As 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.