Electronic Documents for Expert Witness Prep

Previously on this blog, I talked about the advent of paperless depositions now that exhibits can be marked and securely shared electronically, even among participants who are attending remotely.

Not long ago, Jonathan DeBlois, an intellectual property attorney with Hayes Messina Gilman & Hayes in Boston, took advantage of the technology for a deposition. This proved cost-effective for both the firm and its client, eliminating a cross-country trip and days out of the office.

Since electronic documents are not limited to exhibits, the logical extension is to use the same paperless deposition technology for expert witness preparation. While very new, we are finding that litigators and their teams easily picture the application for their practices. Especially appealing is the ability for everyone to get together with all materials on hand, without anyone boarding a plane.

Hayes Messina regularly works with experts for its cases. While it is preferable to meet in person to establish rapport, expenses for travel and accommodations quickly add up, only to appear on clients’ invoices. Alternatively, consultations are conducted by conference call, sometimes including video to replicate a live meeting as much as possible. Either way, it is necessary to produce and distribute sets of documents in advance.

As an alternative to travel, Nicholas Carter, a partner with Todd & Weld in Boston, often meets with his team around the country by logging into an Internet video service. Seeing one another while situated in their separate locations creates the dynamic for a rich discussion and exchange of ideas, compared to dialing into a conference call. Similarly, coordinating with an expert witness via video would be beneficial, he notes, especially if reports and documents could be shared.

Conferring With Experts; Reviewing Documents

The roadblock in connecting with experts by conference call or a video set-up is expediently working through documents. Typically, pages of .PDF documents are attached to an email, or more likely, a series of emails. Large files can take a long time to reach recipients’ inboxes, and when they do, they are once again opened, saved, and/or printed. Or the documents are packed and shipped to the expert and other participants at considerable expense.

Then, when the call is underway, there is the usual back-and-forth among the group. “What page are we on?” “Which diagram are you referring to?” “Are you looking at the third paragraph?” “Oh, I don’t seem to have copies of those emails, can you send it to me?” Further, there is no means for participants to point out and highlight pivotal aspects of a document for all to see.

Realtime access to the key case documents under review changes this scenario. Again, as with paperless depositions, documents are securely uploaded to a cloud-based server and simultaneously made available to counsel, the expert, paralegal, and others in preparation for testimony.

And the request to send those copies of emails? Instead, missing documents are immediately accessible with a tap on a tablet or laptop. Plus, new documents can be added and distributed on the fly.

When logged into an online video conference with his team, attorney Carter of Todd & Weld appreciates the ability to chat. The same applies to expert witness preparation, with the additional advantage of reviewing electronic documents.

Furthermore, just as participants can make notes and jot down issues on paper documents spread out on a conference room table, they can similarly annotate the electronic versions and retain their own copies.

In thinking about adapting paperless deposition technology to a session for expert witness preparation, attorney DeBlois of Hayes Messina envisions preserving the nature of an in-person meeting while respecting corporate counsel’s budget considerations.

Both Attorneys Carter and DeBlois are comfortable that the experts they engage—from the ranks of engineers, regulatory authorities, technical specialists, physicians—would likewise be comfortable meeting online. The virtual presence of the legal team, with paperless case documents available, is a streamlined alternative to a boarding pass.

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