A few weeks ago, I discussed whether it was possible to go paperless. I want to pick up where I left off and drop a few more tips for how to go paperless and why it’s important. For me, as a solo practitioner, I have to be efficient. It’s how I keep an edge over other small firms and how I level the playing ground with big firms. But, it’s not all about competing with others. I reduce my paper use because I am just way too busy to spend 3 hours doing something that I could do in 30 minutes.
Also, just to be clear, when I say “paperless,” I really mean “mostly paperless.” It is not possible or practical to go entirely paperless in this current decade, but I think that the less paper we use, the better.
Depositions – One of the Final Paper Strongholds
Even for hardcore paperless people, depositions seem to be one of the few places where they can’t escape using a lot of paper, whether it’s using paper for exhibits or using yellow pad after yellow pad for notes.
I have a client who works in the computer industry. He told me the first day I met him: “This is 2014. I am not going to be giving anyone anything in paper form. I am not even going to bring paper copies to my deposition.” He’s absolutely right. There should be no need for that in our day on document-intensive cases. As far as notes that attorneys take in depositions, the whole idea of having important information that you generate yourself that is not instantly accessible all the time is so bizarre to me that it’s hard for me to fathom that most attorneys still operate that way.
Paperless Exhibits at Deposition
It is becoming more and more common to present exhibits electronically in trial these days because it is easier to load 10,000 pages into a computer and use the 12 or so pages you want in trial than bringing every document you could possibly want into the courthouse. The same is true for using exhibits in deposition. Companies like eDepoze are making it a reality. You use a web interface to upload all of your potential exhibits. At deposition, you use iPads to display exhibits to opposing counsel and the witness. On your interface, you see all of your potential exhibits. On the other side of the table, they see only the exhibits that you publish. The court reporter gets the published exhibits, which are already saved online as PDFs. Witnesses and examining attorneys can annotate and introduce annotated copies or clean copies of exhibits.
The benefit of using electronic exhibits in deposition is evident when you have multiple deponents referencing and annotating the same exhibit. Say you have a scene photograph and witness Jones marks where things were on Exhibit 1 to his depo. You use that same exhibit (which is now a copy of a copy) in the Smith depo and have witness Smith testify as to his understanding of where things were on the photograph. Now, if you want to use that document, which started as a digital photo, you are now using a third-generation copy of a printout of a digital photo. You are going to lose clarity and details in your exhibit. With digital exhibits, you use digital annotations and digital photos, so your final product looks just as good as the original source photo.
OneNote is one of the greatest tools that a lawyer can use. It’s also free at OneNote.com. For those who are unfamiliar with OneNote, it is a Microsoft Office program for organizing your notes. Think of it as a digital notebook. Here’s how I use it in deposition.
First, let me just set the scene for you. Opposing counsel is sitting across the table from you and they have two or three lawyers and the witness. When the lawyers need to say something to each other, they whisper it and hope that the people on my side of the table sitting three feet away from them do not hear. They occasionally pass post-its among each other. When something big happens that hurts their case, or when an important point is made, they furiously write notes to each other or whisper amongst each other and I mark in my notes that they are upset about the current line of questioning.
On my side of the table, the attorney taking the deposition has a laptop open with OneNote running. I create a depo notebook on my laptop and share it with the other attorney. I choose to sync a copy of my notebook on the cloud. This makes it so that as I type notes, they sync up almost in real time with everyone that shares my depo notebook. I can write on my notebook follow-up questions and they pop up on the questioning attorney’s screen. If the witness says he’s never received any complaints of injury for Product X, I can paste a pdf of an email into the screen and use my highlighter tool to highlight relevant text and then write a note to the attorney, “This is exhibit 14 in your depo outline. Let’s mark it next in order.”
In my OneNote section where I am just taking notes, if I hear a name of a third party mentioned, I jot down the name and right-click next to the name and place a red flag that synchronizes with my tasks in Outlook. I create a task to subpoena this person’s records. All of my notes are accessible all the time. If a deponent two weeks ago said something that contradicts what a deponent is saying right now at the deposition, I can access my old notes or that depo transcript with just a few clicks.
What Happens You Go Paperless
Probably the best benefit of going paperless is that you can do this:
Of course, you have not lived until you’ve eaten smoked turkey cooked in the ashes of your bar prep books that have been shredded with 500 rounds of 9mm hollow points.
Ed. note: This column has been brought to you by our friends at MyCase, web-based practice management software for lawyers. Click here to learn more about MyCase and their happy customers.
Please note that the views expressed in the column are those of the writer alone.
Jeff Bennion is a solo practitioner from San Diego. When not handling his own cases, he’s consulting lawyers on how to use technology to not be boring in trial or managing e-discovery projects in mass torts/complex litigation cases. If you want to be disappointed in a lack of posts, you can follow him on twitter or on Facebook. If you have any ideas of things you want him to cover, email Jeff at email@example.com.