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D. Michael Bush, Esq.
Take away an attorney’s pen and paper during a deposition and suddenly she/he can’t ask a coherent question. The transition from our beloved tools of the trade to the computer is a necessity given the massive amount of information at our disposal. There is nothing magical about computers, but they allow attorneys to manage this information in a way that makes our practice more efficient and enables us to provide our clients with a better quality, less expensive product at a lower cost. Information that took at least days to receive process and deliver now can be handled instantaneously. Most aspects of our economy are in transition. The lawyer who is flexible and willing to experiment with new technologies will be best equipped to enter into the new age.
Realtime court reporting is a dramatic breakthrough in enabling attorneys to manage their case load. After trying several programs, I found that LiveNote was the strongest and is was the most widely used litigation software by the top U.S. law firms in 2007.
If you are skeptical, all I ask is that you try it with the assumption that you’re only going to use LiveNote if it makes your life easier. If you’ve agreed to that basic premise, you’re now hooked. We will start ever so slowly. Don’t be in a hurry. Move from one step to another only when you feel comfortable.
There are many reasonably-priced laptop computers out there that are very user friendly and can make any novice feel comfortable and skilled.
STEP 1: Buy a laptop computer and a good word processing program. Dell, Toshiba, Sony and HP make good, reasonably-priced laptop computers. Word is the leading word processing program. Computers and programs that are now on the market are designed in such a way that they can engage even the most computer phobic among us. The hardest part is learning to type. You can practice your typing skills by closing your eyes and typing in a personal journal. It’s a relaxing and a therapeutic way to deal with personal issues and who cares if you make typos?
STEP 2: Have the court reporter hook you up so you can see a rough draft of the transcript as its being prepared. You don’t have to look at it. I guarantee you though that there will be at least one time in any deposition that lasts over 20 minutes that you’ll at least sneak a peek at the screen. Maybe the other attorney will object to the form of the question. Maybe you said “back” when you were thinking “neck.” Maybe the other attorney was trying to talk over his client as the critical point fell out of the deponent’s mouth and you wanted to make sure the court reporter got the full statement. Trust me on this one.
STEP 3: Scroll up or down in the transcript to review testimony. If you’re doing this during a deposition, press the escape key. This will temporarily stop the live feed. After you have reviewed the desired area, press the escape key again and the live feed will continue and the testimony recorded while you were searching will be added to your transcript. You won’t miss a thing.
Imagine being able to find a buried sentence in a transcript before opposing counsel can read it aloud to the judge – now that’s exciting!
STEP 4: Look for a word in the transcript. Twenty minutes ago the deponent said one thing and now he’s saying another. You want to pin him down before he figures a way out of the web he’s weaved. (Escape to stop transcript, Search/Quick Find, or Control+F) You can follow the same procedure if you want to find a page and line number. When the opposing counsel is about to try to impeach your client, you can find the deposition excerpt just after she gives the reference, but before she is able to start her question. For example, the attorney says, “I’d like to refer the party to page 21, lines 8 to 20 of his transcript.” Before she has finished her sentence, you have accessed the excerpt.
STEP 5: This part is where things start getting a little scary. Prepare your deposition outline on your computer work processing program and don’t take any handwritten notes into the conference room with you. If that thought creates beads of sweat on your forehead, then print your notes, place them securely in your file folder where you can instantly access them.
After you turn on your computer, open both the LiveNote and your word processing program with your deposition outline. To switch from one program to another, press the Alt key, hold it down, and then press the tab key. If you don’t see the icon, or program you want, press the tab key again until you see the desired program. Then release the keys and you’ve now switched into the other program. This allows you to switch from your deposition notes, to your transcript and back virtually instantaneously.
STEP 6: As you are looking at the rough draft of the testimony as it comes across on your screen, use the space bar to highlight important points. You can scroll down the transcripts to find your highlights. (To find your highlights, go to the Search pull down menu, then Find Annotations (or Control+A) and the Quick marks. Then double click on the line that you want to review.)
STEP 7: If you were in an airplane, up to now you would be gathering speed as you taxi down the runway. The next step comes as the nose of the plane picks up and leaves the ground.
Think through and jot down a list of categories before the deposition which you can plug into your software program so you can “file” different parts of testimony as you go.
Before the deposition, create a list of categories. In addition to the ones unique to our case, add ones such as important points, follow ups, names and chronology. This is like having file folders for each portion of the testimony. (Go to Issue/Current and then select up to 10 primary categories. You can add more categories by selecting Issue/New or Control+L)
As the deponent is testifying, shade over a small part of the transcript with your mouse. (If you want to put the testimony in one of the primary categories, just select the appropriate number. (If you want to place it in a secondary category, press Alt+O and then go to your selection.) You can also add notes to the highlighted area. (Note)
After the deposition, you can look at the areas you highlighted. (Options/Reports and I suggest you select 10 lines. This will enable you to look 10 lines above and below the area you selected. Even if you just highlight a word during the deposition, you will be able to see the selection in context. To see your selections, Report/Annotations/View.)
STEP 8: Using the airplane analogy, you are now safely airborne, over your pre-flight jitters and now it’s time for the beverage service.
After your deposition, you may want to report to your client. The following is a simple example. Let’s say you only want to review your categories for “important points” and “follow up.” This way you can quickly scan the key points you need to include in your letter. (Report/Annotation/Issues/Deselect All and then select issues/OK/-View. It may seem complicated, but this allows you to narrow your inquiry so you see only what you want to see.
STEP 9: You have the rough draft of the transcript on your computer. The final transcript comes on disk and you now want to update your transcript. (Open your deposition file, Transcript/Update.) The adventuresome will want to have the court reporting service e-mail the update so you can get it faster and have one less object to handle. Your annotations and notes will be preserved on the updated transcript. If you really like living on the edge, instead of getting a bulky transcript, ask the court reporting service to give you only the LiveNote computer update and a condensed transcript with the exhibits attached to that.
STEP 10: Just after the deposition takes place, try to fax or e-mail excerpts of the transcript to the doctor who is going to examine the deponent, or your expert who is going to evaluate a piece of evidence. Even though the transcript is in rough form, it is still good enough for the person reviewing the information to see exactly what was said.
One of the perks to this 12-Step Recovery Program is that with all of your transcripts loaded on your computer, you can prep for trial from anywhere!
STEP 11: You’re almost done. Take a vacation. Stay a day longer than you normally would and prepare for that arbitration or trial using only the laptop computer you brought along. You have all your deposition transcripts on the computer. Transfer your deposition excerpts, complete with page and line references, to your word processing program. (After you select your report, see step 8, Save As and give your file a name.) Cut and paste relevant portions from the word processing document into your arbitration or trial outline.
STEP 12: You have now fully recovered. Before you return from your vacation, find some environmentally sensible way to symbolically dispose of your pen and paper. Now you are ready to use your laptop in that arbitration or trial and will never have to pull out a transcript. Realtime court reporting helps the attorney think and respond quickly and accurately. It’s the new tool of the trade.
About the Author
D. Michael Bush has been a California attorney for over 20 years with the ambition and drive to “build bridges from problems to solutions”. His goal is and always has been to help people get through difficult times and move on with their lives – which is a sincere approach that has been appreciated by his clients over the years.