The Perils of the Video-Conference Deposition

by Chad Lieberman on July 20, 2012

The video-conference deposition itself sounds like a great idea.  After all, we were supposed to have flying cars and robot maids by now.  However, the reality of video-conference deposition reveals many, many challenges.

The first and most obvious challenge is the technology. Through trial and error, I would always suggest using a court reporter’s office, which should be properly equipped to handle the video feed.  The onus is therefore on the hired court reporting firm to have working equipment.  Otherwise, should you use your own conference room and your Internet goes out, everyone looks at you.

The second challenge is the materials.  Some fact witness depositions sail through without any marked exhibits.  Most expert and party depositions contain many marked exhibits.  Therefore, the video-conference deposition requires some advanced planning.  This challenge is magnified in video-conference depositions of expert witnesses.  Essentially, you have to scan and copy your expert’s entire file the week prior to the deposition and mail (or cloud upload) copies in advance.  Not only is the manual labor extensive, but often your experts do not have everything prepared a week in advance of the deposition.

The third challenge is the deposition itself.  We can get to the moon, but we cannot figure out how to eliminate a delay on a video-conference.  Therefore, you have to adjust your rhythm of asking questions.  Slow down.

The fourth challenge is the lack of the interpersonal contact.  There is something more commanding about being present in the room in front of your deponent. Video can cloud body language and, more concerning, can hide attorney assistance.

In my humble opinion, I think the technology is still a few years away.  In the interim, video-conference depositions can be useful for lower-level fact witnesses.  If you are deposing a party or an expert, I recommend being in the room.

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