Electronic Exhibits Mark the End of the Paper Chase

A first year associate, who has yet to take a deposition, may likely never have to mark and introduce a paper exhibit. Which isn’t to say depositions are going exhibit-less. Just paperless.

As in the movie “Groundhog Day,” exhibit production is a recurring scene: Conference room tables and credenzas piled high with original and courtesy copies of exhibit binders, along with scanning, printing, collating, labeling, packing and shipping to get them there. The costs add up quickly. Add to that the worry that the shipment will be lost or late.

The alternative is electronic exhibits, introduced and shared as the deposition proceeds, marking the end of the paper chase.

One iPad Equals 100 (or more) Exhibit Boxes

Deploying technology for taking depositions is commonplace. Documents produced in discovery are exchanged electronically. Notices are rarely mailed or even faxed. Realtime programs stream text and video to participants’ computer screens as the deponent answers questions. Final transcripts, with exhibits scanned and hyperlinked, are preferred over the printed and bound version.

The outlier has been presenting exhibits in the deposition room. It was hard to imagine a digital alternative to asking the witness “please review this document, entered into the record as exhibit number 116.”

Not anymore. Now attorneys can introduce and mark exhibits at the deposition electronically—via iPad and other tablets and computers—through a secure connection to a cloud-based server. This means hosting and the bandwith to handle data storage and 24/7/365 accessibility is not an issue. Support and disaster recovery protocols are in place.

Strategy and Control

Beyond eliminating thousands of pages, the electronic counterparts to paper exhibits allows the examining attorney to control when and how exhibits are introduced, preserving the client’s legal strategy. As opposed to providing printed copies in advance, opposing counsel only sees the exhibit the moment it is shown to the witness.

How are exhibits organized for a paperless deposition? First, it is important to notify all parties that exhibits will be presented electronically. Then, the steps are familiar, simply the electronic equivalent of sharing paper copies:

  • Upload documents ahead of time, ready to be entered into evidence, just as you would ordinarily produce copies in advance for those attending the proceeding.
  • Coordinate with your court reporting firm to provide devices for all participants and test connections, as you would for a realtime or videoconference deposition.
  • At the deposition, tap the iPad (or other device) to introduce an exhibit and simultaneously send digital copies to the witness and other participants.
  • All parties may annotate and retain personal copies of exhibits, while maintaining the integrity of the official versions.
  • While the deposition is underway, legal team members from all sides can communicate as exhibits are marked for the record.
  • Exhibits and transcripts from previous depositions are also accessible.

Clients who are involved in complex cases, for instance, intellectual property disputes, securities litigation, class action suits and other high-stakes matters, expect their outside counsel to deploy technology effectively to manage the costs of discovery.

The Paperless Advantage

The utilization of electronic exhibits is especially helpful when deposing a witness who is based            out of state or overseas. Here, a videoconference can be arranged and the exhibits can be introduced electronically, curtailing both travel and shipping costs.

Further, litigators are realizing the value of electronic exhibits beyond depositions, for instance, witness preparation. Rather than making multiple cross-country trips to meet with the legal team, a client preparing for depositions and trial can connect from his office in San Francisco to his attorneys in Boston and always have critical documents available for review.

While it is an adjustment to integrate new technology and implement new processes and routines, the practical applications are evident. Think of how print media, broadcast media and advertisers now reach their audiences through interactive, digital, channels. Similarly, lawyers are transitioning from the legal pad to the iPad.

Your firm’s IT department and technology-oriented attorneys and support staff are obvious resources.  If your court reporting agency keeps pace with the latest developments and is attuned to how practice groups work, the account managers, court reporters and videographers can consult and coordinate with your team at every step.

All in all, the ability to share documents as proceedings unfold, without having to print thousands of pages and keep track of their whereabouts, represents a new way of working for litigation groups. Senior partners recognize the benefits for their practices and for their clients. For today’s new associates, paperless depositions will be business as usual.

Featured image: “Modern wireless technology and social network” from Shutterstock.

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