Esquire eLitigate™ Helps Attorneys and Court Reporters Standardize and Optimize Virtual Deposition Processes.
Esquire Deposition Solutions, a national provider of remote and in-person court reporting and video, yesterday announced it is partnering with a remote deposition and exhibit management provider vTestify to provide a product called Esquire eLitigate™™. eLitigate™ is a technology platform that’s designed specifically for virtual depositions. Currently, in a pilot phase, Esquire eLitigate™ will be released commercially in August 2021.
Esquire and vTestify describe eLitigate™ as “a purpose-built, secure virtual deposition platform with all-in-one videoconferencing and exhibit management capabilities for attorneys and court reporters.” Like some other recent litigation management solutions, eLitigate™ combines several technologies designed for virtual depositions into a single platform. It combines in one place:
- Exhibit management,
- Integrated video conferencing,
- Video capture,
- Sidebar rooms,
- Immediate feedback, and
- Testimony review features with searchable in-proceeding speech-to-text streaming.
I talked recently to Terrie Campbell, Chief Executive Officer at Esquire, and Mike Hewitt, Chief Executive Officer of vTestify, about the new product, what it does, and what the future may hold. Alex Hewitt, Vice President of vTestify demoed the product for me.
First the product. The one question even today many lawyers have about virtual depositions is how to manage the exhibits. Do you send them to the other side and/or the witness in advance, losing the element of surprise. How do you deal with the exhibit that you need based on unexpected testimony? How do you mark exhibits? Even today, many lawyers are still uncertain about these and other questions. The more technically oriented lawyers who have mastered the art have an advantage. The rest still fumble.
According to a recent Esquire survey, 51% of attorneys are still worried about managing exhibits in a virtual environment. While I often take vendor surveys with a grain of salt, Esquire’s number here may be conservative). Campbell believes Esquire has taken over 100,000 remote depositions since last March 2020.
But eLitgate appears to offer a solution. Each lawyer can upload the documents they may want to use into the eLitigate™ platform before or during the depositions. Whatever is uploaded and the list of these documents are visible only to the lawyer who uploaded them. When the lawyer is ready to use an exhibit, he or she just clicks a share button, and the exhibit is then displayed to everyone. With a click of another button, the exhibit can be marked.
The witness or the lawyer can annotate the exhibit while it’s on screen as well.
You can search through your uploaded exhibit to find the one you may need at a particular time as well. There’s even a feature that lets you show an exhibit to the witness’s lawyer in advance of showing it to the witness if need be. The management system is intuitive and easy to use. It’s a simple practical tool that should ease some of the main friction points out of the virtual deposition.
One cool feature is a live running speech to text tool.
But the platform does more. One cool feature is a live running speech to text tool. While it’s not intended to be a true or accurate transcript (Alex Hewitt labeled it as a “best guess” tool), it does allow you to search and find earlier testimony in the deposition. The testimony is displayed in text format and but the audio portion can then be replayed the audio. There have been many times when I was in depositions where I wanted to hear what the witness previously said about something. Typically, you need previously testimony in the deposition to clarify what was said or even impeach the witness.
And, I have to admit, there have been occasions when I closed a depo thinking I had the perfect testimony only to find out later when I read the transcript that it wasn’t quite what I recalled. (It was never better than I thought btw). Esquire claims that this tool allows two speakers to be heard at once. This ability allows for a more natural conversation than we get with most virtual platforms and, of course, helps the court reporter.
The platform also allows up to 4 private break out or side bar rooms that can be easily accessed.
The display is simple. The private exhibit list and the introduced exhibits are displayed on the right hand side of the screen. The witness and other participants are displayed on the left. Both the participant screen and the exhibit screen can be blown up. The speech to text function can be displayed on the very far right. The product does not yet allow the use of dual or even triple screens. But that’s coming according to Alex Hewitt. That ability would be a welcome improvement since otherwise, the displays could get a little cramped, especially if you use a laptop.
What’s The So What?
Three reasons eLitigate™ is important. First, even though we are coming out of the pandemic, virtual depositions are here to stay. There’s just too much convenience and efficiency not to use this tool in most cases. Higher comfort levels, increased efficiency, and productivity cost savings, fewer logistical and scheduling burdens. Says Campbell, “Ninety percent of our client depositions we conducted this past year were done virtually .”
78% of attorneys plan to continue conducting up to half of their depositions virtually in the future.
There are no signs that this will let up since virtual depositions have become the accepted practice. According to the Esquire survey, 78% of attorneys plan to continue conducting up to half of their depositions virtually in the future. And there are very few depositions that don’t have exhibits. eLitigate™ allows even the least tech savvy litigator to level the proverbial playing field.
Second, it’s no secret that there is a shortage of court reporters in this country right now. The eLitigate™ platform enables even more acceptance and use of virtual depositions. This will allow more depositions to be taken in less time, alleviating at least some of the pain of the shortage. As Campbell says, “we have to find more efficient ways to use the court reporters we have.”
The inevitable end result: declining respect for the rule of law
But finally, as we come out of the pandemic and are facing a backlog of judicial proceedings and trials, we need to be thinking about how to make the court system more efficient. As I have written before, the court system has traditionally functioned as a place, not a service. As a result, it is difficult to access and navigate for those that are not lawyers, be they jurors, witnesses, or just people with a grievance that needs to be addressed. Going to court for these people is disruptive, inconvenient, and downright exasperating. It’s a place to be avoided at almost all costs.
And we also have a backlog and inevitable delay in resolving disputes. I know it’s trite, but it’s true: justice delayed is justice denied.
The inevitable end result: declining respect for the rule of law. The virtual world offers a solution to this disruption and to the ever expanding backlog.
Tools like eLitigate™ will lead to greater acceptance of virtual proceedings by making those proceedings easy to use. (If, of course, it works as it appears to). According to Mike Hewitt, eLitigate™ is a platform that “can be leveraged across multiple types of matters and proceedings to meet the needs of the industry.”
For more information about the Esquire eLitigate™ platform, please visit https://www.esquiresolutions.com/technology/eLitigate™/