Realtime: Are You Using it to Your Advantage?

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01Mar2009

Realtime: Are You Using it to Your Advantage?

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By Barbara Lynch, Staff Writer

RealtimeRealtime, the instantaneous translation of the court reporter’s stenographic notes into English, first caught broad public attention over fifteen years ago.

Once primarily limited to the major metropolitan areas, realtime’s availability has spread throughout the country over the last decade with a very high percentage of depositions reported nationwide being reported in realtime. It has continually increased at a steady, rapid rate and has become the only way to depose for many litigators.

Bryan Sheldon, a litigation partner at Lim, Ruger & Kim, LLP, in Los Angeles, uses realtime for approximately eighty percent of his depositions. Once he was introduced to this highly beneficial approach to depositions at LegalTech a few years back, he began taking advantage of it right away.

Bryan is very pleased with the results of using realtime, and he sees a remarkable difference in his discovery results. He finds realtime to be an extremely valuable service which is worth the possible extra cost.

“Especially when the goal is to get specific testimony to support a technical motion such as for summary judgment, realtime allows confirmation that the questions were clearly asked and fully answered, leaving the witness no ‘wiggle room’ when it comes time to oppose the motion.  We have all experienced leaving the deposition room thinking we had nailed the witness, only to be disappointed when the transcript arrived and testimony was not as clear as we thought it was.  Using realtime almost eliminates that phenomenon,” Bryan said, when asked for an example of how realtime can be valuable.

Multiple Advantages

As Bryan’s example points out, the most obvious benefit of using realtime is immediate access to the transcript. During the deposition one can refer back to a specific question or answer to see if it came out as intended. Was the question answered, or is the witness rambling? Does the question need to be asked again? When specific wording on a question or answer is vital, did it come out exactly right?

Bryan was even more specific and said it is priceless to have the opportunity to instantly confirm that the witness has been locked in to a specific answer or position and that the ability to confirm all necessary topics have been covered before closing the deposition. He now relies heavily on leaving the deposition with a rough draft of the transcript because it is so helpful in preparing questioning for other witnesses, preparing experts to testify, or preparing for trial.

“Realtime also benefits interpreters and translators for testimony in languages other than English,” he said, “especially for Asian languages in which the sentence structure is very different from English.”

Getting More of an Upper Hand

Realtime can be such a valuable subtle “weapon” in itself but knowing how to use it to its full potential is key.

“Using realtime frees me from taking notes during the testimony, so I can concentrate on the examination. I frequently highlight portions of the testimony for ease of reference later which is so efficient and worthwhile,” Bryan added when asked if any other advantages come to mind.

Here are other ways realtime can give you the upper hand:

  1. It allows you to organize the next day’s deposition in cases where depositions are being held several days in a row.
  2. Errors can be corrected on the spot rather than after receiving the transcript.
  3. Note taking during the deposition provides for faster summary preparation.
  4. Seeing things in writing helps to organize and focus thoughts that otherwise might be cluttered.
  5. If opposing counsel is relying on memory, using the computer gives a large tactical advantage.

To the Old Schoolers, New Schoolers and the Technically Challenged

While people may disagree on whether “every change seems an improvement,” many aspects of the legal field are in a state of constant flux. It can be tough dealing with constant change on the job or in any other aspect of life. Just when you have everything figured out, a new “latest and greatest” comes along to throw out what you’ve been doing.

As much as things do change, the fundamentals always seem to remain the same. Technology’s advances are there to further goals, to make things more readily accessible and easier to deliver.

new technology

New technology can be intimidating at first, but the learning curve pays off in the end.

Using realtime when your opponent isn’t can be like sitting at the dining table and the guy across from you is trying to cut his meat with a spoon.

Bryan echoed that analogy when he said, “I think using realtime gives the lawyers in my firm a leg up over lawyers who don’t use it, especially those intimidated by technology.  Frankly, I do not directly encourage others to use realtime as I like to preserve that edge.”

Making it All Work

Realtime reporters are the top-of-the-line reporters and become the best reporters because the nature of realtime insists they be very good writers which translates into providing accurate and timely information that can be trusted. Because the translation is immediate, with the translation appearing within seconds of the words being spoken, the reporter’s margin of error is greatly reduced. The realtime reporter has to be highly skilled to ensure there is no hiccup during the deposition and that the rough draft form appearing on the screen is true and reliable.

Realtime can be set up where the attorney’s computer is connected to the reporter’s computer so that the attorney is receiving the translation on his computer. The attorney has a laptop which receives the translation within seconds of the words being spoken. He can view, search, annotate and issue code the testimony while the deposition is taking place. In these instances, it is imperative that the reporter is also knowledgeable about the technology aspect of it all.

Unfortunately, Bryan has worked with a realtime reporter who wasn’t familiar with older (not ancient) computers which caused a problem. “The reporter must be well versed in the somewhat older technology involved, otherwise, connecting and synching with an attorney’s computer can be a nightmare,” Bryan shared, based on a recent experience.

Choosing What’s Best for You and Your Practice

Last month, an attorney did his first realtime hookup connecting his laptop to a reporter’s computer. The witness said something which conflicted with data he had gotten from another witness, so the attorney copied that portion of the testimony into a word processor, printed it out and faxed it to the other witness. The other witness then read the testimony and called back before the deposition was over with several additional questions for the attorney to ask. Only with realtime is such a scenario possible.

At Bryan’s firm, Lim, Ruger, they require that their litigation associates use realtime for all depositions. They find it helps them formulate better questions, keeps them focused, and assures that they get what they need from the witness. It also gives the associates a bit of a comfort level, which helps reduce the stress that sometimes accompanies contentious depositions.

How realtime can assist you depends on how you choose to use it. It can easily become a habit of having a close friend that provides efficiency and a leg up in what otherwise can be long and arduous.

About the Author

Bryan Sheldon is a partner in the litigation group at Lim, Ruger & Kim, LLP in Los Angeles. He serves as Lim Ruger’s Administrative Partner and co-chairs the firm’s litigation department.

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