Depositions are a useful discovery tool to glean valuable information from witnesses and parties, but can be likened to pulling teeth at times. They are often hours long, sometimes spanning the entire day, but preparation is key to streamlining the process and avoiding unforeseen roadblocks.
Everyone is pretty sick and tired at this point of hearing about these “unprecedented times”, but it is worth mentioning that virtual options are here to stay for the near future. In regards to ethics, it is best practice to have Zoom deposition options and capabilities.
According to the New York Bar Association, a recent court case, Rodriguez v Montefiore Med. Ctr. 2020 NY Slip Op 20349, upheld that: “Ultimately, a party’s apprehension concerning innovative discovery techniques must, subject to the various protections afforded by the law, yield to the realities of coronavirus-era litigation, lest resolution of litigants’ rights and obligations be unnecessarily and unjustly delayed.” In sum, this holding is aligned with the duty to not obstruct the discovery process in unduly burdensome ways.
Depositions are stressful enough, lawyers shouldn’t have to think about microstressors like setting up a Zoom meeting and password in order to depose virtually. This is often tasked to paralegals, who can take care of generating the meeting code and pin, as well as instructing attorneys on how to “share the screen” if need be and work the controls on Zoom.
Paralegals can also coordinate with court reporters and expert witnesses via Zoom or in person so that all the attorney has to do is focus on preparing to depose. Of course, the paralegal can help with preparation in other, more involved ways as well. Printing and organizing key documents to use as reference in depositions is a common practice. Paralegals can help by taking care of this, once the attorney decides what needs to be included after e-discovery is completed and responses to interoggatories are returned. Produced documents can be sorted and tabbed in a way that is the easiest to turn to and reference for the lawyer and the person being deposed, as well as opposing counsel. Tables of contents can be generated to ensure that the documents are organized in a way that flows with the deposition outline utilized by the attorney because nothing can throw someone off like having to rummage through papers in order to find their place!
Administrative assistants and paralegals often work together the day of the deposition in order to make sure everything is running smoothly. This often involves some last minute touches like ordering lunches for a long deposition and making sure coffee is on hand. If any items need to be printed or technological difficulties arise they are there to assist. (Insert amata plug?)