|This article was first published in the February 2011 edition of Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine (click for PDF), a publication of Los Angeles County Bar Association|
AS THE MEDIA CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, Los Angeles is understandably at the forefront of trial presentation -- from the O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake murder trials to the recent highly publicized Dodgers divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, during which David Boies appeared daily in Judge Gordon’s Downtown courtroom and then evenings on every local TV news program. If a high-profile trial happens in Los Angeles, chances are the rest of the world is watching.
Regardless of who may or may not be watching your case on the evening news, it is critical to remember that there are 12 people in the courtroom with you and that your primary responsibility is to convince them that your client should win the trial. Every reasonable effort should be made to provide the best representation possible, and this can include bringing in some help with trial preparation and court presentation.
Where do you begin? In part, by reading what you are reading now. The 2011 Guide to Trial Support Services features many of the top local providers of services you’ll need to help make your trial presentation run smoothly and flawlessly. Make no mistake -- trial is not the place to try new things or do it yourself. You’re better off calling in the experts who do this sort of thing daily -- especially in larger and/or high-profile matters. Even smaller matters can take advantage of the technology, however.
Gone are the days when a firm’s size would determine the level of technology at its disposal. Now, with the increased accessibility and availability of litigation and trial support software, consultants, and highly specialized vendors, the scales have truly been leveled. There are a few key steps necessary when entering the next generation of trial presentation. They include preparing a trial support database, creating demonstrative exhibits, preparing deposition video designations, and finally, the trial presentation.
Trial Support Database
Once you’ve identified all or part of your potential trial exhibits, you’ll need to have them scanned into a digital format, such as PDF or TIFF images. Most litigation-specific vendors will know what to do and how to do it properly. Simply taking it to a copy vendor may produce files that cannot be used with trial presentation software. It is not uncommon (if you expect to go to mediation or trial) to bring in a trial presentation consultant at the early stages of case workup to help ensure that everything is done right the first time. Database organization and file structure are critical, and if not done properly, may result having to do it over -- or worse yet, problems during the trial.
There is no topic that cannot benefit from visual display. Simple bullet-point slides, document callouts, timelines, or even complex animations may be used. Studies have repeatedly shown that we (read: jurors) learn and retain more when we can see what is being explained. Blowups may be used for a few key items, and a large quantity of demonstratives can quickly be displayed onscreen. This is particularly important for opening and closing, as well as with expert witnesses in explaining how things work.
Deposition Video Designations
Although you may think it is boring to watch an absentee witness testify via video, it is far worse to read the testimony into evidence. With video, the actual witness testifies to the jury, and exhibits may be displayed simultaneously so the jury can follow along. And, what about impeachment? There is no comparison between reading that “gotcha” statement from the transcript and watching it on video. The jury sees two versions of one witness -- a very powerful tool for damaging credibility. It is recommended that you videotape any witness of importance to your case.
All the aforementioned steps potentially lead to trial, mediation, settlement conferences, or other ADR. Trial presentation can be used effectively to communicate to audiences, be they the judge, mediator, opposing counsel, or the jury. You simply cannot try a case more effectively or efficiently than when bringing in state-of-the-art technology. Your jurors understand and retain your message better, your trial will go much faster, and you will be able to get far more evidence introduced, displayed, and admitted.
There is no matter so small or large that it cannot benefit greatly from the best available tools for your client. Cost does not always equal value. Check each vendor’s reputation, and remember that each vendor included in this guide is an active supporter of your LACBA.
Ted Brooks is a trial consultant, author and speaker, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He has provided trial presentation services in many high-profile and high-stakes matters, including the Dodgers McCourt divorce and People v. Robert Blake. You may read more of Ted’s articles on his blog:
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