Company looking to make depositions easier

They call it a “virtual deposition room.”

As law firms look to cut costs and improve efficiency, a Raleigh-based company is now offering a web-based platform that allows attorneys to depose parties remotely, even across the continent, with no stenographer required. 

“A lot of times, depositions are pushed to the side because they are too costly to produce,” said Adam Breakey, the company’s chief marketing officer. “We have come up with a solution.”

The initial concept of vTestify was an on-demand legal consultation service with attorneys who would be paid for their time over video conference, Breakey said.

“After talking to many attorneys and experts, we identified the court reporting industry as a potential opportunity for disruption and shifted gears toward digitally captured depositions,” he said. “There’s a growing problem with shortages of stenographers, who historically have been fundamental to the collection of testimony. vTestify saw an opportunity to fill the gap using the latest technology and improved processes.”

All of those participating in a deposition can do so remotely, with each party in the same deposition room or in a different location. The service can be particularly handy for attorneys who work from home, the company says.

The company touts its service as a cheaper and more efficient than in-person deposition, particularly when the depositions require attorney to travel by air and stay at a hotel overnight.

Breakey said that the cost of the services is half the cost of a traditional in-person deposition. (The cost is $99 for the first hour of video, and 99 cents per minute thereafter. Transcripts cost $1.99 per page.)

Attorneys can search the videos, highlight key testimony and make clips of testimony, the company says, making it possible for attorneys to build a better case.

“We have a robust search engine where you are able to more quickly [hone] in on the smoking gun if you will, or if there is a point worth making at trial,” Breakey said. “Or you may encounter something that makes you say, ‘We are going to settle this because we are going to lose down the road.’”

Transcripts of depositions are done electronically. Artificial intelligence speech-to-text systems transcribes up to 90 percent of the video in a few minutes. The transcripts are then reviewed by vTestify staff.

The transcripts are produced in a secure, audit traceable, locked environment, “so not even our professional scopists [transcript editors] have the ability to extract your video or transcript,” the company says.

A notary is necessary. Witnesses can complete an affidavit any time prior to the deposition, or a notary can be present during the deposition to swear the witness in, then they can leave.  Attorneys also have the option of using remote notary services in which a notary can swear in a witness over video.

Breakey said that generally, all that is required is a notice of the non-stenographic method. The other procedural duties such as the oath and transcript certification are handled by a vTestify deposition officer, who is a notary public. In North Carolina, no written stipulation is required using this method, he said. However, in South Carolina, an attorney may need a written agreement with the opposing party.