In 2022, unpredictability has become the norm. Pandemic levels ebb and flow with the appearance of each new COVID-19 variant, ensuring we never know quite what to expect in the days and weeks to come. This continued uncertainty means that settling into the “new normal” remains an elusive concept.
That’s why it’s imperative to make certain remote options are available for all aspects of legal work since doing so is the only way to guarantee the justice system doesn’t come to a grinding halt. One way to prevent that is to take advantage of the virtual deposition transcription tools I discussed in last month’s column. In that article, I provided an overview of virtual deposition transcription products and services that rely on videoconferencing tools and software platforms to facilitate remote depositions.
The uptick in virtual court proceedings
Another way business continuity has been maintained since March 2020 is via virtual court proceedings. Remote court appearances are now more common since courts periodically shifted to partial or fully remote operations throughout the pandemic. Many judges have become accustomed to and appreciate the convenience of virtual court proceedings, and many expect them to continue even after the pandemic ends.
Because all signs point to the continuation of virtual court proceedings, I promised in last month’s article that I would focus on remote court proceeding options in this column. These include software platforms and artificial intelligence language-processing tools that facilitate remote court proceedings.
Before we take a look at some of the options available, it’s important to note that the software programs discussed in this column are cloud-based, and therefore all data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. As a result, because you’ll be entrusting your law firm’s data to a third party, your ethical obligations will require you to thoroughly vet the technology provider hosting and storing your data. This duty includes ensuring you understand how that company will handle the data; where the servers on which the data will be stored are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up, among other things.
Below, you’ll find an overview of some of the virtual court proceeding products available. Note that the products discussed are not an all-inclusive list; rather, they are a selection of a few of the more well-known software programs.
Virtual court proceeding technology platforms
First, let’s look at platforms that enable remote and hybrid court proceedings, including court appearances, hearings and trials. With this software, court personnel, lawyers, court reporters and litigants can participate in virtual court proceedings through online interfaces that can include videoconferencing, electronic exhibit features, document upload and storage, chat features and more.
There are several different software applications that provide this type of functionality, one of which is LiveLitigation. LiveLitigation offers a Zoom-like interface designed for court proceedings. In addition to the videoconferencing features found in Zoom, including screen sharing features and breakout rooms, it also includes nondiscoverable, private chat and electronic exhibit tools. Pricing is not available on the website.
iCourt is another virtual court software platform. Like LiveLitigation, it provides videoconferencing functionality developed with virtual court proceedings in mind. This particular application offers features geared toward court personnel, including the ability to transfer cases within the platform to other judges in the court system, sign-on portals for parties to a case, digital forms and e-signature capabilities. Pricing is not available on the website.
AI-based court transcription tools
Another category of software that facilitates remote court appearances is AI-based court transcription tools. With this software, transcription of the proceeding is captured nearly instantaneously by AI-based natural language-processing software. The draft of the transcription can then be used for readbacks during the proceeding. After the proceeding, it can be reviewed and edited by a person who then certifies the edited version as the official transcript of the proceedings.
One of the key benefits of this type of transcription compared to transcripts created by court reporters is that the certified copy is typically available within days rather than weeks. Another benefit is that it’s often much more cost-effective than hiring a court reporter for a proceeding.
An example of this type of software is For the Record. The company’s AI-based transcription tool was showcased at the Legalweek conference earlier this year and provides instantaneous speech-to-text transcription with time-stamped audio and video. The draft transcript is searchable and can be reviewed during a proceeding, facilitating immediate readbacks of testimony. Pricing is not available on the website.
Verbit is another company that offers a speech-to-text transcription tool for use in both online and in-person court proceedings. The software provides a nearly immediate transcription of the testimony, and a rough working draft that is 98% accurate is available within hours of the conclusion of the proceeding. A final version of the transcript that has been reviewed by a person is available within 24 hours. Pricing is not available on the website.
Like it or not, the writing is on the wall. The convenience and efficiency of virtual legal proceedings for certain types of matters are unrivaled and will continue even after the pandemic is behind us. Is your law firm ready for the realities of virtual lawyering that the future will bring?
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law; has authored hundreds of articles for other publications; and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.