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Conducting depositions over the phone is a good way to cut costs and save travel time. But they also have certain liabilities. Based on our experience with setting up many of such depositions, here are a few tips for getting the most out of it.
To begin with, under most state regulations, the reporter must be present at the location of the witness in order to execute the oath. The oath cannot be administered over the phone. If it is not possible for the reporter to be at that location, some jurisdictions permit a notary to swear the witness, while the reporter is at the location of the noticing attorney.
Another problem arises through the use of speakerphones and their tendency to cut other speakers off when one person starts talking. If the others on the line do not respond to your objection, question or comment, there is a good chance they did not hear it, or the audio was garbled. In such a case, you can ask the reporter to read back that section or repeat your question or statement.
In any deposition, when two people start talking at the same time, words can be lost and the record gets muddied. This is even worse in a telephonic deposition, particularly where more than one person is coming in over the phone line. It is harder for the reporter to distinguish between the speakers when they are talking simultaneously over the phone, than when they are in the same room as the reporter but on opposite sides of the conference table. But even when only one person is speaking at a time, if more than one attorney is coming in over the telephone line, they should identify themselves whenever they start talking to avoid any confusion.
Telephonic depositions also require some advance planning in terms of exhibits, specialized word lists, and the case caption. Normally you will be handing these to the reporter in person at the deposition. When done over the phone, these should be sent to our office early enough for us to get these to the reporter.
We realize that you are in a hurry, but if at the end of the deposition you stay on the phone line a couple minutes longer, so the reporter can get your transcript order and clarify the spelling of any names or special terms, it can mean that you get the transcript several days earlier than if they have to chase down the information later.