Monday, October 31, 2011

Using Skype for deposition in Italian estate

My co-counsel and I obtained permission from the local Circuit Court to use Skype for our client's deposition in a probate case involving an Italian decedent. A Georgia judge made headlines earlier this year when he allowed Skype to transmit an unavailable witness' testimony in a criminal trial. Several other cases have made news since then.

For our equipment, we used my MacBook Pro, which has a good video card (important), a high-speed broadband Internet connection (critical), and a 30-inch high-definition television to display the digital video (with a mini-DVI to HDMI converter) so that opposing counsel could easily see. I also connected the audio to the television, which is superior to my MB Pro's speakers. You could even use a digital projector to make the image literally larger than life, although the video resolution on both ends would need to be HD to make the projection look good. The 30-inch HD television worked well for our small deposition's purposes.

Both the audio and the video flowed perfectly, allowing everyone to see and interact as if our client were in the room rather than over 4,000 miles away. Everyone, including the court reporter, was impressed with the flawless transmission. In fact, Skype performed so clearly that we could hear our client's clock ticking in the background without missing even part of a tick (or tock).

The simple aspect of Skype is its availability on every major operating system's platform from Linux to Windows and even mobile editions (not advisable for this purpose). Skype encrypts the transmission, which is also comforting in this type of setting. Skype-to-Skype video conferencing is free, and there's a premium (paid) subscription that allows multiple participants simultaneously.

We considered using Regus, which offers professional video conferencing around the world. The pricing for their service was relatively good considering all factors (around $1,000 for the US (FL) and Italy). However, free -- other than the electricity consumed and the Internet access, for which you must pay anyway -- is difficult to beat!

At the end of the deposition, the court reporter offered an excellent suggestion: allowing expert witnesses to testify via Skype. This would be extremely helpful in another complex trust/estate litigation case because our expert is a nationally-known lawyer who might need to travel for a day or more using the traditional approach, often waiting most of that time. With Skype, he could offer his expert testimony exactly when necessary and from anywhere, provided he had access to a webcam (with some external models produced by Logitech and Microsoft offering up to 1080p HD video and surround sound as well), Skype, and a broadband Internet connection.

I don't have time for more detailed postings such as this, but I view this one worthwhile. I hope that it helps someone. Incidentally, you could achieve the same or perhaps even better results using Apple's Facetime, AOL video messaging (which is also compatible with Facetime), Google Voice, MSN or Yahoo messenger, and so on. None is as ubiquitous as Skype, though.

On a personal note, you can even use Skype to share a newborn baby's video with your family. We did just that using my MB Pro a couple of years ago. With most laptops now including good to very good webcams and many hospitals offering high-speed wireless Internet, this is an amazing way to share free streaming video (well, other than the cost of having the child, of course!). There's no end to the ways that you can use Skype for business or personal purposes.