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While transcript automation is becoming a matter of course, transcript organization has not kept pace with the evolution from paper to ASCII. Many attorneys are reluctant to bill clients for traditional legal assistant transcript management and just assume that the search software will sort everything out in the end. But everyone suffers when a deposition is taken but doesn’t end up properly processed. Cases can be jeopardized if deposition transcripts never arrive, or signed transcripts go missing at trial, or ASCII text is never loaded into the search software. The answer: Set up protocols at your firm or law department to assure that transcripts are properly processed as they travel through multiple departments before trials. 1. Communication Choose a single point of contact (SPOC) — a person who maintains the deposition schedule, checklist and log for the case. The SPOC communicates with the court reporter, tracks transcripts and interacts with the records and litigation support departments. Every member of the team must religiously inform the SPOC as to depositions scheduled, taken, cancelled, rescheduled, etc. This can be a challenge. Support personnel are rarely kept in the loop by litigators. For example, one legal assistant says getting attorneys to communicate about deposition scheduling is so difficult that she takes the extra step of reviewing all correspondence. 2. Schedule and Checklist A deposition schedule should be part of the case calendar and must be available via shared software. It should track deadlines for all tasks such as potential exhibit review and all depositions and hearings. The checklist for each event should include: location and time, names of participants and court reporting company. It should list requirements such as: type of transcript, delivery schedule, simultaneous transcription, video/DVD/synching, etc. This information will enable the SPOC to have clear expectations of the court reporter and to hold them accountable. 3. The Log There is absolutely no substitute for a log that tracks every transcript and all related materials. Your deposition search software’s transcript list is not adequate. Having an experienced legal assistant keep an up-to-the-minute log is like having your closets organized by Martha Stewart. Track the following applicable information: name, date, volume, affiliation, parties, transcript type, case/matter, witness type (expert, 30(b)(6)), date errata sent/received, condensed transcript received, date copy sent to deponent/signed copy received, number of exhibits, ASCII file name, final and roughs received date (paper and ASCII), date to litigation support or loaded in search software. 4. Filing and storage To make use of records management software as a deposition library, each transcript must be logged as a separate record or folder. Most records departments file transcripts in batches leaving no individual record of the document. If your firm’s software has transcript components, make use of these to track name and date for each transcript. If not, use the description field with the format of deponent name (lastname, firstname) and date (YYYY/MM/DD). If possible, attach the original court reporter ASCII to the records entry. This obviates the need to archive the files off of the server when the case is over. Transcripts exported from the deposition search application are not always in their original format. The SPOC must make sure that the original ASCII makes it from either the diskette or e-mail attachment to the records management entry. A law firm or legal department that indexes all transcripts into its records system has a gold mine of information including an instant expert witness database, as well as additional references for conflict clearance. It is an inexpensive way to employ knowledge management techniques without buying additional software. 5. Automation Transcripts are expensive but ASCII is cheap. Always order the ASCII. It’s much harder to get long after the deposition was taken. All attorneys and legal assistants should be familiar with the firm’s transcript software and be able to tell the court reporter what format to provide. Load every transcript into your deposition search software. Consider billing clients for loading the transcript. When you don’t create deposition databases routinely, attorneys don’t always get the message that transcript searching is available and that there may even be a database for the case on which they are writing a brief. All attorneys, even partners, need training to become powerful consumers of transcript resources. Taking a laptop with the transcript database to subsequent depositions is a wise move. 6. Annotations Deposition digesting tasks can be performed in deposition software with annotations. Train attorneys and legal assistants to pour all of their issues, comments and excerpts into the database. All that information is shared, not just scrawled on sticky notes on a transcript in someone’s office. The real kicker — if you create annotations showing good and bad testimony, you can generate your case’s entire deposition excerpt list for the court. I did this recently and was able to print out the list in 10 minutes right on the eve of trial. Using these procedures will limit wasted, possibly non-billable, time and set a standard for attorney and legal assistant management of an important resource. It also creates the groundwork for a powerful library of information for the litigation practice. Barbara Deacon is a litigation support consultant with Baker Robbins & Co. (www.brco.com). If you are interested in submitting an article to law.com, please click here for our submission guidelines.

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