Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Paralegal’s Guide to Scheduling Depositions

As a paralegal, your job is critical to the success of the law firm or organization that you serve. Indeed, paralegals are tasked with a vast array of legal duties, among them is participating in depositions. While the primary depositional duties are taking notes and observing the plaintiff’s behavior, paralegals may also be asked to schedule depositions. However, due to the amount of detail and the number of steps involved, doing so can be intimidating.

As a paralegal, your job is critical to the success of the law firm or organization that you serve. Indeed, paralegals are tasked with a vast array of legal duties, among them is participating in depositions. While the primary depositional duties are taking notes and observing the plaintiff’s behavior, paralegals may also be asked to schedule depositions. However, due to the amount of detail and the number of steps involved, doing so can be intimidating.

Having worked for many years in the court reporter profession, I wanted to provide a helpful overview for paralegals seeking to schedule their first deposition. If you follow the steps provided below, you should find it to be a manageable process, despite its complexity.

Scheduling a Deposition – How to Document the Scheduling Attorney

If you are looking to schedule a deposition but are not the scheduling attorney, you must be prepared to provide details on the scheduling attorney, including contact information. The typical contact information required is:

  • Name of the scheduling attorney
  • The name of the firm
  • Physical address of the firm
  • Best phone number
  • Fax number
  • Email address

It’s vitally important that you include this information in the deposition request because the court reporting firm needs to be able to reach the attorney in order to share any news or information that they might receive.

The Notice of Deposition and Case Detail Documentation

Upon contacting the court reporting firm to schedule the deposition, typically you’ll be asked for the case caption, which contains pertinent information, such as the name of the witness, docket number and case name. This information is also included in the notice of deposition, so you should keep it handy. If you do not have the notice of deposition prepared at the time of scheduling, it is critical to send it as soon as you have it ready.

There are several options for the method of delivery, however, email tends to be the most preferred, as it offers several unique advantages. First, the court reporters will immediately receive your notice of deposition, and typically they will confirm that they have received your emailed notice. Alternatively, you may choose to schedule your deposition online, through the court reporter’s website. In this case you simply enter the relevant information, and the court reporting firm will contact you to confirm that they have received your notice.

Scheduling the Proceedings

When scheduling the proceedings, you must provide the following information:

  • The name of the deponent
  • The chosen location for the proceedings
  • The time and date that the proceedings will begin
  • Whether there is a requirement to schedule a conference room

Estimated Duration of Proceedings

Most firms will request that you disclose the estimated length of time required for the proceedings. This will help the court reporting firm in scheduling any other depositions, as court reporting firms typically handle many depositions in any given day. If you believe that your deposition may take up the entire day, it is important to notify the court reporting firm, so that they can provide you with a reporter who is available for the number of hours required.

Other Items to Gather

A case description is highly useful to the court reporting firm. If the deposition is going to deal with medical or technical language or other professional jargon, your court reporting firm may choose to send a reporter with more experience in the language spoken by professionals in those fields.

You should consider whether you will need special services from the court reporting firm, such as a videographer, a real-time reporter, streaming video, conference room reservation, an expedited transcription, a speakerphone, online deposition, or an electronic transcript. If any of these services are pertinent to your deposition, make sure you let your court reporting firm know beforehand.

In closing, scheduling a deposition can be an intricate process, especially for new paralegals. Nonetheless, it’s a task that becomes more manageable with time. The key to developing proficiency in depositions is repetition and the sort of foreknowing, that only comes from ‘hands on’ experience.

Five Best Practices for Managing Video Depositions as a Paralegal

Video DepositionsAs a court reporter, I’ve seen firsthand the extent to which video testimony can improve depositions by cutting costs and improving trial effectiveness. Indeed, this has a lot to do with the rising popularity of the practice and it’s why you, as a paralegal should familiarize yourself with best practices for video depositions.

Video depositions are quickly becoming commonplace in litigation. While the attorney and the witness are the stars of the show, the paralegal has an important role to play in several aspects of the video deposition, before and during the procedure. Here are several ways the paralegal can help the attorney manage a successful video deposition.

Preparing for the Deposition

Preparing for a video deposition can be an involving process. There are so many moving parts to manage and as a paralegal much of it will fall on your shoulders. Here are some of the steps that you may want to take to ensure that the ordeal goes smoothly.

  • Getting Organized – You should have the file organized and know where to find everything, just  in case the attorney asks for it.  It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the general order in which the questions will be asked. This can help you determine what ancillary materials may be necessary at the deposition, such as prior pertinent depositions by the witness.
  • Secure the important parties – Paralegals are also tasked with ensuring that important parties attend the deposition. This includes contacting and possibly subpoenaing witnesses, hiring a videography team, as well as the court reporter.
  • Choosing a Room – The room that you conduct the deposition in will need to be large enough for the stenographer and videography team, along with the attorneys and the witness. You will also want to make sure that the room has comfortable seating, surfaces, easily accessible electrical outlets and good lighting (the video team will thank you for this later).
  • Getting the Room Ready – After you’ve chosen a room you can begin making it comfortable. A big part of this is stocking the room with beverages prior to the start of the deposition. You should also work to create an unobtrusive background. Blank neutral colored walls are actually preferable. Also, make sure that any video that is taken is timestamped and dated. If you’d like, you could even ask the sound person to allow you to do a sound check prior to the start of the proceedings.
  • Prepare the witness – Staring into a camera can be a frightening experience; even to the most outgoing of extroverts.  This is why many paralegals often confirm that the witness is comfortable before starting the deposition preparation.  The next thing that you want to do is guide the witness in how to remain focused throughout the process. Also, don’t forget to remind the witnesses to be truthful and polite and avoid being adversarial or anxious.

When filming begins, don’t forget to keep those water bottles and cups away from the witness. A witness might play with a bottle cap or take a drink when questioning gets tough. This is exactly what you do not want to capture on video, so it’s best to try and avoid these situations altogether.

Other Video Deposition Tips

Take thorough notes; observe the witness and the opposing attorney for nonverbal clues. Paralegals should listen intently and think on their feet. A witness or an attorney could expose  relevant and material facts during a deposition that may have been missed elsewhere.

Remind the attorney that the camera is always rolling and everything is on the record unless the parties agree to go off record. The microphone may pick up any side conversations, even when you’re not directly in front of it.

In this day and age, it’s important that paralegals be prepared to coordinate video depositions. The good news is that if you can use the tips above to help anticipate the needs of the witness, while also giving careful consideration to what’s ahead of you, handling these sorts of depositions through completion should get easier over time.