Kenny Zais, the president of O’Brien & Levine Court Reporting in Boston, MA, is being featured online in two blogs. Read Kenny Zais’ thoughts about how legal professionals are working with electronic exhibits here and read how O’Brien & Levine is leading the way with electronic depositions here.
How and why did you come to work with law firms?
Given that court reporting is an essential resource for litigation attorneys, our business is synonymous with working with law firms. Court reporters are impartial officers of the court. They have the crucial role of providing the official record of sworn testimony when witnesses are deposed during the discovery process in preparation for trial.
In addition to depositions, attorneys also bring in court reporters to produce transcripts for arbitrations, hearings, trials and audio recordings.
O’Brien & Levine has always been in the forefront of deploying technology that supports the legal team throughout the discovery process.
Why is your service/product important to law firms?
Litigation practices are international in scope, with depositions in high stakes cases going forward locally as well as across the country and around the world. Consolidating scheduling wherever the matter proceeds, with whatever is required, ensures reliability and consistency.
As discovery continues, timely, accurate delivery of testimony becomes a cornerstone for the litigation team. They rely on word-for-word transcripts to build the argument on the client’s behalf, prove a position, and ultimately, make the case.
This being the 21st Century, what we think of as a “transcript” has been re-imagined. While the traditional printed and bound version has its place, today, versatile electronic file formats for transcripts and exhibits are wholly compatible with firms’ internal information management systems. Video adds another dimension to depositions, allowing the legal team to observe the behavior of witnesses.
The big picture advantage is that attorneys can easily collaborate across geographies and time zones to fine-tune strategy and keep the client apprised.
What makes your service/product unique?
We recognize that clients expect their law firms to be mindful of cost pressures and seek savings when resources are brought in during the course of litigation. While the shorthand principles of court reporting that bring speed and accuracy to capturing testimony are unchanged, advances in technology have changed everything else.
For example, watching a live stream of a news broadcast on a computer or tablet is now routine. Similarly, Internet connectivity can be deployed in the legal arena. Here, both the court reporter and videographer stream text and video of a deposition to remote participants’ computers.
Let’s say the legal assistant has scheduled a deposition in California for your firm’s lead litigation partner to depose a witness in a patent infringement case. While it would be great for the associate and the expert who has been retained to be present, it is imperative to manage expenses. Rather than boarding a flight and booking a hotel, they can attend via real-time streaming over the Internet.
No special software is required. Plus, they can take advantage of the secure, private chat feature to confer as if they were there, relaying insights for the attorney’s line of questioning. The Boston-based associate points out inconsistent testimony and the expert in New York questions the validity of a claim.
Share how your company solves problems.
The discussion of what makes us unique definitely relates to how we solve problems. Expanding on the example of conducting depositions v! ia Internet streaming, the litigation group can count on O’Brien & Levine to come through in a range of situations and scenarios, whether scheduling with us for the first time or if we’ve been working together for more than 20 years.
Videoconferencing is another option for conducting depositions remotely, again, reducing travel costs and time out of the office. We can host your firm’s team in our videoconferencing center and coordinate with the other parties wherever they are located.
I noted that the legal assistant scheduled the deposition in California. When a big case is underway, it is important for litigation group members to know they are in good hands, meaning they don’t have to be hands-on themselves to coordinate the logistical and technical details.
This is a huge help to the legal assistant or paralegal on the front lines. A partner says, “Here are the notices for a week of depositions in California and Texas, starting the day after tomorrow.
Please line up a reporter and videographer.” Rather than taking a chance on a Google search, O’Brien & Levine takes care of all the arrangements seamlessly, just as if they were scheduling locally. For an extra measure of assurance, every member of the team can view the deposition calendar through our web portal to confirm time, location and get directions.
When final transcripts are ready, they are immediately available for download as pdf documents through our secure, online repository, with exhibits scanned and linked. The benefit here is that correlating paper exhibits to testimony when reviewing transcripts can be burdensome, if not impractical, especially when legal team members are traveling. Now, when the attorney sees the reference to “exhibit 36” in the transcript, a click on the link for “exhibit 36” opens it up. There is never an issue of a misplaced exhibit.
I mentioned video depositions as a way to observe behavior, but there’s more to it. Evidence is all the more compelling when the video is synchronized with the text of the testimony. Each line scrolls as the witness speaks—capturing demeanor, body language and tone of voice. The real value, though, is searchability. Instead of the labor-intensive task of constantly rewinding and fast-forwarding to pinpoint a piece of testimony, the legal team can highlight the text, zero-in on crucial statements, then easily create video clips to import into trial presentation software.
Finally, we understand that litigation is not a 9-5 proposition. Clients expect responsiveness, as does the litigation team. O’Brien & Levine is reachable 24/7.
Share a success story your company has experienced working with a law firm.
Due to the confidential nature of our work with law firms, I’m not able to name names and specify a success story. However, in the aggregate, success stories are evident with a look at our calendar on any given day. The schedule shows assignments we are covering in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, London, Cape Town. Every job has it particulars. One may require an Arabic interpreter. Another includes the participation of an intellectual property expert who is attending via Internet streaming. Yet another calls for a legal videographer and a one-day turnaround.
Cases range across all practices: intellectual property, employment law, insurance/reinsurance, construction, maritime, professional liability, domestic relations, contract disputes, product liability, zoning, environmental and so forth, attesting to the broad experience of our court reporters and videographers who greet your team.
Share your “WOW” factor.
The question brings to mind a remark from one of our longtime clients. O’Brien & Levine, he noted, has “gracefully fulfilled every outrageous request I have ever made.” I’ve referred to technology throughout and I like to think that our ongoing investment gives us the ability to fulfill every request, outrageous or otherwise.
We’ve just introduced a service for electronic handling of exhibits via the iPad, before, during, and after the deposition. A secure, cloud-based server allows counsel to mark and simultaneously introduce exhibits to the witness, co-counsel, opposing counsel and other participants, whether they are in the deposition room or attending remotely.
Boston court reporters have recognized that their role in the legal arena has changed over the years, and they are now the source new technology as well as the experienced court reporting services that have been the backbone of the industry.
As technology has advanced over the years, many law firms have found it necessary to immediately incorporate new technological tools to stay on pace with other practices. Boston court reporting companies have become the source for this technology, bringing innovation, efficiency, and lower costs to legal professionals around the country.
New video technology has played an important role in how legal professionals work, and it has played a role in cases across the country.
First, video depositions used in courtrooms can be valuable tools. Juries get the chance to see a deponent, which gives them a better way to evaluate the truthfulness of the deponent that they would have by simply listening to the read back of a transcript. Additionally, new technology has also allowed court reporting firms to produce videos that can help advance a case. Day-in-the-life videos and graphic presentations can have a powerful impact on juries, and the impressions they leave are often carried into the deliberation room.
Video technology can also be used to remotely participate in depositions and other legal meetings and proceedings. This is helping to save time and money for law practices, giving them more time to work with their clients. For depositions, this technology is often augmented by real time reporting that can give lawyers immediate access to rough transcripts as proceedings happen.
These new technologies are some of the ways that court reporting firms are making a difference in today’s legal world. Each day, these firms are helping lawyers meet new challenges in a demanding field.
By Kenneth A. Zais, President, O’Brien & Levine Court Reporting
The court reporter’s shorthand steno machine may look much the same as it did 100 years ago when the format debuted, and when Louis Brandeis, then a litigator in Boston, might have taken a deposition. But the resemblance stops there. Under the keys, there are ongoing technological advances that Sonia Sotomayor could have tapped into 20 years ago, as litigators can continue to do so today. And let’s not forget video.
This being the 21st Century, chances are you’ve streamed live news broadcasts to your TV, computer, tablet or smart phone. Similarly, Internet connectivity provided by Boston court reporters allows the legal team to attend a deposition remotely, across geographies and time zones. Through realtime streaming, they can follow the live text of a deponent’s testimony from the steno machine, along with live video streamed right from the videographer’s camera.
Let’s say you are pursuing a patent infringement lawsuit on behalf of a Massachusetts company against a competitor located in California. Discovery in this multi-jurisdictional case includes depositions around the country. A key witness, the software engineer at the defendant company, is based in San Francisco. Your primary expert is in New York City. Your law firm is in Boston.
You head to California to depose the software engineer. While you want your team present, it is also important to manage costs. With realtime streaming, your expert, as well as your associate and paralegal who are familiar with the intricacies of the case can participate through their computers. No special software is required. Since travel time can easily exceed the duration of a deposition, there is no need for them to be away from the office for several days, collecting receipts to submit with expense reports.
Still, through the instant messaging feature available with realtime, you are able to confer as if they were there, garnering insights for your line of questioning. For example, your associate may flag inconsistent testimony or your expert may question the validity of a claim. As the witness testifies, text can be highlighted, annotated and coded by issue, and preserved for reference as the case proceeds.
For multi-day depositions, a rough draft of the transcript is available at the conclusion of the day’s questioning for review and preparation for the next day.
Again, let’s not forget that the camera was rolling. The video of the deposition can be produced with synchronized text, the same way it appeared live over the Internet during the deposition. When playing the video file, each line of testimony scrolls as the witness speaks—capturing demeanor, body language and tone of voice.
The real value, though, is searchability. Instead of rewinding and fast-forwarding to pinpoint the testimony that corresponds to the transcript, run text-based searches to zero-in on crucial statements, then easily create video clips to import into trial presentation software.
Mark (and Link) Exhibits
These days, you are no doubt accustomed to receiving final transcripts electronically, in the format you prefer, such as searchable full and mini PDF documents, a standard ASCII text file or a .ptx file.
Then there are exhibits. A stack of exhibits in a tower of banker’s boxes. They are marked and stickered. Copied and bound. As you review the transcript, you search through the stack to put your hand on the one that corresponds to Exhibit 35.
Keep in mind that like transcripts, court reporters can provide exhibits electronically by simply scanning and creating PDF documents. Then they’ll take it one step further and hyperlink exhibits to the electronic transcript. Click on the link for Exhibit 35 and there it is.
However, even before instructing the court reporter to retain exhibits for transcript production, new software enables a complete electronic process for handling exhibits via the iPad – before, during, and after the deposition. A secure, cloud-based server allows counsel to mark and simultaneously introduce exhibits to the witness, co-counsel, opposing counsel and other participants, whether they are in the deposition room or attending remotely.
It’s the electronic equivalent of sliding a page across the table for the witness to review, and circulating copies around the room (or faxing/emailing to those attending remotely). Plus, the parties retain their personal, annotated copies of all exhibits on their iPads, while marinating the integrity of the official versions.
The advantage? Eliminate the cumbersome, time-consuming process of printing, shipping and lugging boxes of exhibits.
If you see a depiction of a deposition that went forward in 1913, the stenographer’s keypad will look remarkably familiar. But everything else has changed.
In 2013, the court reporter/videographer team greets you wherever you designate, be it Boston, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, London, Paris or Tel Aviv. They make the connections and go on the record, keeping legal team members around the world on track. Following the proceeding, whether it’s a deposition, arbitration, trial or hearing, your transcripts and exhibits are always readily accessible on any computer or tablet. And of course, your phone.
Kenneth A. Zais is president of O’Brien & Levine Court Reporting (www.court-reporting.com), based in Boston and offering worldwide coverage. He is a long-time member of and is active in leadership roles with the National Network of Reporting Companies (NNRC), an organization of innovative agencies providing worldwide services for court reporting, videography and more. In addition, he has served on the board of the Society for the Technological Advancement of Reporting (STAR) and maintains an active membership.
Other professional affiliations include the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association (MCRA) and the United States Court Reporters Association (USCR.)
In a world where physical distance is no longer an inhibiting factor to connectivity, lawyers often find that their cases take them across the country. In addition to the travel time and expenses that come from working these cases, attorneys are often forced to work without the capable support staffs that help prepare cases.
Boston court reporters help attorneys with the demands of the modern legal environment. Live legal video allows attorneys to work their cases remotely, either viewing a deposition over the internet or working in person and using this same technology to connect to their support teams.
Boston court reporting companies can also provide several other important services for visiting attorneys and for lawyers working in the Boston area. Document storage allows groups of people to access documents through password-protected portals, meaning that attorneys and their teams are no longer burdened by reams of actual paper documents.
Courtroom presentations are becoming more important as well, and many Boston court reporting firms can help attorneys prepare for trial with compelling exhibits that can help convey information to juries in innovative ways. In an era where more legal proceedings are on television, potential juries are more accustomed than ever before to seeing immersive courtroom presentations.
In Boston, lawyers know they can get the support they need from court reporting firms that provide the professional support to help them serve their clients in a highly technical legal field with busy schedules and demanding juries.