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What Attorneys Need to Know About Their Court Reporter at a Realtime Deposition

When an attorney, judge or paralegal participates in a deposition with a realtime court reporter providing instantaneous translation of the testimony, there are best practices that the attorneys can employ to create a better record and get the most out of the realtime service.

Following are 10 tips for attorneys coming from a court reporter’s perspective:

  1.  Have your laptop computer available at a minimum 15 minutes before the deposition begins (30 minutes is preferred) so the court reporter can load necessary drivers into your computer and troubleshoot any comport issues.
  2.  If you don’t have realtime software on your laptop, request the court  reporter to bring an extra laptop or netbook with realtime software installed and ready to go – “plug and play”’  
  3. As an alternative to Tip #2, ask the court reporting firm to have the court reporter bring Bridge or CaseViewNet (free software) to the deposition to be installed in your computer.  For the installation of new software, it is essential you have your laptop available at least 30 minutes before the deposition is to begin.  (You can go online to download the Bridge software at no cost.)  
  4. Have a “serial port.”  The majority of new laptops/netbooks do not have a serial port so you need to have a “virtual serial port.”  Belkin and IOGear are popular brands.  Fry’s typically has virtual serial ports in stock. 
  5. If you purchase a virtual serial port, install the drivers before you get to the deposition.  In many instances, drivers are installed via a website, and you need to be online for the installation.  Some law firms/deposition suites do not have easy internet wireless access.
  6. Be extremely conscious of the record.  Admonish the witness not to speak when anyone else is speaking, and the attorneys, too, need to be respectful of the realtime record and not speak over one another.  This tip applies to all depositions, whether there is a realtime court reporter or not.
  7. Don’t worry if you see steno show up in the transcript or if the reporter writes “tier” instead of “tear.”  Court reporters write things out phonetically, and even though realtime court reporters have trained themselves to write for your eyes and write without conflicts (their, there, they’re), when writing on the fly, there may be a proper name that comes up that the reporter doesn’t have in his/her dictionary, and the word won’t translate, or the court reporter may make a misstroke.   The court reporter can read the steno.  The final transcript will have the correct name/word. 
  8. If you do believe the court reporter misheard a word or number, because something comes up incorrectly on your realtime screen, and the witness was not clear, it would be fine to ask the witness to clarify, “Did you say internet or intranet?”  As a realtime court reporter, I prefer to get it right.
  9. After the deposition is over, it is a common practice that the realtime court reporter will send or have sent a “cleaned-up” rough draft to you as a part of the realtime service so you can import the cleaner version into your realtime software and maintain your marks and notes. 
  10. Understand that not all court reporters provide realtime.  When you wish to take a deposition and have realtime services provided, you must inform the court reporting agency that you would like a realtime court reporter.  Many realtime court reporters have special certifications that indicate a proficiency in realtime court reporting.  CRR and CCRR are two of the certifications that a court reporter can attain.  Becoming a CRR or CCRR requires a timed speed test with an incredibly high translation rate (perfect writing). 

Realtime depositions are essential when streaming the transcript text to remote locations.  Using realtime at a deposition also allows attorneys to mark testimony, make notes, see the exact question and answer that might later be used as a clip at trial to be presented to the trier of fact.   Realtime is a powerful tool for litigators. 

I am incredibly proud of my colleagues who write realtime.   There is an increased level of stress to be perfect and write for your eyes. 

Please leave any comments or questions about realtime court reporters.  It is one of my favorite subjects.

@rosaliekramm  Twitter

International Court Reporters – China

One of our clients two weeks ago asked us if we could provide a court reporter and legal videographer for a deposition in Dalian, China.  I started researching the location and Chinese law regarding taking a deposition in Mainland China. 

The first thing I found out was Dalian is a major city and seaport in south Liaoning Province in Northeast China.  Using Google maps, I also learned that Dalian is over 500 miles from Shanghai.  Shanghai has the nearest videoconference facility available for public use. 

Upon further investigation I found out that traditionally, Chinese authorities do NOT recognize the authority or ability of foreign persons, such as American attorneys, to take voluntary depositions of willing witnesses, even before a U.S. consular officer, Article 27(1) of the U.S. – China Consular Convention of 1980 notwithstanding.  The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, reports that the United States is seeking a clarification from the People’s Republic of China regarding its recognition of the right of U.S. Consular Officers to take voluntary depositions of U.S. citizens in China.

The State Department provides the following:  “Taking evidence in China for use in foreign courts is problematic.  China does not recognize the right of persons to take depositions, and any effort to do so could result in the detention and/or arrest of U.S. citizen participants. “

Upon discovering the consequences of swearing someone in to give testimony, I advised my clients that everyone would be at risk involved in the deposition, my court reporter, my videographer, and the attorneys themselves.  I would never want to see anyone thrown into a Chinese jail because of attempting to take a deposition.

Solution:  Videoconferencing.  We have set up the deposition to have the American participants attend the deposition at our conference center in San Diego and have the witness in Shanghai.  We will suggest to the attorneys they not ask the court reporter to “swear” the witness in, because that could potentially put the witness at risk.  The State Department suggests that attorneys fly the witness to a country that doesn’t have the laws/restrictions such as China does.

The world is getting smaller all of the time as businesses go global.  Kramm Court Reporting is always looking for ways to use technology to save attorneys money, time, and still get the job done.  More importantly we protect our court reporters and legal videographers – certainly never wanting to break the laws of China (and ending up in jail).

Please leave any comments.  Your comments are valuable to all of our readers.

@rosaliekramm Twitter

ATTORNEYS BEWARE! IRS Tax Consequences For Law Firms Accepting "Gifts" from Court Reporting Firms

As a marketing ploy, some court reporting firms give staff of law firms $25, $50 and even $200 if you set a deposition with that firm.  There are “gifts” of trips, Dom Perignon,  and one firm I know of gives $50 to any paralegal, legal secretary, assistant who takes a deposition off of one court reporting firm’s calendar to put it on their own.  Obviously, the dollars can add up quickly.  The question becomes:  Who is going to pay the taxes for this practice?  The law firm?  The individual accepting the money? 

California’s two court reporting state associations, DRA and CCRA, have asked the prestigious law firm of Hanson Bridgett to provide a legal opinion.  The law firm opines in their Memorandum

“Given that the incentives provided by Reporting Firms in exchange for business are payments for services rather than gifts, the [Internal Revenue Code] requires the recipients of those payments to treat the value of the incentives as gross income.  This means that recipients must report the value of the incentives they receive as income on their tax returns.  Failure to do so could result in the assessment of additional taxes, interest and penalties by the Internal Revenue Service.”

A law firm having a general policy in place may not be enough to avoid tax questions, according to the memo:

“Where law firms have policies in place prohibiting employees from accepting incentives, serious tax issues may still arise to the extent these policies are not enforced. “

Moreover, the Memorandum details there are serious tax and IRS issues for the court reporting firms who are giving the “gifts” as part of their marketing strategy.

DRA and CCRA plan on disseminating the Memorandum to protect law firms.  Most law firm administrators and principals are unaware that accepting cash and gift cards for a deposition from court reporting firms is even occurring. 

I am proud of my State Associations for spearheading this education of attorneys.   Court reporters are an integral part of the legal system and have a strong desire to support the legal profession.

Please leave any comments.

@rosaliekramm (Twitter)