Confidentiality is an essential element in building a trusting lawyer-client relationship. After all, if you’re a criminal defense lawyer and your client withholds vital details because he or she doesn’t believe the information will be kept confidential, then the entire case could be derailed. Court reporters in San Jose have a similar duty to abide by a code of ethics, including the responsibility to preserve the confidential nature of the information they record.
Understanding Confidentiality and Attorney-Client Privilege
Even among experienced lawyers, you’re likely to hear some people using the terms “duty of confidentiality” and “privileged information” interchangeably, despite their subtle differences. Both of these legal concepts have the end result of encouraging clients to disclose sensitive information to their attorneys. However, the lawyer’s duty of confidentiality is typically specified in the state’s ethics rules (American Bar Association Model Rule 1.6). The attorney-client privilege, on the other hand, is in common law. It’s essentially a rule of evidence, as it prohibits lawyers from being required to testify about the statements their clients made.
Identifying When Information Is Privileged
The attorney-client privilege applies to many circumstances, even if the person who revealed the confidential information isn’t actually a client. For example, a privileged relationship exists when:
- A prospective client or an actual client solicits legal advice from a lawyer.
- The prospective or actual client intends to keep the information confidential.
- The lawyer acts in any professional capacity.
Attorneys have the duty to keep privileged information confidential, even after the client is no longer a client, and after the client’s death.
Using a Secure Case Management System
Even if you are careful to never discuss the details of a case with anyone who isn’t authorized to have that information, you might inadvertently experience some lapses in confidentiality, especially if you store information electronically. Work with a court reporting company that offers a 24/7 virtual case management system. The security of this system allows you to access your online case file repository at any time without worrying about a breach in information security.
The highest priority of court reporters serving San Jose is the accuracy of their transcriptions. Ethical, dedicated court reporters won’t hesitate to interrupt a deposition if their ability to get information on record is jeopardized. This can sometimes lead to ill will among the parties involved. If you’re an attorney, here’s what your court reporter wants you to know.
Why Deposition Interruptions Happen
Court reporters record verbatim speech at 225 words per minute or faster. Speed is important, but accuracy is paramount. Simply put, interruptions happen when a witness mumbles or offers a non-verbal response, or when multiple parties interrupt each other. In these situations, the court reporter must interrupt the proceedings to have the witness repeat the statement. Newly certified court reporters do tend to need to interrupt depositions more frequently, however, they’re typically the least willing to do it. Court reporters with plenty of experience generally don’t need to interrupt as often, but they’re more willing to assert themselves when the situation calls for it.
What You Can Do to Prevent Interruptions
Attorneys prefer to keep interruptions to a minimum, as they disrupt the flow of questioning and answering. Yet, many attorneys don’t realize that they play a direct role in how many interruptions are necessary. It’s well worth the time to discuss some ground rules before you get the deposition started. Clearly explain to the witness that the role of the court reporter is to take down an accurate record of everything that everyone says on the record. In order to do this, the court reporter must be able to hear every word. Establish the following rules:
- Only one person is to speak at one time.
- Wait until the questioning attorney is completely finished asking a question before responding.
- Every speaker should talk with reasonable clarity, volume, and speed.
- No non-verbal responses (i.e., head-shaking or nodding) are allowed.
Additionally, attorneys can help court reporters do their job well by providing a short information packet with the proper spellings of names and common industry jargon.
In late 2013, new HIPAA regulations went into effect that can affect court reporters who provide transcription services pertaining to patient information. The next time you hire a court reporter in San Jose, consider whether any of these updates might apply. Under HIPAA, both you and your court stenographer could be considered “business associates” of the healthcare industry. In other words, if you’re handling a case for a covered entity, such as a health plan or hospital, then by extension, you and the court reporter you hire are subject to HIPAA regulations.
HIPAA requires that all business associates of covered entities have an established Business Associate Agreement (BAA). This document must include multiple provisions, including the specifics of how a court reporter is permitted to disclose and use personal health information (PHI). Other provisions are: Requiring the court reporter to report security breaches in PHI, implement safeguards to protect PHI, and ensure that any subcontractors abide by the BAA.
There are many things lawyers aren’t taught in law schools, and one of them is how to conduct legal depositions in unusual places around San Jose. Some of the strangest places lawyers have done legal depositions are hotel rooms, airports, prisons, and adult entertainment stores. These are obviously not ideal places to take down sworn testimony. Whenever possible, it’s best to have a court reporter meet you and the other parties at a private conference room. Even if you’ll be conducting a remote deposition, a private conference room is best because it eliminates distractions on your end, and it ensures you’ll have the right technology to conduct the deposition securely .
Court reporting agencies that offer conference room rentals also typically offer high-tech solutions to guarantee privacy and security. Due to the sensitive nature of legal cases, it isn’t advisable to conduct remote depositions with less secure connections. Sophisticated video conferencing platforms even allow private chat options, which let clients communicate with their attorneys confidentially.
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