Paralegals save time using Court Reporters
PARALEGALS: USE YOUR COURT REPORTING AGENCY TO SAVE TIME AND MONEY
By Brenda Keyser, MBA, RDR, CRC, CRR, CLR, CME
In today’s legal market, clients place more and more pressure on law firms to reduce the cost of legal services. Clients demand that law firms manage
their time efficiently to reduce billings. They also demand that law firms make cost-effective choices when contracting for outside litigation services. Of course, clients continue to expect superior legal service; they direct business to law firms that deliver good results on ever-decreasing litigation budgets. Paralegals man the front line of most firms’ cost-saving efforts. Paralegals must become ever more efficient in managing their own time to maximize productivity within limited hours. In addition, they are often tasked to secure outsourced litigation services to most efficiently accomplish document productions and depositions.
Obviously, paralegals must look for ways to leverage time and money, using other resources to help perform tasks and save money for their law firms. One significant opportunity for costs savings is to make efficient use of court reporting services. Some court reporting agencies offer services that can materially reduce overall litigation costs and save time for paralegals and lawyers, offering efficiencies for the law firm in five main areas.
Litigation often requires deposing out-of-town witnesses. Attorneys, sometimes accompanied by paralegals, must travel to out-of-town destinations, incurring significant costs for airline travel, hotels, taxis, food, and other incidental expenses. But the greatest cost of out-of-town depositions is travel time for legal personnel who could devote their time to other productive pursuits.
These costs can often be avoided by use of videoconferencing, allowing attorneys to depose out-of-town deponents through secure, high-quality internet connections. Some court reporting agencies offer videoconferencing services at a cost that is significantly lower than travel costs for out-of-town depositions, while also saving the law firm substantial nonproductive travel time.
Scheduling out-of-town depositions
When a litigation team must depose a witness out of town, it is often up to the paralegal to find and schedule a qualified court reporter, videographer, and facility for the deposition. Selection of a qualified out-of-town reporter can be difficult for law firms that don’t have ready connections where a deposition must be taken, and finding, selecting, and scheduling a conference room for a deposition can be time-consuming, costing valuable hours.
Many court reporting agencies network with qualified reporters, videographers, and deposition facilities in other cities. These reporting agencies generally welcome the chance to serve law firms by scheduling deposition facilities, a qualified reporter, and, if needed, a videographer for out-of-town depositions. Using your regular court reporting agency to schedule out-of-town reporting services or conference facilities reduces risks associated with hiring out-of-town reporters and videographers, and relieves the paralegal of time necessary to find, select, and contract for qualified services and facilities. And when you schedule with your local reporting agency, you won’t pay be required to pay COD.
Use of a conference room
Technology permits lawyers to practice law without a conference room and, in many cases, without an office. Some lawyers base their law practices in a home, a virtual office, or a small office that permits conference room rental on a limited basis.
Some reporting agencies offer complimentary conference rooms for attorneys using their reporting services. When scheduling depositions for lawyers that have no conference room, the service eliminates the need to find, schedule, or pay for a conference room. And in some cases, local lawyers appreciate the convenience of a deposition facility closer to home, especially when taking depositions outside regular office hours.
Paralegals are generally charged to organize and retain deposition exhibits. Most often, exhibits are organized for each deposition and kept by paralegals for each party, leading to multiple, diverse sets of deposition exhibits that aren’t easily reconciled with one another. When taking out-of-town depositions, paralegals must prepare exhibits for travel and ship them to a remote location or commit exhibits to the care of traveling lawyers. Having successfully shipped exhibits to the deposition site, the exhibits must be copied, distributed, properly catalogued, and returned in good order.
Some court reporting agencies offer repository services, accumulating, cataloguing, and archiving a single set of deposition exhibits for an entire case. By using a common set of exhibits for all depositions, law firms avoid confusion over which exhibits have been used with which witnesses and eliminate unnecessary duplication of exhibits. Depositions have uniform exhibit numbers and are retained by the court reporting agency, an independent third party, assuring consistency among documents used in various depositions. The reporting agency may then secure the exhibits and transport them to and from depositions. And as a side benefit, preparation of trial exhibits is made easier by keeping a single, comprehensive list and set of exhibits used in all depositions.
Court reporting agencies may advise on cost savings that become apparent only in conversation with a reporter. While a few reporters may hesitate to offer cost-saving tips, direct questions may generate information that can result in significant savings.
For example, some law firms may be attached to a particular transcript format because it was state-of-the-art at one time, is compatible with packaged litigation software used by the firm, or compared favorably to other formats available in the past. The format may be more expensive than other available transcript products. A good reporter can suggest new transcript products to serve all the law firm’s needs, but at a lower price or with improved efficiencies.
As another example, some court reporting agencies offer trial presentation services at costs significantly lower than those charged by businesses specializing in trial presentation services, especially if trial presentation needs are relatively simple.
Whatever your deposition needs, a conversation with your court reporting agency may yield new and unexpected efficiencies and cost savings for your litigation practice.