Attorney at Law Magazine publisher Sarah Torres recently spoke with Gary Froonjian of The Digital Deposition Group in the latest Vendor Spotlight to discuss his legacy in the industry and how they have evolved to continue succeeding into the future.
AALM: How long have you and your family been in the court reporting industry?
GF: My father-in-law was involved in the legal transcription business in New York City in the late 1970s. He was transcribing from belt media. These were the pre-cassette days. I became involved in 1991 providing legal transcription to the Superior Court system in New Jersey. So I would say we have been involved for 45 years—almost a half-century.
AALM: What are some of the highlights of your career in the legal industry?
GF: I helped convert the court system in New Jersey from stenography to recording on 4-track tapes. We went head to head with stenographers to determine who could produce a more accurate, timely transcript of the court proceedings, and we prevailed.
I was also involved in creating licensing curriculum for legal transcriptionists in New Jersey. Back in the day, they had to pass the state test to become certified to transcribe court proceedings. This upset the VAR association and the Court Reporters Union. They were vehemently opposing analog transcription.
I attempted to bring 4-track recording to the deposition industry in 1997 in Manhattan. While I was not successful because the Rules of the Court disallowed it, I never gave up on analog/digitally recording depositions. I consider this lesson a highlight in my career.
I’ve founded and created three legal transcription companies, two digital deposition companies and one medical transcription company. I never used stenography in my career.
Most recently, when COVID-19 shut down the world in mid-March, we were one of the first small companies in the country to begin conducting remote videoconferencing for depositions, allowing attorneys to continue deposing from at home.
AALM: Why do you think it has taken the industry so long to switch from stenography to digital?
GF: The legal industry has been notoriously slow to embrace technology, and not just digitally. They were using WordPerfect years after the rest of the world moved to MS Word and other much more user-friendly software packages. Change is uncomfortable and can be scary. Attorneys were too busy to educate themselves and make changes. The old ways were working, but only barely.
AALM: How has Digital Deposition Group answered some of the challenges in the court reporting industry?
GF: The turnaround time to receive a transcript has been unacceptable. It can take stenographers 30 days to produce a transcript. If you want it sooner, it will cost more. Ten days is our standard turnaround time.
Scheduling depositions has also been a tremendous hassle for attorneys. In fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard over the years. To schedule with us, an attorney need only email a copy of the Notice of Deposition to us or visit our website. We’ll confirm via email. Easy!
Reliability that a court reporter will cover your deposition has been another problem. There is such a shortage of stenographers that they are turning away 8-12% of the business. Steno schools are non-existent. Graduating numbers are not keeping up with the loss through attrition. Our company eliminates the stenographer so reliability is never an issue.
Historically, billing was created to be extremely complex and allow the agencies to charge for anything and everything. We’ve simplified billing to reduce expenses for all parties. It needed to be simplified, and this is what we have done.
AALM: How else have you integrated digital technology into your agency?
GF: We recently started using remote videoconferencing depositions. The convenience, user friendliness and cost were eye openers to the attorneys and law firms.
In 2018, we also introduced digital reporting using laptops equipped with recording software, microphones and three redundant backup systems to effectively record audio and video and provide the client with all of that information for free at the end of the depositions.
AALM: What are some of the advantages of digital reporting?
GF: Digital reporting produces verifiable and accurate transcripts, which are produced quickly and synced. The attorneys do not have to rely on any human being’s hearing what is said; it is recorded regardless of simultaneous speech. Also, the labor force is unlimited. For the most part, digital reporters have grown up with this technology and know it even better than I do! There is never a shortage of reporters.
The digital technology we employ also extends to litigation support. Impeaching witnesses using our software has never been easier. Our transcripts are delivered with built-in player software and contains synchronized audio/video and text, and they contain hyperlinked exhibits/documents. While playing the transcript, the user can easily copy excerpts and paste portion them paste or create a new file that can be played back in court.
AALM: What effect has the quarantine had on your business and the legal community?
GF: COVID-19 forced the legal industry to trust and embrace digital technology by using videoconferencing to conduct depositions and, in some cases, court hearings. Attorneys were kicking and screaming to stay in the 20th century, but they couldn’t anymore. Now that they have had to use the technology, they’re probably wondering why they didn’t do it sooner. We trust they’ll continue to move forward incorporating technology into their practices.
AALM: With all the new technologies you’re using, does a deposition service need to be local anymore?
GF: Not at all! We are based in Florida, but we have been conducting remote depositions throughout The United States, including Los Angeles and New York, and there are times when we do not even know where the person is located. We’ve provided the same high level of customer service that we’ve given to our local clients for decades.
AALM: Has artificial intelligence affected the court reporting industry? If so, how?
GF: While AI is not near 100%, it currently can accurately capture and convert speech to text with 80%+ accuracy. This reduces the time and cost of transcription. Ultimately, I see it producing a very accurate draft that can be distributed at the end of the deposition.
AALM: How would a client begin to use your service?
GF: All they need to do is schedule a deposition via the website or email, as described above.
AALM: What sets The Digital Deposition Group apart from the rest of the competition?
GF: We have nearly 50 years of experience in analog/digital technology. We understand the benefits and embrace enhancements in technology. We eliminate the client’s worry about coverage. We provide audio, video and the digital reporters notes on a USB flash drive for free at the end of every in-person deposition. If the deposition is held remotely, we can still provide audio and video upon the completion of the deposition. We produce a 3D product for download that syncs the audio, video and transcript, allowing attorneys to watch, hear and see the deposition in just 10 days. And we do not charge for discovery video at every deposition. Most importantly, we are committed to developing new technologies that improve the experience for all.