of time.
Addressing viewers’ live questions
Sirna and Dees also tackled the pressing questions of the legal professionals who attended live. They walked attendees through the process of ensuring witnesses aren’t being coached by someone off camera.
They were also asked to explain how JAVS and Verbit work together, noting that they serve two separate technology providers, one fulfilling the digital capture need and one fulfilling the transcription need.
“JAVS handles the remote capture of the proceeding or the digital capture of the proceeding. Verbit handles the transcription post-capture. It’s as simple as uploading the JAVS file. We do support the M4A file, which JAVS outputs that has multichannel… also, in standard MP3 as well and other formats. They’re independent in steps in the sense that JAVS precedes what you would do with Verbit,” Sirna said.
They were also asked about clients requesting video depositions in the current climate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Videographers are as important today as they were pre-virus stay-at-home orders,” Dees said. “I can say with confidence that they are a creative group and have already adjusted for the remote appearances to still be able to provide their services.”