Zoom Video Depositions - The Shiny New Thing?

Zoom Video Depositions - The Shiny New Thing?

Think Zoom is the new and better way to conduct video depositions in the post Covid-19 workplace? Consider some of the following realities from a videographer’s standpoint.

Upon the onset of the mandated Covid-19 quarantine that swept our nation this past spring, society immediately turned to technology to reconnect us with our places of business, family, and friends.  With several teleconferencing platforms such as Skype or Google Hangouts to choose from, most turned toward the most recent and trusted technology called Zoom for their networking. Zoom has been floating around for about 7 years and, during that time, has been used in professional forums throughout the world. In spring 2020, Zoom surged in popularity and immediately brought people back together: connecting grandparents and grandchildren, school children with their teachers, business meetings, doctors with their patients, and so on. Even the legal community followed suit, so much that judges began encouraging the use of online conferencing technology for court procedural matters. Law firms began conducting depositions remotely and individually using Zoom, as well.

Though the use of Zoom has become the norm for a number of industries, its application for legal proceedings should be given special consideration. There are pros and cons to adopting the technology in the legal industry, and it’s important to weigh these before introducing Zoom as part of legal practice.


PROs

Keeps everyone safely apart – The most obvious and optimal reason for utilizing Zoom is that it works to maintain social distancing.

Reduces travel for participants – No need to battle rush hour and foul weather, given participants can easily attend a video deposition from the comfort of their home or office (especially for those in attendance who will normally have no questions for the witness). 

Easy to use, intuitive – Zoom is heralded for its easy-to-use interface and quick connectivity.


CONs

Can’t control the internet - No matter how hard the world tries, we cannot control the internet.  Waxing and waning signal strength (especially when using wireless networks) can render your video and all participants at risk. The final video captured may also be poor in visual quality, as a result of weak signal strength, or an individual’s responses or participation may be corrupted.

Loss of accuracy - Without the benefit of eye contact, some stenographers may have difficulty discerning one party’s objection from the next. Reporters may also have trouble identifying who has spoken.  

Loss of quality – When a videographer sets up a traditional deposition, great care is taken to ensure the final product is high in quality from lighting to audio capture and, even, the framing of the witness. When Zoom technology is utilized, videographers lose control of the composition, and the witnesses are seen and experienced without the benefit of professional positioning.

Process disruption – In applying Zoom this spring, attorneys frequently ask if the final video that gets played back to the jury will feature the witness, alone, or the witness along with the questioning attorney. Most prefer that the witness appear solo on screen. However, this plan can be easily foiled when using Zoom. All it takes is one errant click by the Zoom host to display multiple participants and shared screens in error.

Loss of exam intimacy – Think about it. How well can you truly examine your witness when they are not in your physical presence? Will your witness feel your pressure when they are safe and secure in their den at home with a dog on their lap?

Lack of IT knowledge – Not all of your participants are tech savvy and, while Zoom is rather intuitive, it does have variations that may confuse some participants. Our firm has already received reports as to witnesses who lacked the patience or understanding to participate in a Zoom video deposition and so, single-handedly, brought the deposition to a grinding halt – wasting all participants’ time and rendering the entire process ineffectual.

Distractions – While it may be cute and funny as seen on TV, there is nothing humorous about your witness breaking focus of testimony as their toddler child strays into the room. It won’t lighten the mood and break the tension as much as it will distract all participants from the important matter at hand.

Another huge issue which I believe no one has even considered yet is just this- none of these new Zoom captured video depositions has ever been put to use yet in a courtroom.  No one has seen the playback of the lower quality resolution of the playback, likely interruptions, and loss of intimacy in real time along with a jury.  


Bringing It All Together
So, how do we keep our video deposition participants safe and yet secure effective testimony in this new era?

Going forward, conference rooms need to be large enough to allow counsel adequate spacing. Court reporters will need space, too, yet they’ll need to be close enough that they can clearly and accurately capture every spoken word.

Fixed, table-top microphones that designed to capture clear audio should be positioned to span the length of the conference table from a reasonable distance, as opposed to handling portable microphones and cables. This will ensure a “no-touch” policy for both the attendees and videographer.

Times may have changed, but the quickest solution at-hand isn’t necessarily the best. As you contemplate the use of Zoom for your video deposition needs, don’t lose sight of how truly powerful the deposition exam is for legal procedure – and how seemingly slick technological shortcuts can negatively impact the end result.

 

Learn more about our Deposition Services


  Since joining the Video Discovery, Inc. team in 1999, Tyler Dorsey has successfully developed the litigation support division via leading trial technologies and graphic presentations.  He is proficient in a wide array of presentation and design softwares ranging from 
Trial Director to the Adobe Creative Suite.  He is often requested to speak at conventions and CLEs for his experience with both plaintiff and defense councils in both civil and federal circuits.