Conducting Telephone Depositions
Why Conduct Telephone Depositions
It may be necessary to conduct telephone depositions rather than in-person depositions periodically. For example, if a witness is ill or unable to travel to your office, it may make sense to hold the deposition over the phone. The witness may be located on the other side of the globe, making it impractical, and expensive, to travel. Time constraints may make a telephone deposition the only choice available. No matter what the reason may be, if you need to conduct a deposition over the telephone, you should have a general understanding of what to expect and how to avoid common pitfalls.
What to Expect During a Telephone Deposition
A telephone deposition is much like any other deposition. You'll need a court reporter present, you'll need to swear in the witness, you'll need to ask the witness questions, and so on. However, since the deposition takes place over the telephone, the experience is a little different. For example, you'll have to deal with conference calling equipment or services to ensure that all parties that need to be present during the deposition can dial in and participate. In addition, since the deposition is audio based, you must rely strictly on what you hear. Non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions cannot be seen, making it more important than ever to ask probing questions.
You, the court reporter, and the witness must be able to hear and understand each other, making quality phone lines and equipment a must. Make sure that you have access to a high quality speakerphone or individual headsets before the telephone deposition begins. Consider using a conference call provider that offers a call recording feature. That way, you'll have an MP3 recording of the phone deposition as well as the court reporter's transcript.
Common Telephone Deposition Pitfalls
Because of the technology involved in conducting telephone depositions, there's always the possibility of technical difficulties including: dropped calls, poor sound quality, static, and other issues. If you're planning on using a conference call service, make sure that it's one that you have used before or test the service in advance to ensure reliability and quality.
As mentioned earlier, non-verbal cues are impossible to detect. Pay attention to awkward pauses, hesitation, stammering, chuckles, and other verbal cues that could add context to the testimony.
Another common pitfall involves hearing. Can you hear what the witness said? Can the witness hear you? Can the court reporter hear? Schedule the call to start about five to ten minutes before you plan on questioning the witness so that all parties can perform sound checks and adjust the call volume as needed. If the phone connection is poor, disconnect the call and try again. It's better to spend a few minutes before the deposition begins to ensure that the sound quality is adequate than to suffer through a poor connection for the entire examination.
While telephone depositions aren't likely to be your default choice, they are sometimes unavoidable. Knowing these common pitfalls allows you to prevent many of them.