A Q&A with O’Brien & Levine Court Reporting president Kenny Zais:
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.