No, I’m not talking about hitting the road in an RV. I’m talking about the out-of-town trial, and a few things you might not otherwise think about until you need them – which would then be too late. I’ll offer a few thoughts here, and feel free to add yours at the end of the article.
Internet Connection – Honestly, I can’t imagine being without a decent connection these days, when only a few years ago, it was a pure luxury. In most courthouses in major cities, you can get a decent cell-phone signal. If you can do that, and if you have a smart phone that doubles as a Wi-Fi Hotspot, you’re set for providing access to several laptops, iPads, or other devices. There are also services such as Courtroom Connect in many courtrooms, in addition to a free public service in some (usually intended for jurors). All due cautions apply to each.
Printing, Scanning, Copying – These common, simple daily functions must not be overlooked, and ideally, you will be able to do a decent job of each in both the war room and the court room. While the war room should have equipment available to handle the expected volume, you should also be able to scan or print something in the courtroom, if necessary. There are a number of portable scanners and printers on the market, and mine fit into my carry-on bag which I take to court with me each day. I’d rather not print 10 copies of 12 different exhibits in a big hurry, but I can handle the occasional (or frequent) emergency.
With that, you might also consider using 3-hole pre-drilled paper if you’re putting everything into binders, so you don’t have to worry about punching the pages. One more tip is to bring along a high-capacity stapler, since many exhibits are too thick for a standard staple (over about 20 pages). You should also check out local resources for vendors.
Redundancy – You should always have a current backup of your trial database available. When you’re at home, this may be simple, but when you’re on the road, although dealing with the “blue screen of death” is no longer a routine issue, problems still occur. I recommend have a second laptop of the same make, model and configuration, in addition to a full copy on an external hard drive, which may be used to transfer from one to the other (leaving a third copy on the drive itself). I’m not a big fan of data sync software either, and I have seen it fail. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you realize something has gone wrong. At least if you’re handling it manually, you will know what you did, and likely have a quick recovery available. Also, over-writing database files doesn’t always go as expected, so I will first delete the old set, and then copy over the updated set. Thumb drives and cloud services such as Dropbox can also be helpful.
Other Devices – iPads, Tablets and other devices can also help to make your life a bit more comfortable. If you have one, you know what I mean. If you don’t, you probably won’t understand until you get one. Although there are even apps for trial presentation which I’ve reviewed here, such as TrialPad, Exhibit A, Evidence, and now ExhibitView (currently on sale for $29.99, which I’ll be reviewing soon), most of the cases I handle are far too complex for the capabilities of the iPad. On smaller matters, however, using the iPad in trial could be fun. I have successfully used mine in several CLE presentations.
Use Caution With Room Services – If you’re looking for an easy way of upsetting an otherwise happy client, go ahead and turn in your expense report with a long list of top movies, fine dining, cocktails, and sending out all of your suits you’ve been meaning to get dry-cleaned. Just because you’re living in a hotel doesn’t mean you’re on vacation. Although your extravagant indulgences may be strategically distributed throughout the duration of your stay, think of how it’s going to look on paper – one right after another.
Okay, off to court. Have a great day!