Ditch The Paper For Depositions
I recently decided to take this new-fangled “paperless” work environment concept to another level by conducting paperless depositions. The road to the end result had a natural progression from our firm’s existing paperless system, to reviewing the documents for the depositions, to the system implemented for the paperless depositions.
For starters, since our firm operates under a virtual model, we, naturally, are paperless. All documents are scanned upon receipt and uploaded to Box.net. This practice of uploading documents to the cloud has been in place since the firm’s inception, so it is easy to deal with on a day-to-day basis and makes sharing information internally seamless. This system includes documents produced in discovery.
An interesting situation for smaller firms (living in a paperless world) exists with business litigation matters when electronically stored information and large amounts of scanned documents are in play for discovery. Anyway, having to produce (or review produced) gigs upon gigs of data is common. Like other firms with multiple attorneys reviewing the data in different locations, our ediscovery review tool has to be cloud-based to conduct an efficient review of the documents.
Enter Nextpoint. Nextpoint is a great system to review mass amounts of electronic data efficiently at a price point that small firms can swallow. It is what we needed to process and tag documents by cause of action, element of the claim, witness, etc. Nextpoint also makes it easy to download documents for depositions (along with many other features, such as trial presentation).
On a recent case, we used Nextpoint to process a large document production in preparation for a week of out-of-state depositions. I decided to conduct the depositions paperless. Why not? I do everything else paperless. If I followed the traditional custom for depositions, I would have needed to ship and drag thousands of pages of exhibits around with me. As many litigators know, such a process is less than desirable.
In developing the system for the paperless depositions, I spoke with my friend, Brett Burney of Burney Consultants and macsinlaw.com. We concluded that there are 4 primary areas to cover for a successful paperless deposition:
- The deponent must have the ability to fully review the exhibits and flip page-by-page on his or her own as if a pile of paper were sitting there.
- Others in the room (the client, opposing counsel, and other parties) must be able to view the exhibits during the testimony.
- The lawyer taking the deposition needs access to an electronic outline and copies of annotated exhibits.
- The court reporter and opposing counsel need copies of the exhibits at the end of the deposition.
With these concepts in mind, here is how I conducted the depositions in my recent case:
First, to put the exhibits in front of the witness and to give them control over reviewing them, the exhibits were pre-marked and downloaded to an iPad. There are tons of great .pdf viewers for the iPad, but I needed something simple. PDF HD by Readdle did the trick. It allowed the witness to flip page-by-page quickly and they could refer back to other exhibits previously discussed, if needed.
Second, for the everyone else in the room, the ideal situation would have been to hand out an iPad to each of them, but that is less than cost effective. Instead, I hooked a second iPad up to a 24″ monitor and placed the monitor on the conference room table for easy viewing (a projector and screen was another viable option we considered). I used an app called TrialPad for iPad to present the exhibits on the monitor. TrialPad allows the user to “call out” key portions of the exhibit, zoom in, highlight, and mark up the exhibit during use. The app also has a built-in laser pointer that is handy. These features made it easy to question and to refer the witness on specific portions of the exhibits.
Third, I used an app on my MacBook Pro called Circus Ponies’ Notebook to create the deposition outlines (awesome name, right?). Notebook is a feature-rich app that is much more interactive than creating an outline in a Word document. One reason I used it was because I could insert annotated copies of the exhibits (my notes, highlights, etc., for the questioning) directly into the outline. A simple click on the .PDF icon would enlarge it to review the annotations. I also could take real-time notes directly in the outline during the depositions. An all-in-one outline solution.
Fourth, sending the final, marked exhibits to opposing counsel and the court reporter was simple. Since TrialPad does not yet sync with Box.net, I moved the exhibits over to Dropbox for use during the week. I invited the court reporter and opposing counsel to a shared folder on Dropbox, and they could directly download the documents to their computer. This avoided having to send many emails with large attachments.
When it was all said and done, the system worked. I literally traveled with 2 iPads, a laptop and no paper (the monitor was shipped). There was a cost-savings for the client without the need for thousands of pages of exhibits to be copied and processed. If new issues arose during the testimony, having the documents on Nextpoint gave me the flexibility and option to download new exhibits (either on breaks or at night) and to easily use them without having to scramble to make copies. I have my new method of conducting depositions, which I am sure will continue to evolve over time.
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