COURT TECHNOLOGY AND TRIAL PRESENTATION
The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.
All materials © Ted Brooks, unless otherwise indicated.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Review revisited: TrialDirector
With the release of TrialDirector 6 just around the corner, I am posting this review of TrialDirector 5, originally published as a Technolawyer TechnoFeature, on December 19, 2006. Version 5 was officially released on May 1, 2006, and I would expect them to work toward the same anniversary date for release of TrialDirector 6. I have been involved in pre-release alpha and beta testing, and can assure you that version 6 will be worth the price of the upgrade. New features include an excellent deposition clip editing interface, return of the the database grid view with sortable fields, and a powerful new set of presentation features. If you were hoping for more power, it's in there; more features, check; easier to use, done. Overall, TrialDirector 6 will blow your socks off. But, that's for an upcoming review I am working on - hopefully ready within a week or two. For now, here's a little trip down memory lane...
1 = Lowest Possible Score; 5 = Highest Possible Score
As a long-time user of TrialDirector, when I first saw
version 5, I was amazed at the difference from previous
versions. It seems that inData has really focused
on making this stuff simple for the occasional user — and after looking at the program thoroughly, I
think it has succeeded in its effort.
Now, a TrialDirector user no longer needs to also be
a database expert — however, my opinion remains
as it has with previous versions: If you have a big,
important, high-profile and/or high-stakes case, do
not wait until trial to learn a new software program
or save a few bucks.
(Disclosure: As a Trial Consultant, I have worked
with inData to provide feedback regarding issues
and features for several years. I have not been compensated
by inData for this, however, inData and
other software companies including Verdict Systems
(Sanction software) and Summation have referred
work to my firm.)
Installing TrialDirector is relatively simple, and has a
few options you may want to consider with respect
to what goes where — although the default settings
will work just fine.
I normally make sure to modify the “Cases” location
first (in priority, not installation, order). Rather than
burying my database somewhere about 5 levels
down in Windows Explorer (C:/Program Files/in-
Data/Cases/Case0001), I would rather start with
the setting of C:/Cases (or D:/Cases, if running
multiple hard drives). I do this by simply creating
the new folder named “Cases” at the root of the
C:\ drive. Then, when it’s time to create a new case
and begin populating folders with images, videos,
and documents, I will first create a subfolder for that
new case. I will create the new case inside this new
case folder (named per the matter), which places a
“.dat” file in that folder as well, enabling TrialDirector
to “see” the case(s) located within that folder. Otherwise,
each new case results in a case folder with the
next sequential number. Try guessing which case is
in folder “CASE0054”.
Although you can now name the case folder with
the name of the matter, this can get messy, and is
much better organized in the following fashion: C:/
Cases/Smith_v_Jones. The first database created
within the Smith_v_Jones folder will be Case0000,
next will be Case0001, and so on. This is not the
name that you will see in the database — it is only
the folder name which contains the actual database.
One additional advantage is that if you choose to
copy the case and all materials to another location,
everything stays all together in one place. Caution:
stay out of the Case0000 database folder, unless
you really know what you’re doing. Databases do
NOT have “undo” features. You whack it, there’s no
getting it back.
You can also choose which Program Folder to install
to. If you have previous versions and want to keep
them installed (I recommend this), let the program
defaults create a new group for you. If you don’t,
choosing to install in your existing TrialDirector folder may make it difficult to get to your previous version.
I have always kept the previous versions available,
especially during upgrades. You never know when
you might need to get back to a familiar version and
do some “magic.”
COMPATIBILITY WITH EARLIER VERSIONS
Again, I recommend keeping any previous versions
of TrialDirector installed. When TrialDirector 5 first
came out, as expected, there were a few issues to
be worked out. Having the “old standby” ready is
always a good plan. Now, inData has worked out
the kinks in most of these initial issues, and will roll
out another update soon — a good reason to take
advantage of inData’s TrialDirector Online Update
feature, first appearing in version 4. In the Program
group for TrialDirector, you’ll find a link to their Web
site which checks their latest version available
against the version installed on your computer. If an
update is available, you are prompted to download
and install. I would recommend shutting down Trial-
Director prior to downloading.
You may have more than one version of TrialDirector
installed on a computer, and they will all work fine,
but you should only run one version at a time. Otherwise,
you end up accessing the same database
from two different sources. It may work; it may not – feeling lucky?
Another nice thing is that no matter which version
you use, it will still open the last case you were
working in — even if you were not working in that
particular version of TrialDirector.
The new interface design found in version 5 is such
a significant change that users of previous versions
may feel lost at first. Everything is still in there — it’s
just been moved around a bit.
The first-time user (assuming all else being equal)
will likely dive in and feel right at home.
When I first saw this in development, I wondered,
but why? It worked just fine before. But then, so did
my DOS operating system (geek-speak for antiquated
While in previous versions you opened and accessed
each program in the Suite separately and
individually, TrialDirector 5 has incorporated everything
into one running application. Instead of
opening another program, you can use convenient
tabs located within the program window to access
the Case Library (master view), Document Manager
(similar to DocumentDirector in earlier versions,
for working with exhibits), Transcript Manager (a la
DepositionDirector), and Coding. Selecting a tab
opens the corresponding window views, similar to
what you would find in each individual program in
This feature greatly reduces the time it takes to get
back and forth between and to start up separate
applications. This works fine between Document
Manager and Transcript Manager, keeping the active
document there when you come back to it, after
reviewing some deposition video. When the Case
Manager is selected, however, it will close all open
folders in the Document Manager. This is not necessarily
a bad thing, but something to remember if you
just “hunted down” some document. You’ll find it
similar to selecting the “All” tab in previous versions.
It will not affect the Transcript Manager.
One tab you won’t find is the Query. Instead of
an option to view search results in a temporary
Query folder (which disappears when accessing
the All tab), you can now save your search results
in a more permanent folder. In other words, once
you select another tab, or shut down and restart
TrialDirector, that folder with its results is still there.
You may manually delete it if desired. This is a
very useful improvement, as you no longer have to
repeat or manually save common searches. The option
to view the search “hits” one-at-a-time remains
Along with the major changes in appearance and
interface, TrialDirector 5 offers a lengthy list of new
features, many of which were requested by current
One of these improvements is Workbooks. No longer
are you restricted to a large group of individual
folders in a separate (on top of and always in the
way of something else) window, without the ability
to create sub-folders. The Workbooks enable you
to add folders within folders several levels deep (I
stopped counting at 5). However, be careful when
deleting Workbooks, as just like Windows Explorer,
deleting an upper-level folder will also delete its
contents, including sub-folder Workbooks. You may
also color-code them for quick visual sorting/organizing.
If you open a case created in a previous version,
the folders you created are still there, although they
now appear as Workbooks. You can also now color
issue-code transcripts, adding the selections into
an Issue Workbook. Then you can export these to
Word, PDF, etc.
In addition, the clip creation process now features a
visual graph of the sound patterns, enabling you to
“see” where the speaking begins and ends.
OCR (Optical Character Recognition) files from
vendors or in-house scanning software were previously
incompatible with TrialDirector. There was an
optional add-on module which would enable you
to OCR the database, but it would take a considerable
amount of time (as does any OCR process),
and you could not import “standard” coding data.
Now, when loading images, if TrialDirector spots
corresponding OCR files, you are given the option
to load them. Indexing will take some time, but you
can do that at a more convenient time, if desired. It
is a very processor-intensive operation.
There are a few new options here, but it’s pretty
hard to improve on TrialDirector’s presentation
features. One new feature is a movable highlight,
similar to the Projection Callout zoom but without
the magnification. You can use this to focus
attention on a particular portion of an exhibit or
demonstrative, without zooming in on it. Similarly,
the Signature tool enables you to zoom and “copy”
a selection and continue to show it as you bring up
another document for comparison.
TRAINING AND LEARNING THE PROGRAM
inData offers training, as do a number of vendors
and Certified Trainers. Even with its great improvements
with respect to simplicity, if you really want to
get into the “bells and whistles,” of which there are
plenty, you might consider getting some training.
Often, some valuable experience-related issues are
shared, offering a more thorough exploration of the
Alternatively, one might take the time to explore
each menu button to get a feel for what drives
this machine. Considering what you plan to use
this software for, regardless of whether you opt for
training or decide to step through the program one
menu at a time, it would be time and/or money
THE OTHER SIDE
Three features I liked least of the upgrade:
• A little more time-consuming to do database field
editing as a result of changes in the interface.
• The program seems to run a bit slower. I am told
by inData that a release will address this issue very
• The Annual Maintenance Program. Although other
major litigation support software companies have
done this for some time, I’d rather buy the upgrades
when I want them.
Also, in the next version, I would like to see the OCR
database use the existing files rather than indexing
and creating a new set of OCR text files.
inData is second to none in this department. I’ve
been working with this software for years, and I have
always been very pleased with the response times
and solutions to my issues. This is not Microsoft
Word. It is a very specialized software application,
in which most users never go too far into the bells
and whistles. I am an exception, and I have seen
updates developed and released within days of my
notifying inData of an issue.
CONCLUSION: THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’ve used TrialDirector before, you’re going to
like it. If you’ve never used TrialDirector, you’re going
to love it.
Can an average attorney or paralegal spend some
time learning to use TrialDirector 5 and go to trial?
The answer is yes. Would you want to purchase TrialDirector on Friday and then go to trial on Monday?
Probably not, but I’ve heard it has been done.
Other options include hiring a Trial Consultant or
Technician to assist with the preparation and/or presentation,
should the matter warrant it. Could you
call a Trial Consultant on a Friday and expect to be
in trial on Monday? Not recommended, but I can tell
you with certainty this has happened. Just knowing
the software isn’t the only issue. A lot of data will
likely need to be prepared and loaded first.
inData has kept its pricing at $595 per single copy
( installations), but they have now gone the route of
the annual maintenance fee — a common trend in
legal software. The downside is you continue to pay
each year — the upside is that you never again have
to purchase future updates for version 5 (inData’s
updates often contain new major features, such as
version 4.5 last year).
The issues I’ve noted are actually very minor, and
I’ve been informed we can expect updates soon.
Overall, I would give TrialDirector 5 a TechnoScore
of 4.8, with TrialDirector retaining its status as the
“Gold Standard” in Trial Presentation Software.
Copyright 2006 Ted Brooks. All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Brooks is the President of Litigation-Tech LLC,
a trial technology consulting firm based in San
Francisco. Ted has worked on many high-profile
civil and criminal cases, on both sides of the table.
He has won the Law Technology News Award for
Most Innovative Use of Technology in a Trial, and is
a frequent speaker and author.
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