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.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Day in Trial

There is an increasing interest in using trial presentation software to help persuade jurors in litigation of all types. Once considered the domain of the mega-firms with their billion-dollar clients, trial presentation technology has now trickled down to the point that it can be used in most any matter. The decision is no longer whether or not to use it, but how to get the most out of it, while staying within the budget. There are a few common options.

You may want to have an attorney handle it. At first glance, this appears to be a perfect match. Another attorney billing on the case, and they are already familiar with the exhibits and the case. From a client’s perspective, however, the billing rate is likely quite a bit higher than that of a trial technician, but even more importantly, it takes a great deal of time to manage the database, prepare exhibits and deposition clips, and present the evidence. If the assigned attorney has little else to do, it could work. If there are other “normal” trial responsibilities, adding a menu of tasks that require constant attention and maintenance may not be a good fit.

Another way to staff your trial presentation is to pull a paralegal and have them do it. However, as in the example above, chances are you’ve already assigned a full day’s workload on your paralegals, and unless you’re able to relieve them of all of their other chores during trial, burnout may be on the near horizon. It is not realistic to expect anyone to work two full-time jobs, and that is about what it amounts to.

Other considerations are familiarity with the software, protocols, and the case itself. Trial presentation software is not unlike many other specialized programs that unless you use them regularly, you are not really comfortable or familiar with the features. In trial, you don’t have time to search the Help Menu for solutions, or call for support when you have a problem. It’s all on you, and if you cannot make it work in a matter of seconds, you may find yourself using the hard copy exhibits.

Whether in-house or outsourced, a full-time trial presentation technician or consultant is generally going to be the best option available. Someone whose sole function is to ensure that every exhibit is accessible, and presented to the jury as needed. The more experience they have in this role, the better things will flow, and the trial presentation database should be their primary function. All other tasks should take secondary roles, as it often requires 14-16 hours per day or more during trial to keep everything rolling smoothly. Once counsel is finished preparing for the next day’s witnesses and retires for the evening, the trial tech goes to work, getting all exhibits and testimony ready to go, backing up the database, and adding new documents. They will also be familiar with the courtroom presentation equipment, and how to deal with the Court staff.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to bring in someone who isn’t already familiar with your case, this can actually be one of the greatest assets of a consultant. It is true that they don’t know the case, or how you view things. Neither will your jurors, and if you have someone willing to share an objective “outsider’s” perspective, that’s the closest you can get to the mind of your jurors. Don’t expect (or ask) them to see it your way, and don’t attempt to convince them. You don’t need another pat on the back or a “yes-man.” Just ask for their feedback, and take advantage of any insight they have to offer.

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