The question started popping up five or so years ago, and it was a reasonable request. Litigation attorneys wondered, “can you set-up videoconferencing equipment at my witness’s home or office for the deposition?”
It would come up if the witness was homebound, or if travel to a court reporting firm, business center or law firm proved out-of-the-way, say, for an expert witness. The idea of installing a portable videoconferencing system for an afternoon (along with on-site tech support to connect to legal team members at distant videoconferencing locations), had appeal.
In practice, though, it was never especially practical. Resources were not widely available in areas far from major cities, the very places attorneys sought alternatives to travel. And it wasn’t necessarily cost-effective. After tallying up costs for equipment rental/delivery, travel for tech support personnel, transmission charges, installation and breakdown and other expenses, along with reliability issues, it would usually come down to a telephonic deposition or making the trip after all.
Grande Latte—and Videoconferencing to Go
Today, videoconference depositions can be conducted across multiple locations over computers and mobile devices, allowing all parties to see and be seen, hear and be heard. The portability of Internet connectivity has supplanted equipment in a van. Your laptop, tablet and smartphone has put the “mobile” in mobile videoconferencing.
Getting connected is straightforward and set-up is quick, even for a last-minute situation. There is no special software to purchase or download. The court reporting firm sends a link with individual login credentials. Legal team members connect and are joined through a secure website, whether logging in from an office, hotel or home, in Denver or Dubai. Tech support is on hand before and during the deposition, to test connections and ensure sufficient bandwidth.
Compared to the expense of lining up and traveling to videoconference sites, rates for mobile connectivity are most favorable.
Does Skype, the popular free service for Internet video calls, count as mobile videoconferencing for depositions? It is not recommended. Consider that security is lax. You may recall the episode last year during the George Zimmerman trial. A witness who could not be in the courtroom was testifying live over Skype, only to be repeatedly interrupted by incoming prank calls after the questioning attorney’s Skype user name was displayed. Also, when it comes to tech support, you are on your own.
Given that there are alternatives to Skype for secure, reliable mobile videoconferencing, attorneys have options for depositions in high-stakes litigation.
Suitable for Firms of all Sizes
Mobile videoconferencing is applicable to firms across the board. Small-to-medium firms most likely do not have in-house videoconferencing facilities. Instead of leaving the office to be present at a deposition or setting aside most of the day to get to a videoconferencing site two towns away, attorneys can simply log in from their desk.
While large firms may have made the investment and designated conference rooms for videoconferencing, they can certainly benefit when legal team members are on the road, contingencies arise and everyone is able to connect via the web to attend a deposition, even at the last minute.
Beyond Depositions: Witness Preparation and More
The convenience and practicality of mobile videoconferencing has applications for litigation practices beyond depositions. Innovative court reporting firms are a valuable resource through the various stages of discovery and trial strategy, for example:
- Witness preparation to curtail days of local commuting or travel.
- Client conferences, such as between corporate legal departments and outside counsel, eliminating the expense and time commitment of being away from office and home.
- Connecting with co-counsel in different jurisdictions.
- Collaborating with legal team members across offices.
- Conferences with litigation consultants.
And, the Zimmerman case notwithstanding, witness testimony at trial.