Some Attorneys’ Thoughts about Remote Depositions

Rachel SzymanskiBlog

Some attorneys are sharing their thoughts about virtual depositions. Here are a couple we’ve gleaned – from the internet and one of our clients: 

John Siegal of BakerHostetler in “What Are We Learning In Month 2? Litigating in a Global Pandemic: An Update” in the New York Law Journal: Two months of litigating from home is proving that virtual depositions work. They are feasible, fully functional and required now. We all need to embrace this reality and stop making excuses for why we’re not proceeding with our cases.” 

From Jim Ball of The Ball Law Group in response to our query about videotaped Zoom depositions: “Thanks for the kind words, and all of your great assistance!  I much prefer this method!!”   

Siegal’s conclusion: “We have the tools, the time and the talent to adjust our practices to this new reality—and there is a lot of good to be gained by it, not just in the near-term crisis but going forward to bring the practice of law fully and functionally into the new era that is only just beginning with this crisis.” 

Learning Zoom: Using Zoom on Your Computer

Brett SchatzleBlog

Raise your hand if you’re ready to get back to an in-person work environment… or, honestly, an in-person anything.  I’m sure we all are.  The last couple of months have proven to be quite the challenge for everyone, to say the least.  Not only have you had to learn new ways of working remotely to keep your business going, but on top of that you’ve had to learn how to teach your kids math.  What kind of crazy situation is this?

But for the foreseeable future, working remotely will be the norm, and no one is sure how long that is going to last.  So why not continue to learn something new?  If you’ve been a bit hesitant about using Zoom or technology really isn’t your forte, let us at UBA help you through it.  I promise it’s not as scary as it seems.

Below is just one of many Zoom tutorials we will be releasing over the coming weeks.  These tutorials will be covering the overall process of Zoom and various other Zoom tips and tricks to help you with your depositions or meetings.  It is our commitment at UBA to help you navigate through this new normal.  And I’ll let you in on a secret:  we’re still learning too.  There is always something to learn when it comes to technology.

Now sit back and let us show you how to use Zoom on your computer.

UBA Online Video Repository

Brett SchatzleBlog

If you need a video deposition sent to you, our online video repository is an easy and efficient way to deliver your video.  It’s a great alternative to delivering other media formats, such as a DVD.

If you’ve been a bit hesitant to receive your videos in digital format, take a look at this short tutorial.  It explains the basics of our online video repository from how the video is delivered to you, to how to view it, to how it can be downloaded to your computer.

Keeping Zoom Meetings Safe

Rachel SzymanskiBlog

Urlaub Bowen & Associates is cognizant of the news reports about security issues with Zoom. After monitoring Zoom’s response and efforts to enhance security, we feel comfortable continuing to host remote depositions with this video conference platform. We are taking the following steps to ensure we avoid common mistakes and keep our meetings safe:
  • We are providing a unique meeting number and URL link for every meeting.
  • We are password protecting our meetings.
  • We monitor the meeting participants as they enter and, if desired, we can lock the meeting after all expected participants have arrived.
  • File upload on the chat function has been disabled.
  • We have disabled the recording of meetings.
If you would like to learn more about how Zoom is working to keep meetings secure, please see this letter and data sheet from Zoom.
For the perspective of an attorney and a legal technology expert, see the article “Zoom is Safe for Lawyers (if you use it right).” 
We understand how important security is to the attorneys we work with, and we are committed to our role as a neutral third party and protector of the record when we host and monitor proceedings.

Video Evidence Depositions

Rachel SzymanskiBlog

We have had some clients ask if a video evidence deposition to be used for playback in court is possible with Zoom.  The answer is yes.   Just like we did before remote depositions became our “new normal,” we use a Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS) to create professional video recordings.   

Below is a brief clip of what a video evidence deposition looks like in a Zoom video conference as recorded by our in-house CLVS, Brett Schatzle. 

As displayed in the video, there is an option for the questioning attorney to share an exhibit that is open on their screen so all participants can view it through the Share Screen option in Zoom.  

However, we recommend that our clients send us their exhibits in advance, and we email them to all parties. This is because we’ve seen some drawbacks to sharing exhibits only through Share Screen option. 

  1. The witness has to direct you to scroll through the exhibit to get to a certain page which can be time consuming. 
  2. If you are not careful, you may forget to be specific when discussing the exhibits and not end up with the detailed written record you want.  

Here is an example of an attorney with poor record-making habits.

Q. Do you see this document?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you mark this document in any way?

A. Yes, right there.

This exchange does not clearly indicate which document the attorney is referring to nor the exact place within that document that the witness is referencing. None of these specific details will be in the written transcript.  

Here is a better version of that exchange. 

Q. Do you see this document that has been marked as Exhibit 2?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you mark this document in any way?

A. Yes, right there.

Q. Are you pointing to the initials on the left margin of the second page?

To avoid issues like these, we recommend only using the Share Screen option to share an exhibit you decided to include at the last minute or to show an exhibit you do not want the other side to have in advance. If you need to use this option, we have step-by-step instructions to help you learn how. 

How to Get a Professional Video Record

Rachel SzymanskiBlog

As litigators and court reporters adjust to working remotely during the COVID-19 shutdown, we are realizing the value of being able to see each other during a deposition. Luckily, platforms like Zoom make this possible even when all parties are in separate locations. But what if you’d like a video recording of the deposition for later use? 

Fortunately, videographers are still able to capture proceedings during this time. If you’re considering using video clips at trial later or simply want the best possible quality recording for your own reference, you’ll want to hire a certified legal video specialist. 

The reason to hire a videographer who is a certified legal video specialist for a video conference are some of the same reasons to hire them for an in-person deposition. 

  1. Editing the video: Perhaps the biggest benefit to having a videographer is being able to count on them to transform your raw video into a professional video recording with the best possible picture and sound quality. They can also send the recording to you in a variety of file types. 
  2. Syncing with the transcript: Videographers have software that allows them to easily sync the transcript with the video recording. You can follow the video as the text scrolls along with the speaker and easily pick out key portions of testimony that you would like to highlight later.
  3. Providing a backup: When a videographer records a deposition, they simultaneously record to a memory card in the camera, a separate memory card in an external video recorder, and an external audio recorder, so you can be sure your video will be captured.

Here is a recent clip from a mock deposition in a Zoom meeting recorded by our videographer, Brett Schatzle.

 

Working Remotely with Young Children

Rachel SzymanskiBlog

These are challenging times for people in every profession, but legal professionals face unique issues. Unlike others who are working remotely and may be able to easily handle an interruption during a conference call, when a court reporter or attorney is taking a deposition from their home, it is necessary for the room they are in to be as close to silent as possible. This means those legal professionals who are caregivers for young children and no longer have their usual child care options during work hours face a dilemma.  

What’s a mom or dad to do when they need quiet, but want their kids to be learning at the same time? Luckily, there are some great children’s book authors, homeschool providers, and museums with online education options and activity ideas. 

For those with younger kids at home, here are just a couple of the numerous free resources that are out there:  

Try out these resources and feel free to let us know if your little ones enjoy them. We hope this makes working remotely a little easier. 

Need a Break? Our Picks for TV Shows to Watch During Shelter-in-Place

Rachel SzymanskiBlog

Our staff is hard at work during the day, but in the evenings, we have all been indulging in our favorite TV shows. Here are some of our picks for interesting shows and documentaries to watch during shelter-in-place.

Donna Urlaub, Co-Founder

  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon Prime: A comedy set in 1950s Manhattan following an aspiring comedian from the Upper West Side who begins a career in comedy after her husband leaves her.
  • Schitt’s Creek, Netflix: A sitcom about a formerly wealthy family who must regroup and move to Schitt’s Creek, a town they once purchased as a joke.
  • Succession, HBO: A drama about the shift of power in a family who owns a media conglomerate.
  • American Factory, Netflix: An Oscar winning documentary which tells the story of a Chinese billionaire who purchases an abandoned General Motors factory and hires American workers for his company Fuyao, a glass manufacturer.  

Dayna Urlaub Trotta, Scheduling Manager

  • 30 Rock, Amazon Prime: A semi-autobiographical comedy by Tina Fey following the life of Liz Lemon, the head writer of a late-night comedy sketch show.  
  • Modern Family, Hulu: A sweet, smart comedy following the fun, crazy antics of patriarch Jay, his two adult children, Claire and Mitchell, their spouses, and kids.  

Bill Huron, Finance Manager

  • The Resident, Fox/Hulu: A medical drama set in Chastain Memorial Hospital where Dr. Conrad Hawkins tries to teach his residents how the medical system really works.  
  • New Amsterdam, ABC/Hulu: Another medical drama set at the oldest public hospital in the United States where Dr. Max Goodwin tries to tear down bureaucracy to allow the hospital to provide exceptional care. 

Brett Schatzle, Videographer

  • Breaking Bad, Netflix: A drama following the lives of a high school chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin and his former student who becomes his assistant. 
  • Better Call Saul, Netflix/AMC: A spinoff of Breaking Bad, this is the backstory of Saul Goodman aka Jimmy McGill, a charming con artist making his way as a lawyer in Albuquerque. 
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO or HBOGo: A comedy following the misadventures of Seinfeld creator Larry David.  
  • The SopranosHBOGo or Amazon: A crime drama following Tony Soprano, a husband, father, and mob boss who is in therapy.  
  • Pandemic, Netflix: For those who want to lean in and learn more about pandemics and how we might prevent them in the future, this docuseries delivers.  

Kathy Hillgard, Court Reporter

  • Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, Netflix: This 7-part docuseries examines the life of the eccentric Joe Exotic who ran a big cat park in Oklahoma and his feud with Carole Baskin, the founder of the nonprofit Big Cat Rescue. 

Katie Elliott, Court Reporter

  • The Valhalla Murders, Netflix: An Icelandic murder mystery with a detective returning home to help local police find a serial killer. 
  • Gilmore Girls, Netflix: The touching, comedic story of a single mother from a wealthy household raising her teenage daughter in her picturesque hometown in Connecticut. 
  • Brooklyn 99, Hulu; A police procedural comedy series following the exploits of Detective Jake Peralta and his colleagues in NYPD’s 99th precinct. 

Leanna Michas, Court Reporter

  • The Crown, Netflix: A historical drama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.  
  • The Morning Show, Apple TV: A drama set in the cutthroat world of early morning television.  

Rachel Szymanski Welling, Administrative Assistant

  • Westworld, HBO or HBOGo: A sci-fi drama set in a futuristic theme park where androids are providing entertainment for the visitors until a few of these androids start to become conscious of their situation.  
  • The Masked Singer, Fox: A reality singing show where the singers are celebrities dressed in elaborate costumes and the judges guess who is behind the masks.

Robyn Falasz, Administrative Assistant

  • Prodigal Son, Fox/Hulu: A drama about a criminal psychologist who helps the NYPD solve crimes while maintaining a relationship with his serial killer father.  

 

Video Conference Tips

Rachel SzymanskiReporter Corner

As the local and national response to the COVID-19 emergency has continued to develop, many of our clients have been considering how they might continue working while responsibly abiding by shelter-in-place orders. Video conferencing is a way to work around — or work with — the need to be remote from each other.

Attending depositions when all parties are in separate locations is a new challenge for many legal professionals including court reporters. At Urlaub Bowen & Associates, we have been using Zoom for our video conferences for several years. We find it to be user-friendly and familiar to many of our clients.

If you have rarely or never taken depositions via Zoom video conference, you’ll want to make sure you feel comfortable before your first Zoom video conference job. Here are some tips to make sure the experience goes smoothly.

Make sure you have the strongest internet signal possible — Sit close to your wireless router. If your wi-fi signal is not particularly strong, you may want to plug into your router with an ethernet cable.

Consider how you will sound — Check your audio feed. Feel free to speak at a normal volume. The mics on a laptop or tablet are designed to pick up the sound of your voice from a couple of feet away. They will also pick up any other sound in the room and some even pick up background noise from other rooms, so make sure you are muted when you are not speaking. Inform everyone else in the area that you will be on a live video.

Consider how you will appear on screen — Be mindful of the sources of light in the room. Consider taking a lamp from another space if you need better light or closing the shades to reduce glare or shadows from light from outside. Have a blank wall or other neutral background if possible. Sit up straight and make sure you stay in the frame. Dress as you would for any other deposition.

Arrive early — Think of the time needed to prepare for an in-person deposition. You need time to make sure that you have everything you would carry with you, have time to arrive at the virtual destination, and greet people before you go on the record. Don’t forget to bring water or coffee to your workspace.

Ask for information from attorneys in advance — Since you won’t be able to ask for business cards, request each attorney’s information before the deposition. Ask that they send information in an email or on a notice. Let the attorneys and their assistants know that if the court reporter has this information in advance, it will save time for all attendees.

Determine what you will say before administering the oath — We are using the following script for our Zoom video conferences before swearing in each witness. “Before we proceed, I will ask counsel to agree on the record that under the current National Emergency, pursuant to Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, there is no objection to this deposition officer administering a binding oath to the witness by videoconference. Please state your agreement on the record.”

Special considerations if using a tablet or smartphone for your camera and microphone — To be sure you have enough battery life, keep your device plugged in if possible. Turn off all notifications. If you have one, use a stand for the device so you don’t have to prop it up or hold it.

Before the deposition begins, don’t hesitate to ask your support staff for help, particularly your tech support staff. Many attorneys may be new to this format for a deposition as well. Strive to be the best prepared, most poised person in the room. Your clients will appreciate it.