September 5, 2010
I recently learned about a fascinating trend in litigation that is quietly transforming courtroom testimony, and is spreading fast and far – video depositions.
I talked with a consultant who helps attorneys process video depositions. In the courtroom, attorneys are juxtaposing live testimony with segments from depositions. Video clips of witnesses reinforcing (or contradicting) themselves are far more powerful than merely reading back the transcript. The courtroom has always been about performance, but these videos have taken this to a new level, as savvy lawyers manipulate appearances and emotions. Increasingly all depositions are being recorded, just as they are transcribed.
Apart from the ways that courtroom proceedings are being transformed, I am also intrigued by the software that is undoubtedly in development to support these operations. In addition to conventional A/V support, working effectively with hundreds of hours of video involves archiving, indexing, distributing, editing, and clipping. At about a day or two of testimony per witness, and dozens of witnesses per trial, the numbers add up pretty quickly.
As cases accumulate, and multiple associates begin working with and analyzing video, law firms will quickly recognize the desirability of networked, collaborative, video annotation environments. Some large firms (and their vendors) may have already begun developing solutions. However, the consultant that I spoke with was storing video locally on a laptop hardrive and tracking it with an Access database, so opportunities are knocking. Without a doubt many of the tools that will be highlighted at the upcoming Open Video Conferene (OpenCast, Kaltura, and CCNMTL’s Mediathread come to mind) have overlapping feature and requirements.
Once again the organizational digital divide looms, and I am deeply concerned that only the high end corporate law firms will be able to invest in the competencies and capacities to make this work. Meanwhile, the impact law firms (along with journalists and social scientists), will be playing catch up, handicapped by this powerful new differential.
I wonder how quickly this practice will spread?