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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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ten Qualities of Top Trial Presentation Professionals

Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson Trial (see video below)

Back in the day, when I was the firm-wide in-house Trial Consultant for Brobeck, trial presentation software and technology were actually quite similar to what we use today – at least with respect to the way the exhibits are organized and presented in trial. Sure, computers and software have come a long way, but the biggest difference is the fact that more lawyers are using it. So, what are a few of the key qualities that seem to be a common thread among the nation’s leaders in trial presentation? I think you’ll find that many of these are also the traits shared by successful litigators.

1.       Trial Experience
There is a reason this profession is often referred to as the “hot-seat.” There is nowhere to turn, or nobody else to blame when (not if) something goes wrong, and only experience can help develop the knowledge of how to immediately correct most any issue, and in such a manner than nobody else even realizes there was a problem.

2.       Confidence
This comes naturally with actual trial experience, as noted in #1 above. If there is a lack of experience, there will also be a lack of confidence. Typically, a lack of confidence is easy to spot, and often, the reasons for this shortcoming become apparent in trial. A truly confident trial presentation professional will appear cool and calm, even when they’re under a great deal of pressure.

3.       Obsessiveness
In addition to trial experience, there is nothing like preparation to bring peace of mind to the trial team. During trial prep and the trial itself, there are no adequate excuses for not getting something ready in time. If this means working 16+ hour days, and not going to sleep until everything is ready for the next day, then so be it.

4.       Makes it Look Easy
Maybe you’ve seen an attorney working with a trial professional, and noted how it appeared as if every step was rehearsed – almost as if they both knew exactly what to do, and when. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve witnessed (or been part of) of a trial presentation meltdown, where exhibits weren’t presented in a timely manner, and frustration was apparent on the part of the attorney and trial presenter – not to mention the Judge and jury. The best trial presentation professionals are able to anticipate where the next callout or highlight should be, and will just make it happen.

5.       Above-average Work Ethic
One thing I have learned in my years working with some truly great attorneys is that you must be willing to work harder than opposing counsel. While hard work won’t turn a bad case into a good one and win, laziness can make you lose. Great attorneys are relentless. So are their trial teams. Gerry Schwartzbach once told me quite simply, “We will out-work them.” David Boies once asked his weary trial team, “Do you want to sleep, or do you want to win?”

6.       Data Management Expert
One problem with those who find that trial presentation software is actually pretty easy to learn (at least the basics), is that it doesn’t make you a file management expert. Unless you are capable of organizing tens of thousands of pages, you shouldn’t attempt to do so. One of the most common causes for problems in trial presentation is poor data management.

7.       Computer and Software Expert
While nobody can know everything, an experienced trial presentation professional will be familiar with most programs used by law firms, including litigation support applications. They will also be able to assist with computer problems, spreadsheets, and graphics. They will certainly be intimately familiar with their trial presentation software, and will know how to make the most of all features. Paralegal skills and experience can also be a plus.

8.       Resources
One life-lesson I learned many years ago was that the smartest people are not necessarily those who have all of the answers – but rather, those who know where to find the answers. Whether that means knowing where and how to search the Internet, or having a list of fellow professionals handy, there should rarely be a situation that cannot be resolved. It can also mean finding a way to get 3 copies of 20 exhibits scanned and printed at 2:00 AM.

9.       IT Expert
One quality that is often overlooked is the ability to simply “make things work.” This can mean installing and wiring an entire courtroom, setting up the remote war room, or getting everyone connected to the network. When working out of town in a remote war room, chances are you didn’t bring along your IT department with you. There is far more to this business than putting exhibits up on a screen.

10.   Top Firms and Cases
Never hesitate to check the background of your provider. If you’ve never heard of them, and/or if they don’t have an impressive list of clients and cases, chance are they don’t have the experience necessary to support your trial. Unless you’re willing to provide training wheels, don’t waste your time with someone who is just getting into this business.

Here’s an example of a total FAIL in the recent Michael Jackson trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, as described in #4 above, courtesy of Chris Ballard, of Video and the Law.


  1. I've listed ten here. Please feel free to share others.

  2. Good article Ted. I agree with all of the points you described.

  3. Great article Ted and thanks for the link. For your readers, here's another recent and successful trial presentation using all sorts of media

    Chris Ballard

  4. Great Comments, Ted. Just a few comments:

    Item# 4: While it is important to rehearse and practice with the attorney, a seasoned vet in the hot seat, will typically be listening to the attorney, and bringing up trial exhibits and highlighting portions without any cues from counsel whatsoever. Timing is a very important issue as well, and that's where the practice comes in and getting the feel of how a particular attorney works, and speaks.

    Item # 6: The trial tech who is assigned the case, should always build the case themselves on a laptop that they are comfortable with so that he or she is intimately familiar with the evidence from the start and has it organized the way he/ she prefers. Everyone's style is a bit different. So once a tech is assigned to a case, they stay with it to completion of the trial.

  5. The video is a great example of why you hire a Trial Tech and lawyers don't do it their selves


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