Virtual Depositions: Benefits & Tips to Succeed

The 2020 pandemic forced litigation into a remote world, but virtual depositions are here to stay.

Litigation came to a halt at the start of the COVID pandemic, but when there seemed to be no end in sight, reluctant litigators were forced to continue their business remotely.

Safer-at-home restrictions quickly modernized the legal world. Litigators started conducting proceedings virtually and soon embraced the benefits that came with them.

Benefits of Virtual Depositions

Limits Travel

  • Virtual depositions can be conducted from nearly any location, avoiding the challenges that come with getting people to one location. This benefits parties who have limited time, are caregivers, or otherwise have travel limitations.

Reduces Costs

  • Virtual depositions cut costs associated with:
    • Travel accommodations for attorneys, deponents, court reporters, videographers, etc.
    • Conference rooms
    • Stenographer, videographer or interpreter hourly rates
    • Food, beverage & other necessary accommodations
    • Printing and shipping costs (eliminated due to electronic exchange of all documents)
    • Reduces fees and per diem rates for court reporters

Decreases Scheduling Conflicts

  • Litigation moves faster due to decreased scheduling conflicts.
    • Remote proceedings save time and eliminate the hassle of traveling, making it much easier to find a time when all parties can meet.

Greater Court Reporter Availability

  • To overcome the recent shortage of reporters, Magna Legal Services can provide a dual-certified court reporter to a virtual deposition even if they are out of state.
  • Court reporters can be available on much shorter notice.
  • Court reporters have more flexibility in their schedule due to the lack of travel; this allows attorneys to be more specific in deciding which court reporter they will use.

Enhances Privacy

  • Break-out rooms allow all parties to meet privately.
  • Magna Legal Services’ online platform, Magna LitigationVision, is fully encrypted and secure, protecting all log-in data and ensuring the privacy of every session.

Time Efficient

  • Limiting travel allows court reporters to get transcripts back to attorneys quickly, increasing the rate at which attorneys can close cases.
  • Video recording and editing can be sent electronically, avoiding delays.
  • Break out rooms make it faster for parties to have separate conversations whenever necessary.

Increases Organization

  • Everything is stored online, making misplacing exhibits and other important information a thing of the past.
  • All parties can receive instant access to electronic exhibits.

Click here to read how virtual depositions work.

Tips for A Successful Remote Deposition

Prepare for Connecting

  • Have your link to join the deposition handy, and make sure your witnesses have their links as well as instructions for the event. When you schedule your virtual deposition with Magna, we send your link in the body of a calendar invite so you have it on hand.
  • Ensure you and your party have contact information needed in case of any connection issues. Magna’s MLV techs are available by phone, email, and chat for the duration of your deposition.
  • If you and/or your witnesses are using virtual backgrounds, make sure they are set up in advance.

Plan Exhibits Ahead of Time

  • Organize all exhibits ahead of time to avoid delays or mistakes.
  • Name files appropriately and keep them easily accessible.
  • Consider using a deposition manager with Magna LitigationVision Plus (MLV+) to assist with seamless transitions between exhibits.
    • Send all necessary documents to MLV+ manager so exhibits are organized prior to the deposition. They will also share these documents with the court reporter.

Use a Deposition Manager with MLV+

  • Magna LegalVision Plus (MLV+) provides comprehensive session management operated by an experienced trial technician. MLV+ managers will provide seamless support throughout the entirety of your event. An MLV+ manager will handle:
    • Presenting exhibits, demonstratives, and videos
    • Real-time management of annotations, zooming, blow-ups, highlights, and markings
    • Creating and managing break-out rooms (including moving people between rooms, controlling room access, and ensuring confidentiality)

Prepare Your Witness Thoroughly

  • Virtual depositions allow for an up-close look at a witness’s facial expressions, make sure your witnesses are aware of this and are properly prepped.
  • Consider using an expert consultant to help your witness feel more in control of their testimony. Witness communication training can help witnesses develop a deeper understanding of the themes, context, and purpose of their testimony and correct behaviors that get in the way of positive perceptions.

Take Planned Breaks

  • Use a deposition manager with MLV+ to plan breaks ahead of time so all parties are aware of when they will have time to break and regroup.

Stay Concise

  • Virtual depositions involve looking at a computer screen for hours on end, so it is important to get to the point quickly in all aspects of a deposition in order to keep focus.

Avoid Technology Issues

  • Providers like Magna Legal Services will test all equipment and ensure that it is ready to be used, this will help avoid any connection issues and decrease technology related delays.
  • Rent necessary equipment or a hot-spot internet connection with Magna Flight Packs.
  • Perform platform training with MLV prior to the deposition (MLV works on all virtual meeting platforms).
  • Magna LitigationVision provides continuous tech support and monitoring during a deposition. If any tech issues arise during a deposition, a tech support professional will be available instantly with MLV’s chat feature.

Limit Distractions

  • Aim for a distraction-free environment to avoid delays and maintain professionality.
  • Use custom virtual backgrounds if needed to help limit any peripheral distractions.

Communicate Transcript Requests

  • Provide order requests and any special requests to the court reporter prior to the end of the deposition.

Virtual Depositions with Magna LitigationVision

Magna LitigationVision (MLV) is Magna’s virtual deposition platform, which gives you the ability to depose a witness from anywhere in the world. MLV provides clients with real-time video access to depositions, mediations, arbitrations, hearings, meetings, and other proceedings.

Virtual platform features include:

  • Schedule a Court Reporter, Videographer, or Interpreter to Join Remotely
  • Connection Using Computers, Tablets or Smartphones
  • Ability to Display and Annotate Your Exhibits
  • Instant Tech Support and Monitoring
  • Free Platform Training Prior to Proceeding
  • Remote Facilitation of Breakout Rooms
  • Free Custom Virtual Backgrounds
  • Certified Trial Directors/ Exhibit Managers (MLV+)
  • Certified Legal Videography
  • Technology agnostic – use your preferred platform

Virtual vs. In-Person Jury Research

Three Reasons Why Virtual Jury Research Is as Robust and Effective as In-Person 

Article by Taylor Lyden
Originally published in MA LAWYERS WEEKLY 2020 

In this new age of regional lockdowns and social distancing, counsel have had to adjust trial preparation significantly.     While some jurisdictions are slowly opening and attempting to safely hold trials, many places are still in the early phases of re-opening and still prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people or requiring quarantine upon entering from certain states.  This has forced people to consider alternate forms of jury research to stay on track for trials scheduled for this fall and winter.   Enter online, or virtual, jury research. For those unaccustomed to online jury research, the prospect can be daunting, to say the least.  You may worry that you won’t get a representative jury, jurors won’t pay close attention, they’ll struggle with technology, or they won’t be able to have meaningful discussions of the evidence.  As a leader in the field of jury research, Magna pioneered virtual jury research.  For over a decade Magna Legal Services has utilized a virtual courtroom for online jury research in addition to the more traditional in-person mock trials, and our experience has taught us that online deliberations are every bit as robust and effective as their in-person counterparts.  With thousands of mock trials to draw from, below are three reasons why we have concluded that there is no substantive difference between virtual and in-person deliberations for jury research.   

  • Jurors “get to the point” more quickly online because they are less inhibited. Online videoconferencing has a way of leveling the playing field for jurors.  Each juror deliberates from the comfort of their own home (whatever that environment may be), and each is provided with the same amount of virtual real estate on the other jurors’ screens.  Because jurors cannot be physically large or animated, loud and dominant jurors tend to be less aggressive to others online than in-person, and wallflowers tend to be more confident in speaking up in the group.  Additionally, through years of both online and in-person jury research, we have found that psychologically, there is a feeling of protection afforded by a computer screen for jurors, and this protection allows them to speak their minds openly.  Online jurors tend to benefit from an anonymity effect whereby jurors don’t know each other and don’t have to spend time sizing each other up.  Because of the reduced inhibitions online, jurors more quickly express and advocate for positions that may be seen as unpopular among the other jurors.  In an in-person exercise, jurors have spent the day together and have formed some early impressions of others from eating together and taking breaks together.  When they sit in their smaller groups in deliberations there is more [perceived] pressure to perform a certain way.  Peer pressure can be an exceptionally strong force in the deliberation room.  In virtual research, the metaphorical shield of a computer screen goes a long way in staving off these pressures.  This can be instrumental in avoiding jurors “giving in” to those around them because they are nervous or anxious about speaking up. The added layer of comfort and protection provided by remaining in one’s own home also helps overcome any initial hesitation a juror may have for the online format.  This is not to say that the sociology involved in an in-person deliberation hinders the discussion or changes the outcome; it can simply take longer to get where they are going. 
  • Modern webcam and voice technology allow for easy access for a cross-section of the community.  Since the world turned virtual in a matter of weeks in the Spring of 2020, technology companies have scrambled to keep pace with the demand of the throngs of people suddenly telecommuting.  The result has been considerable advances in videoconferencing that allow for near seamless interactions among participants in multiple locations.  According to the FCC, only 6% of Americans don’t have access to high-speed internet in their homes, and the majority of this 6% is comprised of Americans living in very rural areas1.  Gone are the days of dial-up internet and “Can you hear me now?” voice connections.  Though Magna uses its own proprietary software and courtroom design, recent advances in technology and vast accessibility of high-speed internet have allowed for a number of options for online jury research.  Whatever the platform, jurors can converse smoothly, as if they were in-person, and the prevalence of webcams (now standard on nearly every phone, computer, and tablet) have provided an experience where jurors “feel” like they are together.  Our experience using Magna’s patented JuryConfirm technology has taught us that even when jurors are using technology they have never encountered, they are able to become proficient in its use very quickly and it is not the distraction many fear it will be.  Finally, many jurors have reported that viewing the evidence virtually is as easy or even preferable to in-person as they are able to view the materials more closely and clearly.   The combination of all these factors has meant that virtual trials are accessible to almost all Americans and jurors are able to effectively communicate and discuss the substance of the evidence and argument, rather than worrying about technological concerns.   
  • Jurors are now just as comfortable talking online as they are in person.  Because working, schooling, and socializing from home became the norm for so many so quickly, jurors have recently racked up countless hours in front of their screens communicating on video.  These days just about everyone has used Zoom Meetings, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, FaceTime, Skype (or similar online meeting platforms) for either work or social purposes, and indeed have come to find videoconferencing to be the “new normal.”  The novelty of transforming “real life” into a virtual setting has worn off as online formats have proved successful in countless situations.  The technology advances outlined above have meant that even the most self-described “technology illiterate” jurors are able to join in the conversation with ease, and the initial learning curve of getting used to talking on a conference call line has already passed for most.  Finally, special features such as “follow-the-speaker” technology have provided a more natural feel in online group settings, allowing for increased ease in following the conversation as it bounces quickly between participants.   


In sum, as more and more attorneys and parties find themselves faced with virtual jury selection, trial, and/or deliberations, we look back at our experience over the years to help allay any fears that online deliberations are less effective than those in-person.  While there are some unavoidable limitations, we feel that benefits of online deliberations can, in many instances, outweigh any drawbacks.  In other words, you can rest assured that jurors will still take your case seriously, carefully evaluate evidence and arguments, and have thoughtful and meaningful deliberations to a verdict.  Additionally, if you find yourself headed back into the courtroom (virtually or in person), remember that online mock trials and jury research can be a great and cost-effective way to test the waters and may just help draw open the curtains on a key to your case that you may have missed.   

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“Can I smoke in here?” and Other Virtual Deposition Fails


By: Courtney Collins and Meagan Donohoe

The legal profession’s transition into the online sphere in 2020 was abrupt, disconcerting, and sometimes painful, but it is finally official:  we continue forward, but [mostly] virtually. Hearings, mediations, arbitrations, and most commonly, depositions have vacated their more traditional law office settings and imposing courtrooms in favor of bedrooms, closets, and even vehicles. Mercifully, after months of forced practice, it’s safe to say that most of us in the legal profession have a pretty firm grasp on the technological side of things (even if we still forget to unmute ourselves from time to time). But while everyone was focused on learning the online platforms and adjusting to the new reality, something was lost, and that was decorum. Although there is a certain comfort associated with appearing for a deposition from home—which can alleviate some anxiety a witness might experience in a less familiar and more formal setting—the pendulum seems to have swung wildly in the other direction over the past several months, with some virtual depositions looking more like a cocktail party of friends and acquaintances.  Legal proceedings should not fall prey to the new world of t-shirts and flip flops and other work from home habits.

Tips for Supporting Witnesses in Virtual Depositions & Proceedings

It is critical that witnesses are afforded the same level of support and guidance from counsel while appearing virtually as they would be if they were present in the same room. In fact, in some ways, these witnesses require an even higher degree of support to be successful.  Sprinkled with cautionary tales from real depositions over the past nine months, this article offers tips and best practices for supporting your witnesses in a virtual world.    

Be Present – In Mind and Virtual Body 

It’s no secret that many deponents, especially first-timers, can have a difficult time shedding those pesky deposition-jitters. Although being deposed from a familiar place affords a certain sense of security for many, there is also a reassurance that comes with sitting in arms reach of your attorney at that long wooden table that is just not attainable in the online space.   The witness knows counsel is on her side when she is right next to her—everyone is “in it together.”  However, just because you can’t be physically present for your witness, doesn’t mean that you can’t provide that same level of support in other ways; it simply must be more intentional.  

All witnesses, especially inexperienced ones, like to feel safe and protected – and that can only happen virtually with a present and attentive counsel. Far too often we see defending attorneys fail to appear on camera, leaving their witness feeling alone and exposed in the virtual space. Of course, no one can control if their computer decides to act up on deposition day, and sometimes calling in off-camera is the only option; however, when possible, counsel should be on camera and engaged, supporting their witness. This entails more than just showing up on screen.  It also means not appearing visibly distracted with other work during questioning, not eating lunch, and not jumping on and off camera or walking around. Witnesses, especially nervous ones, pick up on these subtle cues more than one might think. To put it simply, your virtual witnesses should receive the same level of attention as your in-person witnesses would—if you wouldn’t bring other work, snacks, or take calls in a pre-pandemic deposition room, you shouldn’t do it in the online setting, either.  

Lead by Example 

Since depositions have moved online, we’ve also witnessed a steady decline in general respect for what a deposition actually is.  We have seen: a witness smoking a cigarette while providing testimony, another witness appearing shirtless from bed, one witness answering questions while driving his semi-truck for work (cue an accident?), and a plaintiff unable to complete his own deposition after smoking marijuana on a break. It goes without saying that behavior like this, even if not recorded on video, often results in less than optimal witness performance and would have never been deemed acceptable in the pre-pandemic era. To combat this witness mentality that virtual is synonymous with “anything goes,” it is important to remember that even in the online space, witnesses look to their counsel for cues and guidance. Attire is one example where counsel can set the tone. We have regularly seen attorneys appear sprawled out on their couch (we are not kidding), wearing backwards hats, and even well-worn t-shirts, thus setting a low standard for others. It all starts with the lawyer, and clients/witnesses will quite literally, follow suit. This is not to say that attorneys need to show up to a virtual deposition in a tailored three-piece ensemble, but the nature and seriousness of a deposition should not be minimized simply because it is occurring online.  At the very least, it is worth a pre-deposition conversation with the witness to note that proper attire is required: clean, decent, and not revealing.  

Additionally, don’t be afraid to nip any negative behaviors in the bud. Remaining quiet while your witness lights up a cigarette only serves as affirmation that this action is acceptable. While an initial moment of silence may be an understandable consequence of shock or surprise, failing to address these types of behaviors in a timely fashion is a mistake, and will likely just lead to additional bad conduct down the line. Simply request a break, get on the phone with the client, and remind them that this is a legal proceeding.   

Create a Focused Environment for Online Depositions  

Simply because technology enables participation from almost anywhere, does not mean that should be encouraged.  Failing to address the location and environment with your witness often results in witnesses connecting from unusual or even public places. We have seen witnesses participate in depositions while serving customers at work, walking down a noisy street, working out on the treadmill, and even while riding a crowded city bus. These types of environments not only disrupt the flow of a deposition, but also make it nearly impossible for a witness to bring their “A-game,” as the chance of distraction is ever-present.  

At the end of the day, most fact witnesses have never participated in a deposition before, much less a virtual one. Simply instructing a witness to download Zoom on their mobile phone and click a link a certain time leaves too much up to chance. Take the same measures when scheduling a deponent for a virtual deposition as you would for an in-person meeting. Pre-pandemic, a witness would only be put on the calendar for a date/time that they were free to come sit in an office; similarly, a virtual deposition should only be scheduled for a time where the witness can be in a quiet space, free from distractions. 

Hosting a Successful Virtual Deposition

Although anything can derail a deposition or legal proceeding, virtual or not, the above tips help to move cases forward without sacrificing quality.  Virtual does not equate to casual.  Recommitting to the seriousness of a deposition under oath and guiding your clients through how to best handle this will ensure an easier path forward, as virtual has likely made a permanent imprint on the legal community.   

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Focus on Peter Hecht, Partner at Magna Legal Services

Magna’s Peter Hecht went one-on-one with Haleh Riabizadeh Resnick from Jewish Community Voice.


Peter Hecht

Tell me about your connection to the South Jersey Jewish Community?
I actually grew up in East Brunswick, Exit 9 off the Turnpike. But we’ve been in South Jersey for 17-18 years and are members of Adath Emanu-El in Mount Laurel. As a matter of fact, my youngest son just celebrated his bar mitzvah Covid-style in our backyard! I was a NY City fan as a teen–loved the NY Jets; my boys are Knicks fans. But my wife is a Sixers junkie–so South Jersey is seeping into our blood.

What was your first job?
I worked in the pre-paid calling card business. Back when pay phones were still all over the place, a calling card was incredibly useful. Businesses would provide them to customers as promotional items; personalize the card itself and have a promotional message when you made a call. The cards were popular in Europe too and some cards are considered collectibles! Didn’t get paid much at first; my dad would actually give me the train money I needed just to get to work! I worked in the telecom industry for about 8 years.

How did you go from a telecom job to founding Magna Legal Services? 
Well, I wanted to make a career change, but I was very much typecast as a telecom guy. So, my father-in-law suggested that I work with him in the court reporting business. I figured it would be a resume filler that would allow me to switch gears and get into a Fortune 500 Company. So, I went to work for him; fell in love with the work, and before we knew it, we became partners and created Magna.

Can you give us an elevator pitch on Magna Legal Services? 
Magna is 14 years young and headquartered in Philadelphia with offices in all the major NFL cities. We are an end-to-end litigation support provider, helping with everything from litigation to discovery, language services, medical services, social media surveillances including a graphics team that will help you tell your story in court. We will even sit 2nd or 3rd chair in trials to manage the technological presentation! We are also a virtual service provider for arbitration, depositions and conferences, which was a big help to everyone in the last year. And if you ever need a mock trial to help with preparation, we can do that too.

That’s a lot! So, are you an attorney now? 
Actually, no.  My dad is a tax attorney and CPA, so when I was at Rutgers for undergrad, I thought about being a lawyer, but in the early ’90s there was an over-abundance of attorneys–many out of work–so I just didn’t do it. My work at Magna is focused on the sales, marketing, and management of the business.

What’s it like working with your father-in-law?  
Family events are interesting. You can never turn off the business–at a family dinner or bar mitzvah, conversation always loops back to Magna.  Now, my father-in-law’s youngest son is also a partner in Magna.

Did you find your psychology and sociology background helpful in what you do at Magna? 
I’ve always been a people person, and my college experience gave me depth in understanding what motivates people.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself? 
Who doesn’t like to spend time with their family? My wife and kids are everything. I enjoy my kids; they are so different from me. My daughter and both sons are all athletic. I like to ski but honestly don’t have many hobbies. My hobby is Magna! It’s my sport. I want to win in selling. It’s my passion. The secret to happiness is finding a job that you love.


This article was originally published in the Jewish Community Voice paper on June 21st, 2021.


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