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September 28, 2001

Online Attorneys -
Grounded lawyers turning to Chicago-based service to conduct Internet depositions

By Ellen Almer

While the recent terrorist attacks on the United States and the sharp decline in air travel have stalled business for many, one local company has capitalized on its clients' inability to travel around the country.

I-DEP® LLC, a Chicago-based firm whose service enables attorneys to conduct depositions online using video conferencing, has seen a tenfold increase in business since the Sept. 11 attacks. CEO Jay Jackson, who co-founded the firm in 1999, says during the past two weeks the firm has landed 44 new clients, up from four before the attacks.

Many attorneys "are saying they don't want to travel," Mr. Jackson says. Even those who do feel secure flying "can't, because their firms are severely cutting back on trips," he says.

That inertia is boosting I-DEP's service, which enables an attorney in Chicago to depose an expert witness in any other city.

I-DEP contracts with local court reporting firms to send one of their representatives to facilitate the questioning. The lawyer, viewing the witness through a video feed on a computer screen, can question the witness through instant messages, which are read by the court reporter.

The service costs about $2 to $5 a minute, depending on the length of the deposition and how many assistants are used.

Besides convenience, the service offers other benefits. For example, the attorney deposing a witness can take time to look up information between questions, or consult with other attorneys in his firm before continuing a line of questioning, Mr. Jackson says.

Getting traditionally techno-phobic lawyers to use the service is a "leap of faith, he concedes. "This is pretty far ahead of the curve, and attorneys like doing things the way they've already done them."

Some lawyers, he adds, won't use I-DEP because traveling hours are billable hours, and offer a chance to make more money. As a result, many of I-DEP's current clients are law departments at large corporations, including General Electric Co. and Coca-Cola Co., who look for ways to conserve legal fees.

Another drawback, notes Chicago real estate attorney Patrick McGarry, is losing the visual cues that come from in-person depositions, cues that often prompt further lines of questioning.

But some attorneys say they are hooked, especially now that flying has become unattractive.

"We used (I-DEP) a couple of times in the last year, but we'll probably use them a lot more now in light of what happened in New York," says Adam Krohn, a partner in Chicago consumer law firm Krohn and Moss, which represents clients in seven states.

He expects to use the service even when people begin flying again. "We're interested in saving money, so if we can do in a few minutes what usually takes a day, we'll do it."

He expects to use the service even when people begin flying again. "We're interested in saving money, so if we can do in a few minutes what usually takes a day, we'll do it."

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"I-DEP Partner Offers Document Management, More"  (Law Technology News, May, 2002)
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"Grounded Lawyers Turning to Chicago-Based Service"  (Crain's Chicago Business, September 27, 2001)
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