When looking at the flood of innovations coming to the legal industry, its easy to get confused about how all the products and solutions fit together and how they are actually better than the “old ways.” This list is meant to sort through a subset of legal technology, namely currently available deposition technology. While some of the discussed solutions here have many applications, many of them were built specifically for making depositions easier for the tech savvy litigator. We’ve broadly divided the list into three categories: deposition technology used prior to a deposition, deposition technology used during a deposition, and deposition technology used after a deposition has concluded.
During the initial discovery phase (before depositions) litigators and paralegals sort through all the available evidence (possibly thousands of documents) to find the most relevant evidence for the case and each specific witness. Once identified, this evidence is categorized, labeled, and possibly annotated. The litigator then constructs his deposition strategy based on this evidence and the testimony he hopes to garner to support his theory of the case. There are several technological solutions available that make preparation for a deposition much easier. We’ll call those “pre-deposition technologies.” There are several categories of pre-deposition technologies:
Document Review Platforms
These solutions aid the legal team in document review. They allow the legal team to review and classify documents electronically (usually their native format). Modern versions also include sophisticated auto-classification, which saves a lot of time though does not eliminate the need for human review.
Document management refers to any software that allows the attorneys to organize, tag, search, and annotate electronic documents. There are dozens of document management companies focused on the legal industry.
These types of applications allow attorneys to easily mark up and annotate documents, adding questions and comments, highlighting, underlining and more. Popular apps offering this include iAnnotate and GoodReader. While popular, these apps aren’t made specifically for attorneys or depositions so they do have some limitations. For example, the annotations are usually “flattened” which means they become a permanent part of the file. What this means is that if you want to share a document (as in revealing a document during a deposition), you have to provide a separate version without your annotations.
Private Document Annotation
Making annotations on documents that are private annotations is possible with solutions more targeted toward attorneys. For example, AgileLaw’s deposition software offers private annotation functionality, allowing paralegals and attorneys to make annotations and notes without having to keep a separate “clean” version for the witness/opposing counsel.
Deposition Technology: During
Once in a deposition, there are many things beyond document management that a litigator is thinking about. Thus there are also a broad range of deposition technologies that help litigators during a deposition:
Video isn’t exactly cutting edge, but it is nevertheless an important technology that has aided countless litigators conduct better depositions. Not only does video more accurately capture a witness’ testimony, but it’s much better received by a jury. Though it sounds pretty basic, using a sophisticated provider is the smart route. These providers will not only provide high quality video that will be admissible in court, they also allow attorneys to easily search, annotate and index footage, which the attorney can then use to make a very powerful trial presentation.
Deposition technology allows participants and observers to now follow along the deposition by viewing the transcript in real time. While attorneys can attach the court reporter’s computer up to a monitor for others to follow along, solutions made specifically for this, such as Merrill’s RealTime, are superior, because it not only allows observers to annotate their own version of the transcript, but also because it allows participants who are remotely located to actively follow a deposition.
Litigators who need to conduct remote depositions or have observers join remotely turn to various teleconferencing solutions. This can be as simple as a telephone conference call or a Skype chat, or sophisticated like GoToMeeting or WebEx. These technologies allow the sounds, and some of the sights, of a deposition to be streamed live anywhere in the world.
Paperless depositions allow litigators to manage, reveal and use exhibits electronically (with a laptop/tablet) instead of with paper copies. Electronic exhibits are usually stored in the cloud, which also allows sharing of document exhibits with remote participants.
With today’s ever increasing computational power, decreasing technology prices, and steady innovation, the only thing technology doesn’t seem poised to fix during a deposition is the hostile witness!
Once the deposition is over, lawyers on both sides have to sift through the damage to determine how the deposition helps or hinders their case. Once again, technology is available to help post-deposition.
Solutions that are used to manage documents before a deposition also work to make life easier after a deposition. See above.
While document management allows an attorney to broadly view his/her documents, they aren’t specifically built to review the evidence produced by a deposition. Companies like edepo or Trialtutors allow litigators to do things like review specific testimony, or easily marry video to transcript, for use during trial.
All the video, transcripts, exhibits must be stored somewhere after the deposition. While Dropbox may be popular, it’s certainly not built for lawyers and their specific needs. Many lawyers rely on their court reporting firm to provide this service, but many also use specific vendors or apps for this need.
Technology for the sake of technology won’t last long. Technology that makes our lives easier will. With this in mind, it appears that deposition technology is here to stay and will increasingly become widespread.