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 McCourt divorce trial (with David Boies), People v. Robert Blake murder trial (with M. Gerald Schwartzbach), and a large number of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Apples to Apples: Two iPad Apps for Trial Presentation - TrialPad v. Evidence



1/20/2011 - iJuror and JuryTracker review is "live" on the new law.com. An enhanced version, including a review of Jury Duty, another brand new app for voir dire will be posted here shortly. Stay tuned, follow @litigationtech tweets for updates.

Author’s Comment -- When I decided to do this review, I had no idea how complex the whole process would become. I wanted to write a fair and unbiased comparison, didn’t really want to bash anyone, and yet didn’t want it to look like a “sponsored” marketing piece. Based on the positive feedback I’ve received, I think I may have succeeded. My affinity for software testing and review goes back several years, and is something I often did in-house for Brobeck when I wasn’t in trial. There were updates to both apps during my testing, causing me to go back and edit parts of my review – a tough task since I was almost done, working on a tight deadline. In this exclusive “blawg” version of the article, I will add a few screenshots and add comments here and there, denoted by the words, “Author’s Comment.”

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Reprinted with permission from the Jan. 11, 2011 issue of Law Technology News. ©2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC.
Reference to this review has been featured on iPhoneJD

Two iPad Apps Make Their Cases for Trial

Many tech-savvy attorneys already own an iPad today, even though there aren't many legal-specific applications available for it. The iPad technology is still new and reminds me of the Wild West days of the internet in the 1990s, when so many different people were developing different but similar ideas. Regardless, the iPad is one of the hottest topics on the internet.

Author’s Comment – I posted an online survey entitled “iPad for Legal Professionals, Tool or Toy?” on LinkedIn, posing the following options:

• Tool - Must have it - all work, no play
• Tool - Slightly more for work than play
• Tool and/or Toy - Both about equal
• Toy - Slightly more for play than work
• Toy - OK for games & movies, not work

The results show that while the majority is split between tool and toy, the next group uses the iPad slightly more for work than play. It seems we are trying hard to incorporate new technology into law.

Two iPad apps designed for trial presentation were introduced in December 2010. TrialPad, from LitSoftware , and Evidence, from Rosen Litigation Technology Consulting. It seems ironic that they appeared in the App Store within only a few days of each other, with presumably the same purpose and target market, yet with a significant disparity in pricing. In fact, it is quite possible that neither knew of the other before I uncovered them on the Court and Trial Technology Blawg.

Author’s Comment – It was, in fact, confirmed by one developer that this was the first they had heard there was a competing app – I suspect that is the case for both.

TRIALPAD V. EVIDENCE

Downloading and installing the applications on my iPad was simple, although Evidence requires the latest iOS version 4.2. If you don't have the latest update, it simply won't install.

By default, neither app comes with sample files, so you will need to add your own samples or dive in with files from a specific matter. While Evidence supports the import of several file types, only PDF image files, JPG, and PNG loaded and displayed properly for me. Multipage TIFF images only displayed the first page of the document. And although PowerPoint and text files are supported, they did not show up in the Evidence database after the files were uploaded. TrialPad supported and displayed PDF image files in its database, in color and monochrome. Searchable PDF files are not supported in either application.

Figure 1. The Evidence database view displays highlighted content in a dull, semi-transparent yellow, similar to what happens when you highlight content in PowerPoint. Highlights are vibrant, however, when they are viewed in presentation mode.

I added files to both apps using a computer connected to the iPad and iTunes.


With TrialPad, I also imported exhibits from the iPad while viewing e-mail by using a tap-and-hold action on a message attachment until the option to import to TrialPad was presented. Although TrialPad is developing Dropbox integration, I would like to see better methods of accessing and importing files directly on the iPad. As it stands, both apps play in a sandbox on the iPad and cannot see files in other apps.

At first, I could not add additional files, i.e., exhibits, to Evidence via iTunes. Rosen informed me that the feature was not working. Restarting the app, however, fixed my immediate problem, which has since been corrected by a software update. When I added exhibits with the same file name as exhibits that were already present in both apps, Evidence prompted me to continue overwriting existing files or to cancel the operation. TrialPad did not prompt me, but automatically added duplicate files with a suffix denoting it was a copy of an existing exhibit.


Figure 2. TrialPad database View.

When I scrolled a multipage exhibit in Evidence, a display popped up to show my relative position in the document: Page 1 of 2. TrialPad displayed the page number in the upper right-hand corner, and added a scroll bar on the right side of the document to indicate my position in the document. While TrialPad can display one full page, Evidence cannot zoom out enough, forcing you to view about 3/4s of a page. Both apps can zoom in on content, but Evidence featured a magnifying-glass tool when I tapped and held an exhibit for a second or two. Both apps handled large PDF files up to 4 MB well, although they had a slight delay in displaying large color files. Evidence displayed files over 7 MB, while files that large caused TrialPad to crash.

File management is similar in both apps, but I could create and name several folders in TrialPad to organize exhibits by issue or other criteria, e.g., by witness. Evidence allowed only one folder for all exhibits. And although I could search for exhibits by file name in TrialPad, neither app provides full-text search capability.

Once I uploaded files to Evidence, outside of folder organization, there is no way to reorder the exhibits in the database. So make sure you name files in such a way that they fall into some logical order that lets you find them, e.g., by alphanumeric or exhibit number. TrialPad allows you to rename your exhibits, which will also affect the sort/display order. Note that TrialPad has a Hot Docs button that allows you to highlight an exhibit and save it to a Hot Docs folder for quick access during trial. You can also duplicate, rename, and delete exhibits in TrialPad without having to connect to iTunes.

Evidence rotates exhibits in clockwise and counterclockwise motion, but only displays partial pages of your documents. TrialPad only rotates documents in a clockwise motion, but exhibits them as full pages in both landscape and portrait. Unlike Evidence, TrialPad gives you the option to rotate a single page or the entire document.


Author’s Comment: As demonstrated with the above image, it is apparent that both apps have styled their database structure in a similar fashion as TrialDirector or other mainstream trial presentation programs.

ANNOTATIONS

Both Evidence and TrialPad feature tools to highlight and underline content in exhibits. TrialPad adds a handy redaction tool, but other than that, neither app has the bells and whistles to annotate exhibits like you will find in TrialDirector. But note that, although TrialDirector is loaded with features, the three most commonly used functions in presentations are zoom, highlight, and underline.

The two apps differ in how their annotation tools operate, and how they appear in presentation mode. Both apps highlight in the same fashion -- drawing a yellow rectangle around the text you wish to highlight. With TrialPad, if you wish to highlight a second area on a page, you will need to tap the highlighter tool icon again, as it automatically returns to the default zoom state after each use. The Evidence highlighter remains active until you deselect the tool.

For underlining, Evidence locked an anchor point and forced a straight line under text -- a box is drawn with 4 separate lines. TrialPad also uses a drawing tool, but it is akin to a free-hand draw, so the line can appear wavy depending on your hand-eye coordination.

Both apps offer a multistep undo function that let me undo my last annotation, then undo my next-to-last annotation, etc., as well as a "Clear All Annotations" button.

PRESENTATION

You need a VGA adapter to connect your iPad to a projector. Once connected, you don't have to worry about the iPad entering sleep mode -- the feature is disabled while presenting over a VGA interface -- I'm sure glad someone thought of that!

In Evidence, I selected Publish to present my exhibits. Any change to an exhibit during the presentation required me to double-tap the Publish button -- one tap to clear the presentation, the second to present the next exhibit. Anything I did in the database during the presentation did not display until I tapped the Publish button.

TrialPad presents exhibits a little differently than Evidence. Once I tapped the Output button to On, an option to Play became active, which mirrored my iPad activity onto the presentation screen. I chose Pause to select another document without changing the presentation view, annotated it, and then tapped Play to display it. I selected Stop to clear the presentation.


Figure 3. Evidence presentation view.

As with its database view, Evidence will not zoom out sufficiently to present a full page of an exhibit. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, because it would be difficult to discuss an exhibit if it is not viewed in its entirety. Note, however, that landscape-oriented graphics did show in full, but they filled the bottom half of the screen with a white background. PDF files did fill the entire presentation screen, although not the entire page. TrialPad displayed the entire page of an exhibit in presentation mode regardless of rotation to portrait or landscape -- a real plus.


Figure 4. TrialPad presentation view.

Both apps have pinch-zooming in presentation mode, which gave me the ability to zoom into an area of the page but not on a specific paragraph or sentence. Although the display looks cleaner than an ELMO (electronic document camera), the zooming capability is no better.


 Author's Comment: During testing, both apps posted an update to iTunes. Evidence had addressed their issue with loading additional files to an existing database, and TrialPad added a help file to their database - something which I have previously noted as a handy plus for Evidence. Both sites feature online support, while TrialPad has an extensive set of FAQ's and tutorial videos.

Figure 5. Key Chart comparison of features.




Author’s Comment: Perhaps the most important feature when addressing jurors is the ability to focus in on exactly what you want them to see – not just half of a page (as shown in this TrialDirector screen-grab).

CONCLUSION

Although both of these apps offer the ability to organize and present exhibits, they come with some severe limitations. First and foremost, they are not TrialDirector. That stated, if you were to bring the iPad into a small trial, mediation, or settlement conference, it could work. One thing is certain -- you'd sure look cool doing it as long as nothing goes wrong to frustrate your efforts in convincing judge or jury.

At this point in time, when trial presentation consultants are running the fastest, most powerful computers on Earth, using a tiny computer with no solid file management seems questionable. And I have not even mentioned the fact that the iPad has no DVD drive, no way to quickly present documents via a keypad, no ability to play deposition video, and the list goes on.


Author’s Comment: The list also includes lack of printing and USB ports to connect devices (although you can connect a flash drive via a Camera Connection kit). If you need to show depo video along with documents (as shown in this TrialDirector screen-grab), you’re going to need more than an iPad.

Are these hypercool iPad apps ready for prime time? At this point, perhaps for a very small and manageable matter, they could have a place for someone who likes toys and is willing to take the risks associated with them. They are both fun apps to work with, and I would be willing to bet that both will improve with time. I would also be willing to bet that the pricing disparity will level out -- as it did several years ago between Sanction and TrialDirector. Note to my past and future clients: I will not be using my iPad in trial (unless of course you insist).

Author’s Comment: Next up, a comparative review of iJuror and JuryTracker. Thanks for reading!

Ted Brooks is a trial presentation consultant, author, and speaker, with offices in Los Angeles & San Francisco. E-mail: ted@litigationtech.com. Blog: Court and Trial Technology Blawg.

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TrialPad, $89.99, from LitSoftware LLC

Evidence, $9.99, from Rosen Litigation Technology Consulting

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5 comments:

  1. Ted,

    Thank you for taking the time to write a review of TrialPad, your blog is widely read and well respected. In the interest of full-disclosure to you and your readers, I am the developer of TrialPad. There are a few things I’d like to expand on in reference to your article.

    In addition to iTunes file transfer, and being able to import documents via email (as well as the forthcoming Dropbox integration you mentioned), documents can also be imported into TrialPad from other installed apps such as iAnnotate, GoodReader, and ReaddleDocs. We’re out of the sandbox and playing well with others!

    We also designed the app to navigate quickly through documents. For instance, you can effortlessly scroll to page 190 of a 200 page deposition rather than flicking 190 times to get to that page. We’ve made sure that documents are easy to organize and manage, and very importantly, can be displayed as a full pages. Even though there are limits to the iPad hardware, we’ve conducted aggressive testing and were able to display 25MB PDF files without a problem. Our Hot Docs section is also unique in allowing the user to save multiple annotated copies of the original documents in user created folders.

    One of the results of our early beta testing was to make the default zoom/pan tool active after each annotation use. This made the commonly used highlight/zoom action natural, and didn’t force the user to turn off the tool after each use. Only TrialPad has the safety measure of preventing the iPad from entering sleep mode once presenting. Although battery life is sacrificed, counsel will never face a blank screen when returning from a sidebar, or lose the output signal to the projector if a witness takes a long time to answer a question.

    I recognize that the range of experience and sophisticated techniques offered by professional trial presentation specialists are irreplaceable. As valuable as those services are for litigators, there are matters where the size and budget simply doesn’t warrant an addition to the trial team.

    TrialPad has already been used in multiple depositions, hearings, and trials with great feedback from our users. We are excited to see where our continued dialog with our users will take us, not only their success stories but also the continued and diverse opportunities to use our app.

    For your readers that are already using TrialPad we’d love to hear from you at support@trialpad.com, which is live and responsive. For readers who aren’t current TrialPad users I’d like to encourage you to check us out and vet us at our website www.trialpad.com and through our helpful video tutorials http://www.trialpad.com/howitworks.php.

    Kind regards,

    Ian

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good review Ted. These apps are pointless and are just toys.

    I will not be wasting my time with either of the apps.

    I am a mac user and I use TrialSmart. The support is wonderful, the app is easy to use and has hundreds of features. The developer is wonderful.

    Anyone using an iPad in trial is just calling attention to themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your review was spot on. I respect reviews like this vs others from lawyers.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have been a trial attorney for 27 years and have been using an iPad almost since it's release after using Windows based laptops in Court off and on for a few years. I have downloaded the Evidence app and like it very much. It is simple to learn and use and is one of the few legal or business related apps that is allowed to output to an external screen or monitor via the VGA adapter sold by Apple.
    It is simple to upload PDFs or other types of files to Evidence via iTunes' File Sharing feature. Then it is simply of matter of displaying the file on an external monitor (most Courtrooms have a monitor with a VGA input). By requiring you to manually display a file page by page, Evidence is designed to prevent you from accidentally showing documents or photos that have not yet been admitted into evidence at a hearing or trial.
    Another helpful feature allows you to yellow highlight or use thick red lines to emphasize or direct the trier of fact to specific portions of the file exhibit. And there's a button to erase any highlighting or red lines.
    The iPad has limitations of which we are aware. Evidence combines the convenience of the iPad and its VGA output into a simple and effective presentation device. It is well worth the $10.

    ReplyDelete