In the last five years, roughly 20 percent of the available stenographic-based workforce has retired and within that same period of time, roughly 60 percent of the schools that teach new people how to become stenographic-based court reporters have closed, according to Alex Hewitt, Director of Operations for vTestify, a virtual-based deposition capture platform.
Hewitt spoke with Verbit to explore what he identifies as a huge problem facing the legal market – the available workforce able to service depositions and other types of services that require capturing litigation events is being tested.
“You see it more and more with different local courts that are having issues capturing the record. Obviously, that leads to delays in the court system and increased costs for clients that are trying to capture their litigation events,” he said.
vTestify aims to serve the market by providing a capture platform that enables digital reporters, court reporters and even stenographic-based reporters to separate capture from the production of the transcript, thus unbundling the workflow. vTestify then partners with Verbit for its transcription platform to provide clients with a complete service.
“By unbundling the workflow, you are able separate capture of a deposition from the production of the transcript. By doing that, you’re able to service more depositions, and that I think is at the heart of what vTestify is enabling,” he said.
Yet these new digital capture methods have received some push-back, mainly from a community of experienced stenographers.
“In terms of the industry and Verbit itself…it’s not that we’re trying to take stenographer jobs. I think that is a false narrative that I think is not healthy for the industry right now. I think it’s about evolving the industry,” he said.
vTestify and other digital capture platforms are admissible across the country. There are specific rules regarding capturing video or remote video conferencing, but typically they just require a simple mention within the notice of the deposition. Similarly, transcripts being produced through digital, innovative ways typically require a simple stipulation or notice requirement, dependent on the jurisdiction.
“I think what we’re starting to see is more and more states throughout the country that are adopting rules that it would just require a notice requirement if you will. I think that relates directly to the growing shortage,” Hewitt said.
Attorneys are realizing that they have options here. Plaintiffs’ attorneys often see the benefit of the costs saved with a digital process, because they’re often funding the cost of the deposition services and can greatly benefit from a less expensive option that helps them service clients without delay.
vTestify chose to partner with Verbit as its transcription partner for its expertise and specialization in legal, Hewitt said.
“In the end, a certified legal transcript has to be top-notch, it has to be as close to perfect as possible, because one word transcribed incorrectly could have huge consequences for a legal case… No one’s really been able to tackle legal quite to the sophistication that Verbit has been able to do, simply because of the way that the technology enables collaboration through the editor system, but also through specialization within legal. [Our clients have] been nothing but satisfied with the quality of the transcript [provided by Verbit]…I think within the margin of error, our transcripts are equal to stenographic based.”
In addition to Verbit’s editor system, Hewitt said individuals looking for transcript providers should look for partners that allow for collaborative editing of transcripts and the ability to submit notes into the automatic-speech-recognition machine prior to its use for improved accuracy. Hewitt also said his team greatly values the time saved by the capability of Verbit’s QA formatting, which prevents users from needing to manually fix the speaker identifies within the legal transcript.
Hewitt emphasized that when considering these digital capabilities all together, technology serves as a game changer. Separating the capture of a legal proceeding from the production of its transcript is a key solution to this market problem.
“vTestify as a capture platform and Verbit as your transcript platform compliment each other very well. We truly believe that kind of the complimentary nature in the end [will] actually start chipping away at this industry-wide problem that I started with.”