Opportunities for International Court/Deposition Reporters

Setting Up a U.S. Deposition Abroad

Top Things You Must Know

Jun 19 2014

Thanks to Ian Hardy for this informative article on doing depositions abroad.  Students often ask how to get involved with reporting abroad. Mr. Hardy is a great resource for those reporters who are about to embark on a career in international reporting.

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If you’re an attorney, a paralegal, or a legal secretary needing to set up a U.S. deposition abroad, always remember the cardinal rule: Don’t panic! Global depositions have become more and more common, and there are specialized court reporting firms that can help provide everything you’ll need. The good news is that you can usually depose a witness in almost any country in the world, provided you’ve laid the right groundwork.

Lay the Legal Groundwork

Although I’m not an attorney and cannot provide legal advice, it goes without saying that the way international depositions get set up always depends on the legal requirements at play in each specific country. The simplest and most common kind of international depositions we see at my agency, Optima Juris, tend to satisfy the following conditions:

  • A willing witness who resides or is located abroad
  • Counsel for both sides are willing to attend (in person, by phone, or by videoconference)
  • Counsel for both sides are willing to stipulate on the record that the reporter can swear in the witness (This is important – for more details, please see my previous LinkedIn Pulse article, How to Swear in a Witness Abroad)
  • The matter at hand is exclusively for U.S. courts – ie., it is not pending in any foreign courts which may need to be involved in the process
  • The deposition country does not have any specific laws or rules against taking U.S. depositions on its territory (more details on “problem countries” for U.S. depositions will be forthcoming in a future article. In the meantime, contact me if you’re not sure)
  • If you can satisfy the above five requirements, then congratulations! Your way ahead should be relatively easy: you just need to put the logistics in place

If you don’t happen to satisfy all of the above conditions, no need to be worried – there are still a lot of solutions available!

Set in Place Your Logistics:

Avoid Potential Problems BEFORE They Happen

When it finally comes time to move forward and schedule a deposition abroad, all attorneys are looking for the same thing: a cost-effective solution that guarantees against any unforeseen problems. In other words, “I JUST WANT IT TO WORK!”. The reason for this is simple: international depos can involve a large amount of traveling, billable hours, and other costly arrangements, and cannot easily be rescheduled like depositions in the States. In most cases, there is not another court reporter who can drive in from ten minutes away should you run into problems with your current reporter and need to find a replacement. If something goes wrong when you’re deposing abroad, you’re often stuck. Therefore, a key consideration for everyone involved should be anticipating and avoiding problems before they happen.

Go Local Wherever Possible

This is the best piece of advice you’ll ever get. By working with local (but duly certified and professional) court reporters, videographers, and interpreters, you end up killing two birds with one stone. First of all, you reduce travel costs considerably.

Second, and most importantly, you will be working with people who know the local country and/or region where you will be conducting your deposition. This kind of local knowledge is the single most effective way of reducing potential problems, because your team will know how to advise you and avoid potential issues as a matter of course. When you work with a reputable global deposition agency, you compound this protection by having a knowledgeable coordinator putting everything together.

If you can’t find local resources for your given deposition country (check with me if you need some help with this), the second best thing is to go with U.S.-based reporters who have experience traveling and who specialize in working in your deposition country or region. Working with knowledgeable people who come prepared is the only way to go when deposing abroad.

Plan WAY Ahead

In the U.S., court reporters are available in every city large and small, and attorneys are used to being able to set up depositions on the same day or the day before simply by making a few phone calls.

When you’re working on a deposition abroad, the first thing to remember is that the United States legal system (much like our preference for baseball over soccer) is, relatively speaking, a global anomaly. Very few foreign countries have the same procedures in place for discovery and evidence taking as we do.

What does this mean? The relative uniqueness of U.S. legal procedures means that U.S. style deposition services are very rare abroad. English-language court reporters who understand how to do U.S. depositions are a particularly rare breed. They do exist, but because their work relies solely on U.S. cases and clients, which tend to crop up in foreign countries only a few times per month, the economy in countries abroad cannot support thousands of reporters like it does in the States. The same goes for U.S. legal videographers, who are often even rarer. Also, let’s not forget the obvious fact that U.S. depositions require English-language reporters. In a country like Spain or Saudi Arabia or Sweden, where people and the local courts do not function in English, English-language reporters are going to be a rarity because they’re not needed by the local system.

The best solution for dealing with this reality is of course to plan ahead, and to begin scheduling your reporters and videographers as far in advance as possible. There are great professionals available abroad, but it doesn’t work like it does in the States – you can’t get a reporter the same day, or the day before. I always recommend arranging global depositions at least two weeks in advance – ideally a month in advance – in order to assure the availability of the key professionals you’ll need to make the deposition happen.

Also, don’t forget the time difference, which is another hugely important reason to schedule as far in advance as you can. Did you know that in Europe it’s already evening (if you’re reading this during the daytime in the States, that is). And in Asia, it’s already tomorrow. That means, if you happen to be organizing a depo in either of these regions, you’re already a day behind.

I can’t tell you how many clients I get who call in a fluster because they need a deposition arranged in Hong Kong or Korea for the next day. They don’t seem to realize the rather inconvenient fact that it is already the next day over there. Needless to say, such last-minute depositions never seem to come off when working abroad.

Always Remember to Have Fun!

After “Don’t Panic!” this is perhaps the next most crucial piece of advice I can give, because working abroad can be an AWESOME experience! True, it requires proper planning and the right attitude, but those of us who work globally should remember that very few people in this world are afforded such an amazing opportunity. It is an opportunity to be cherished.


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  • Written by

    Ian Hardy

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