CARY – After a nearly two-year partnership, vTestify and the Atlanta-based Esquire Deposition Solutions, will launch a technology solution designed to address the challenges that the court system faces in executing depositions virtually.
Ahead of the product release in August 2021, the companies are piloting their technology with law firms in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois, and spoke with WRAL TechWire about the challenges of the justice system, and the technologies that can, and are, in the process of being adopted or implemented.
“We’re able to deconstruct and improve on the entire workflow of a deposition in consideration of all the user personas involved in making a virtual deposition a success,” said Mike Hewitt, the founder and CEO of vTestify, noting that the platform, which will be known as Esquire eLitigate, was built intentionally to address and improve the process bottlenecks that attorneys, deponents, court reporters, and videographers experience.
One key feature of the technology developed by the two companies is how the platform enhances the process of displaying exhibits, and the management of them, said Hewitt, and another feature, called ScriptSync, allows for searching a video to review testimony, immediately following a deposition, to help make case assessment decisions.
Like other trends that accelerated during the onset of the global pandemic, Hewitt believes that the justice system is going through a more rapid acceleration of digital transformation than it otherwise would have experienced, noting that he believes that three years of transition were condensed into one year of time.
Survey data gathered by vTestify’s partner, Esquire Deposition Solutions, suggests that virtual depositions, and other virtual court proceedings, could be “here to stay for a large percentage of proceedings into the future,” said Hewitt, noting that the benefits of transitioning some or all proceedings to a virtual environment could have direct financial impact on law firms and their clients.
“Exhibit management is where the platform shines compared to existing workflows of an ad-hoc assembly of general purpose tools,” explained Hewitt. “The user interface is designed to be intuitive and easy-to-use, and eliminates the concern attorneys often have surrounding exhibits in a virtual environment.”
That’s just one feature, and the true value of the product, said Hewitt, is the integrated platform that will enable each of video conferencing, exhibit management, and testimony review, prioritizing security.
“eLitigate is a component of a highly secure, end-to-end workflow process that is built on an overall enterprise-class infrastructure,” said Terrie Campbell, CEO of Esquire Deposition Solutions in an interview with WRAL TechWire. “Deposition testimony and documents contain highly-valuable information that can be exploited (monetized) if accessed by bad actors. Data security is the backbone of this end-to-end solution, ensuring that client risk is significantly reduced.”
Virtual work on virtual platforms makes sense for vTestify, as the company has been a 100% remote-based company since 2018, said Hewitt, though most of the startup’s 21 employees are based in the Triangle.
The product development began prior to the onset of the global coronavirus pandemic, said Hewitt, and the pandemic actually slowed the timeline, rather than accelerated it, due to the urgent need to operationalize and scale a viable virtual solution.
“There remains a knowledge and comfort gap that needs to be bridged for those that were reluctant to move forward with virtual depositions,” said Campbell. “When the pandemic started, we dealt with that with our clients and helped them overcome their fears through advanced training and in-proceeding support.”
The product launches commercially later this year, with August as the target date, according to a statement issued jointly by the companies last month.
One factor they’re still considering: whether the deponent will have access to the technology, either the hardware, or the broadband internet connection, that will be needed in order to participate effectively in a virtual proceeding.