The Tools and Tactics You Need to Be Prepared
Those of us in the legal field have transitioned from in-person proceedings to virtual ones and now we’ve entered the time of hybrid depositions. Hybrid depositions are those where some, but not all, participants are remote. Hybrid proceedings, while necessary during the pandemic, are here to stay for good.
A Veritext survey of attorneys found the following:
87% never or rarely participated remotely pre-pandemic
83% would participate remotely occasionally or more often post-pandemic
34% anticipate taking proceedings that they may not otherwise have taken pre-pandemic
89% expect one party to be remote occasionally or more often post-pandemic
Hybrid Life as Usual
COVID and Zoom fatigue is a real thing. We all want to get back to life as usual. Transitioning to another new normal of hybrid depositions is the last thing anyone wants to do, yet we must since polls overwhelmingly point to their permanence.
While paralegals aren’t responsible for the technical aspects of setting up hybrid definitions—court reporters handle that job—you should be aware of the tools used. This will increase your understanding and comfort level with hybrid proceedings.
Let’s start at the granular level, the equipment.
- Laptop or desktop or tablet with webcam (or a webcam for devices without a built-in webcam)
- Microphone with mute button
- Conference speaker
- Ethernet cable
- Conference or smartphone
Getting the Best Audio
We’ve all been in virtual proceedings where participants’ audio isn’t clear. Your court reporter must get the best quality audio in order to create accurate transcripts. Also, having to ask speakers to talk louder or repeat themselves is annoying for everyone involved.
To get the best audio quality and avoid disruptions during proceedings, expect your reporter to set up the audio using these best practices:
- Perform an audio test to ensure everyone can be heard before going on the record
- Connect only one of the Zoom sessions to audio with only one live audio connection in the room
- Use a conference phone or Polycom device for the audio positioned between the talking attorney and witness (If no Polycom is available, position a laptop where the attorney and witness are heard best OR the in-person participants connect to audio via smartphone and dial into Zoom with the phone positioned between the attorney and witness)
Controlling the Room
Your court reporter sets the tone of the proceeding. Given the variety of situations now under which a proceeding can take place, there may be videography or a videographer, a desktop, laptop or tablet (and sometimes several), webcams and audio equipment, and phones to set up. The optimal set up depends on the equipment needed and who is participating in-person or remotely and a combination thereof.
Court reporters have become adept at setting up the equipment for best outcomes throughout the growing popularity of remote proceedings. Count on yours to create an optimal environment and let him or her set the tone at the start by asking participants to speak one at a time and clearly.
Ensuring You Have the Best Hybrid Experience Possible
Overall, your court reporter should:
- Work with you to ensure the best possible equipment setup
- Provide an in-person videographer when you request and whenever possible
- Have the resources to provide on-site technical support
Starting the proceeding, your court reporter should:
- Enter with Zoom host credentials
- Manage the waiting room
- Admit all participants into the session
- Enable screen share
- Enable renaming
- Lock the meeting
Managing exhibits in a hybrid proceeding, your court reporter can:
- Choose the best method for sharing exhibits based on the situation
- Handle physical exhibits brought to the deposition and either taken custody of by the reporter, videographer or attorney
- Handle exhibits sent by email or file share before or after the deposition (If the reporter is appearing in person, he or she may be asked to print a limited number of pages and bring them to the deposition)
- Use a specific exhibit sharing tool to mirror the paper exhibit process
- Follow up with attorneys for copy requests
- Indicate how the exhibits were handled, especially any that are missing or not provided to the reporter yet
- Archive exhibits
Technical issues happen. But, your remote court reporter should be prepared for anything. That includes having a hot spot ready to go should the internet go out at his or her remote location. And, he or she should have a backup power source on standby in case of an electrical outage.