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Ten Tips for an Effective Remote Deposition

Stephanie Peatman


  • Video depositions continue to be prevalent despite the lifting of COVID restrictions.
  • Prepare exhibits in advance and have them organized and ready for use during the deposition.
  • Establish an examination lineup to avoid downtime and confusion among attorneys.
  • Maintain a clean and professional environment, dress appropriately, and introduce yourself to humanize the deposition process.
Ten Tips for an Effective Remote Deposition
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Even with COVID restrictions lifting, the prevalence of video depositions remains. Consider using the checklist below prior to the beginning of your next deposition to ensure you are prepared to take an organized, thorough, and professional deposition.

Before the Deposition Begins

  1. Exhibits: If you know you plan to use exhibits with the witness, have the exhibits open and in the order you plan to use them for your examination. This will eliminate time spent opening and closing documents during the deposition. If y’ou go down a rabbit hole with the witness, having the next document lined up will help you get back on track. If you plan on asking questions about an exhibit you will share on your screen and want to use an outline while doing so, print out that portion of your outline in advance.
    1. If you want the witness to be familiar with the exhibit before the deposition begins, figure out how you are going to share the exhibits. Sometimes there is a fileshare box that you upload exhibits to, or you can share exhibits via the chat. Other times you may need to mail hard copies in advance.
    2. If you plan to impeach the witness or surprise them with an exhibit, be sure to name the exhibits internally with generic names—such as Tab 1 or Tab 2 (instead of “3/24/22 Alternative Diagnosis from Dr. Smith”)—to avoid giving the witness a preview of what you plan to cover during your examination.
  2. Examination Lineup: If you are one of several attorneys planning to ask questions in the deposition, get a schedule in place so everyone knows who is next in order. Otherwise, there can be down time and awkward silences while everyone tries to figure out who should examine the witness next.
  3. Desktop: In the few seconds it takes to open screen share and navigate to your exhibits, everyone on Zoom is given the opportunity to see what is on your desktop. Make sure to have a clean and organized space that is free of personal items and work product. In the alternative, to avoid anyone seeing your desktop at all, have your exhibits up and ready before you click “share screen” and only share the application where your exhibits are being held.
  4. Location: Be mindful of your surroundings and pick a quiet place to conduct the deposition. For example, if your deposition is set to begin on a Tuesday and that’s the day trash gets collected on your street, plan to take the deposition somewhere else or a find a quiet room as far away from the street as possible. Whichever room you choose, take a moment to tidy up the background. No one wants to see your unmade bed or a stack of dirty dishes sitting behind you.
  5. Technical: Most people dial in 10–15 minutes before the deposition, but the court reporter is usually on about 30 minutes before the deposition begins. Dial in early and ask the court reporter to confirm that your audio and video are both coming in clear before everyone else joins the deposition. You can also use this time to ask the court reporter to set up virtual break out rooms so designated parties (i.e., all defendants) have the opportunity to speak with each other outside the presence of the plaintiff and their counsel.
  6. Back Up Dial-In: Remote video depositions will usually offer a phone number that can be used for audio only. Pre-dial the number on your cell phone before the deposition begins. If for any reason your internet connection fails, you’ll be able to dial in within seconds to avoid missing important information and without having to scramble looking for the dial-in.

During the Deposition

  1. Camera: When using multiple screens, make sure your outline (or the document you will look at the most) is on the screen with your camera. Otherwise, it will seem like you are never looking directly at the witness, which can feel disjointed and even rude to a lay person who is not used to being in a deposition, let alone via Zoom.
  2. Video: Leave your video on for the sake of the court reporter. It can be very difficult to hear questions and objections via phone, so allowing the court reporter to see your face and watch your lips will make it easier for them to catch what you are saying. This will also ensure your objections make it on the record.
  3. Decorum: You should treat a remote deposition as an in-person deposition and act accordingly.
    1. First, make sure you are dressed appropriately. While suit and/or tie may not be necessary, you should still be dressed professionally. This means no logo t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts or unkempt hair. Fight the urge to wear pajama bottoms—emergencies happen and the last thing you want is to jump up to answer your front door and flash your sweatpants to all deposition participants.
    2. Second, do not eat or drink during the deposition. Breaks are taken regularly—use that time to grab a snack or drink a cup of coffee.
    3. Finally, do not forget to introduce yourself at the beginning of multi-party litigation as well as when you are actually questioning the witness. Depositions can feel adversarial but taking a moment to introduce yourself will humanize you to the witness and make your exchange feel less combative.
  4. Remote Stipulation: Be sure to check your local rules to determine if your state requires a stipulation to permit the court reporter to conduct the deposition remotely or if your state has adopted its own bill to permit remote depositions. California Code Section 225.310 requires that the deposition officer or court reporter be present with the deponent during the deposition. However, as of September 2020, Senate Bill 1146 allows a court reporter to swear in the witness and transcribe the deposition remotely in California. If a stipulation is needed, make sure to read it into the record before you begin asking any questions.