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.

All materials © 2014 Ted Brooks, unless otherwise indicated.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Popular Trial Presentation and Court Technology Articles


The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg has been online since July, 2009, and has had over 40,000 visits. The number of articles that have actually been read may be several times that number, due to the scrolling home page, which includes the ten most recent articles. This blawg is now featured on several content feature sites, with many of the articles having been published and/or mentioned in print and online media. Many have also been used in CLE programs.

A real bump in readership occurred when we began covering iPad apps for attorneys and legal professionals, which were also picked up by Law Technology News and iPhone J.D., among others. This week's installment features some of the most popular articles that have appeared over the past (almost) couple of years.

I am currently working on an exciting new project -- Assembling a network of the nation's best trial presentation service providers. It's not quite ready for prime-time, but it is coming together nicely, with several locations already available across the country. I will announce it here soon.

 Using Technology in Trial

iPad Apps for Lawyers

Technical Articles

Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication"
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Sunday, March 20, 2011

CLE Program: Using Technology in Trial

This past week, Joe Cerda with HG Litigation and Ted Brooks of Litigation-Tech LLC jointly presented a California MCLE Program in San Francisco, contrasting “old school” methods of trial presentation with the latest in high-tech tools available.


This CLE was promoted and organized by Danette Rugg, of HG. Similar CLE classes are in the works for Los Angeles and San Diego. Contact Danette to be added to the notification list, or for larger firms, to request an in-house presentation.

A free lunch with free CLE credits, a drawing, and quite a bit of swag are the real draw here, and the course feedback was positive. It sure is a sweeter deal than paying for something you have to watch as a “pay-per-view” on your computer.

Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication"
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sanction 3 Trial Presentation Software Review - Sneak Preview



I joined in on the first web demo of Sanction 3, presented by Sanction Account Executive and Software Trainer, Devin Cegalis. I was certainly impressed, and if you’re a Sanction II user, although I’m not sure of the pricing yet, the upgrade will be offered at a discount, versus purchasing without owning the prior version. Verdical users will receive Sanction 3 at no charge, according to Cegalis. While I haven’t personally used Verdical, I am told that many of the best features of both have been combined in Sanction 3, and with many new improvements added. For those like me, who have only used Sanction II (and not Verdical), there’s just no comparison between versions 2 and 3. If you’re in a hurry to be one of the first to have it, the scheduled release date is March 29, 2011, and there are current upgrade discounts available. They are also offering web demos, if you’d like to take the “live” tour. Note: The screen-grabs I've included in this article were captured from the web demo, and are used with permission by Sanction Solutions.

The interface looks fresh, and fits nicely in a Windows 7 environment. It has been developed to take advantage of all that current technology has to offer, and is no longer running on an Access database – it is instead now using a new proprietary file-based database. When you first open Sanction 3, you’ll find options to create a new case and open an existing database.

Sanction II database files will import into Sanction 3, but they will not be backwards-compatible. Keep that in mind, if you’re sharing your database with Sanction II users.

Image © 2011 Sanction Solutions

With the increasingly common use of PDF files in law firms, it is a nice improvement to have Sanction 3 handling these files, without the use of an extra plug-in, as in Sanction II. In the demo, PDF’s were annotated, rotated and displayed without any problems. If it is a multi-page document, you also have an option to display the page thumbnails (in the database and presentation view), in a similar manner as with Adobe Acrobat.

Another nice feature about Sanction 3 is the use of context-sensitive “Ribbon” menus, as in the Microsoft Office 2010 Suite. So, if you’re working with the database, you’ll have a set of icons that will help you quickly access items such as OCR, transcripts, and file import options.

Image © 2011 Sanction Solutions

If you’re annotating exhibits, you’ll have all of the graphics tools displayed, and if you’re viewing transcripts, all of the depo video clip-editing tools are available. A database grid-view is also available. Sidebar menus are collapsible, and drop-down menus display only when needed.
Image © 2011 Sanction Solutions

There is also a carousel feature, which allows you to add several items, and then rotate through them in order.

Image © 2011 Sanction Solutions

Clip editing options now include colored issue codes, which may be assigned to differentiate designations, such as for Plaintiff and Defendant. Another nice feature in Sanction is the ability to “redact” text from a clip designation, which removes it from a clip. Accuracy will still be dependent upon sync quality of the video to the transcript.

Image © 2011 Sanction Solutions

The folks at Sanction are very proud of their new “zone-free” presentation module. I received a screen-shot of this feature several weeks ago. You may run it on single or dual-screen mode, and there are no fixed areas in which exhibits or videos are confined. So, you may put several items on the screen, moving and resizing individual “windows” as desired. You can even play more than one video simultaneously. The example scenario shared was when a witness was testifying about something, and you wanted to display an animation video at the same time. You can also show the status bar on the bottom if desired, allowing you to quickly bring the next item into focus.

Image © 2011 Sanction Solutions

If you’re comfortable with the Office 2010 interface style, Sanction 3 should feel very familiar, and simple to learn. This is one area Sanction has kept in focus for many years. If you like Sanction II, you’ll love Sanction 3.


Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication"
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Court Days Pro: iPad and iPhone App for Rules-Based Calendaring


Court Days Pro is a relatively clean and simple rules-based calendaring app for the iPad and iPhone. A review which focuses on the iPhone version of this app may be found on the iPhone J.D. blog. Once I got past the software use agreement and disclaimer (which appears the first time the app is launched), I found something that I would like to see from more developers – a set of sample data. Having sample data entries in apps such as this can assist you in quickly learning the app, and in getting your own data entered. And, in the case of Court Days Pro, this sample data doubles as a template, which may be customized to create your actual entries.

The app is a really neat calendaring aid, with automatic (but editable) calendar date triggers, based upon the California Code of Civil Procedure (for iPad rules app, see Litigator review). Although you can customize your date triggers, future updates will include the option to purchase additional rule sets for other jurisdictions (according to the developer, California attorney Dan Friedlander, who blogs at Law on my Phone). Interestingly, rather than outsource the development, Friedlander chose to learn the programming language. He shares his formula: “I basically bought two programming books and, over a period of two months, taught myself the programming language. A month later I had my first app for sale on iTunes.” This first app was Court Days, which did not include the Rules-based calendaring – it was all manually entered into a simple date calculator that determined the number of court days or calendar days from a date or between two dates. It did include court Holidays, as does Court Days Pro. You can also add local Holidays to your calendar.

You will find all of the most common litigation events included as templates, such as Answer, Complaint, Demurrer, Deposition, Discovery, Motion, and Summary Judgment.

Using the iPad's slot-machine roller-style interface, you can adjust the calendar date, details of the entry, or create a new custom event without using a template. Court Days Pro automatically calculates all related deadlines for filings, service, subpoenas, and motions, and you may export them to your iPad calendar.

You can also send a summary of your events and deadlines via and email report. There is a simple overview for each event, showing each date and event.

Conclusion:
I expect to see the iPad and other tablet devices to become more powerful, and at a rapid pace, as the competition heats up. As hardware is developed to handle larger, more robust apps, I also expect to see vast improvements in app development across several platforms, approaching the “complete package” of today’s computer software programs, which could drive many small, “one-trick pony” apps into extinction. Until then, we will get by with a customized collection of apps, each for one or two tasks. If you’re interested in a well-designed method of keeping track of your court deadlines that easily travels with you, Court Days Pro is a good one to add to your collection.

::::PRODUCT INFORMATION::::
Court Days Pro, Dan Friedlander, Law on My Phone $2.99

Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication"
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Comparison of TrialDirector, Sanction, and Visionary (plus iPad and legal video info)

This past weekend, I enjoyed the opportunity of presenting at the National Court Reporters’ Association Trial Presentation Symposium, in Atlanta, GA. I have been involved in this program for the past few sessions, and have enjoyed the opportunity to share a bit of knowledge with a full class of participants, along with the bonus of networking with a few of the top names in the business, including Trial Consultants Robb Helt (Arkansas), Tim Piganelli (Arizona), Joe Cerda (Texas), with a short topic on court procedure by Steve Crandall, and headed up by Brian Clune. I'll also include my name here (Ted Brooks) as your California connection. (These links are to each speaker's email)


Topics that were covered included the top 3 trial presentation software packages, TrialDirector, Sanction II, and Visionary. When compared side-by-side, TrialDirector appears to be the most up-to-date of the three, having been optimized for Windows 7 and a high-powered laptop. Sanction Solutions is about to release Sanction III, reportedly within the next few weeks or so. I would expect it to be a drastic improvement over Sanction II, which is not necessarily a bad product, but it hasn’t been updated in quite a while, and appears a bit dated. Visionary is currently in version 8, and looks like it could use a little “refresh” as well.  I will be very interested in trying the next version of Sanction, and will be writing an in-depth review of that, once it is released. I haven’t heard when we might expect a new release from Visionary Legal Technologies, but I would assume they are working on it. There are certainly other trial presentation software programs on the market, including some proprietary applications (which I would not recommend, since they are essentially locking you into a vendor), but these are the top 3, listed in order of market share. 


Any of them will do the job far better than attempting to present evidence using something like hard copies of your exhibits with an ELMO (electronic document camera) or PowerPoint. When they were compared on three screens at the same time, TrialDirector was clearly ahead of the pack – at least for now. Regardless which one you prefer, it was also demonstrated why it was not a good idea for an attorney to attempt to run a trial presentation program while trying to focus on examining a witness and connecting with a jury. While none of these programs are difficult to learn, trial presentation is a full-time job, and looks best when handled by someone who does it frequently.

iPad apps for trial presentation were also covered, including TrialPad, Evidence and Exhibit A. I have thoroughly reviewed each of them on Law Technology News and this blog, and have come to the conclusion that although they are indeed very cool, and it could look pretty slick running your trial presentation with an iPad, they just don’t have nearly enough horsepower for the larger trial, and they all suffer from the limitations of the iPad. The risk v. benefit analysis of using an iPad for trial presentation doesn’t add up at this point - at least unless it is a small and manageble matter, or there is some special reason it is needed.

The final session on Sunday covered the use of High Definition video in the legal arena. I found this very interesting, especially since we had a panel of notable Certified Legal Video Specialists (CLVS) who shared the latest news on how they are using it, including Bruce Balmer, John Garnett, Ed Foppe, and Gilley Delorimier. Joe Cerda also shared his recent experiences with HD video for shooting depositions, and then displaying in trial.

It was pointed out that you need to remember that there is a difference between HD and wide-screen. While often combined into one, they are two different attributes. File size remains a critical concern, and even more so with the new HD formats. The other critical concern is that wide-screen format (16:9) is not practical for use in depositions, since there is very little need to expand the view to include the attorneys, coffee cups, and stacks of exhibits on the table. That stated, regardless of whether we can find a decent method of storing such massive files, the standard 4:3 aspect ratio remains the preferred format for deposition video. I will add that the latest version of TrialDirector now supports wide-screen display for trial presentation. Some of our courts are already using wide-screen flat panel monitors, so it is much nicer to use the full screen, rather than have the gray side boxes cropping the image. The problem here is that court projectors and screens are still primarily 4:3 aspect ratio. For now, it appears that most everyone agrees, a 4:3 MPEG1 video remains the standard for trial presentation of deposition video.

Overall, the comments were very positive, but also offered ideas on how the program might be improved. A couple of nice comments were, "You are clearly the industry leader as it relates to trial presentation," and "This symposium was AWESOME. Thanks for giving so much back to the industry guys!"



If you follow any of the LinkedIn or Yahoo groups for trial technology and/or legal videography, you will likely recognize most of the names I've mentioned, as each of them has helped us all by sharing their knowledge and experience. The NCRA Trial Presentation Symposium is certainly a great opportunity to learn a few new tricks, and to meet and greet a few of the stars of our profession (and no, I am not arrogantly referring to myself).

LinkedIn Trial Technology Group
Yahoo Trial Technology Group
Yahoo Legal Videography Group

Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication"
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco