All parties involved in a deposition, including the court reporter, would agree that in-person depositions run more smoothly than remote depositions. However, as much as we’d all like to return to in-person depositions, it’s clear that remote depositions are here to stay, at least for 2021.
How 2020 Changed Depositions, Arbitrations, and Trials
At the beginning of 2020, it was business as usual for litigators, judges and court reporters with a majority of depositions taking place in person. When in-person depositions, arbitrations, or trials were not feasible, at a minimum the court reporter was in the same location as the witness to ensure accurate testimony.
When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, non-essential services started shutting down. Businesses moved to remote working, and many law offices paused or delayed any upcoming depositions or trials. For many of these firms, these delays were thought to be temporary. Once the scope and severity of the pandemic set in, however, it became clear that all depositions and trials could not be delayed in hopes of a return to in-person proceedings.
New Laws Dealing with Remote Proceedings
The most significant change coming from the pandemic is that remote proceedings will continue to be the norm in 2021. Recent legislation has equipped all parties, including court reporters, to conduct proceedings remotely. In some states, new laws were enacted to provide accommodations for remote trials, arbitrations, and depositions. An example is California S.B. 1146 which went into effect in September of 2020. The new law states:
“…a deponent is not required to be physically present with the deposition officer when being sworn in at the time of the deposition, and that any party or attorney of record may, but is not required to, be physically present at the deposition at the location of the deponent, subject to any protective order issued by the court.”
Based on new legislation passing and current events, we can assume then it may be some time yet until we return to in-person depositions and trials.
Delays Are Not Acceptable
While remote depositions and trials can come with some challenges, going remote is not a plausible reason to delay in 2021. As many industries have accepted remote meetings as the norm, attorneys, judges, and court reporters are not an exception. As such, proceedings or trials can no longer be delayed simply because they can take place remotely.
Adapt and Learn Technology
According to the ABA model rules, attorneys are expected to “keep abreast of the changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology…”
In addition to adapting to remote proceedings, all participants in depositions, trials, and arbitrations need to learn the technology that supports remote meetings. In 2021, all attorneys and court reporters must learn and effectively use remote meeting tools. Judges presiding over cases in 2021 will expect that all attorneys adapt and learn the necessary technology.
Mitigate Flaws in Technology
Even with its advancements, technology can still have pitfalls. Navigating these flaws will be key to successful remote depositions and trials.
One way to handle these potential pitfalls, as many attorneys discovered, is to take the extra time needed to test and learn the technology. Additionally, witnesses require more technical assistance and training for depositions. Although attorneys are experienced in preparing witnesses to answer questions during a deposition, they will now need to also invest time in training them on the technology and new preparation techniques used during remote depositions.
As court reporters, we did learn a few lessons from participating in remote depositions in 2020 and how to get the most from the technology available. You can view those Top Ten lessons here: https://aptuscr.com/ten-lessons-learned-from-remote-depos-in-2020/
Patience and Collaboration Required
While we don’t know when we will be able to transition back to in-person proceedings, we do predict remote meetings likely won’t go away altogether. For this reason, in 2021, it’s critical that attorneys, judges, court reporters and witnesses exercise more patience and collaboration in all proceedings. By working together, embracing the technology and allowing more leeway, we can ensure more successful remote meetings. Aptus Court Reporting is here to streamline your remote depositions and trials. Schedule a demo on our related products, or contact us today to learn more.