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The Pros and Cons of Virtual Depositions

The pandemic has forced legal professionals to utilize virtual depositions. But are remote depositions here to stay?
December 19, 2023

A deposition is an important way to gather evidence for a trial. So important, that during the pandemic lockdown, witnesses were asked to provide their testimony virtually in order to keep cases moving when people couldn’t meet in person. In fact, at the height of the pandemic, it is estimated that 90% of depositions were online.

While the pandemic has eased, the use of virtual depositions — also known as remote depositions — will not go away. In fact, the same report estimates that about half of all depositions will be virtual going forward.

What is a virtual deposition?

A virtual deposition is when a witness provides testimony remotely using technology. In a virtual deposition, the witness is verified using remote authentication, and then provides testimony that is recorded for future use. Remote online deposition software requires that every party involved has both a microphone and webcam turned on so that video and audio can be captured. Some virtual deposition software also includes artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to increase accuracy of the transcript and provide added details such as emotion or movement.

The benefits of a virtual deposition

When looking at the pros of doing a remote deposition, it’s important to consider how it affects both the witness and the legal teams involved, as there are benefits to both parties.

  • Time savings: Virtual depositions allow everyone involved to save the time that it takes to drive to a specific location, which in the case of a deposition could be quite a distance depending on where the trial and legal offices are located. For legal teams, remote deposition technology acts as another timesaver because it enables immediate access to recordings and transcripts from the deposition.
  • Increased efficiency: When attorneys don’t have to travel to a deposition, they get that time back to work on their cases. All of that time can really add up in a complex trial, making remote depositions a valuable tool for attorneys to work more efficiently.
  • Increased comfort: Depositions can be stressful for witnesses, and allowing someone to provide testimony virtually from their home or other comfortable location can ease their worry and ultimately increase their willingness to share information.

The challenges of a virtual deposition

With only half of depositions likely to be virtual in the coming year or more, it’s important to understand why digital depositions are not always the best option. Here are some cons that have emerged for certain depositions.

  • Lack of personal interaction: Attorneys may feel that a virtual approach allows them to lose some of the connection that they get when questioning a witness in person. For some legal cases, remote depositions might make it more difficult to read facial expressions or emotions, making it harder for attorneys to choose when to adjust their line of questioning.
  • Disconnect between attorneys: For cases with a lot of tension between legal teams, a virtual deposition might break down if people argue or become aggressive with questioning. This problem may also be exacerbated by lagging video/audio, which can happen when using digital conferencing technology.

Virtual depositions are here to stay

From virtual litigation to virtual deposition, the legal industry has been forced to turn to technology to get things done during these uncertain times. But as with most technology, the more you use it the easier it gets. And as legal professionals continue to use virtual depositions, the process will become more refined and attorneys will find ways to better conduct them. For example, doing test drives with video conferencing technology, determining when to use paper or electronic exhibits, creating a process to get witnesses up to speed with virtual deposition software, and more.

But despite a few challenges with remote online depositions, the virtual option is here to stay. With convenience and efficiency for all involved, plus the possibility for better testimonies from witnesses who may otherwise be intimidated by the atmosphere of a courtroom, the pros of remote depositions outweigh the cons for some legal cases. For others, in-person depositions and litigation will still be the primary way of doing business, especially for high-profile or particularly complex trials.

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