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.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sanction vs. TrialDirector – The Battle Heats Up

Sanction vs. TrialDirector – The Battle Heats Up


It was announced yesterday (June 4, 2012) that Sanction Solutions had been acquired by LexisNexis, the rapidly-growing legal web and software giant. This adds to their current software collection of over 80 applications, including Concordance, CaseMap®, TextMap® and TimeMap®.

I have owned Sanction software for many years, although I’ve only used it when there was some special reason to do so. One such instance was a very large and notable trial which they (Sanction) referred to me, May-Carmen v. Walmart. It’s just good business to use their product at that point. I’m fine with that, and happy to do so. In the May-Carmen trial, Sanction worked well for me, and we won a very high-profile defense verdict.

So, if Sanction works well-enough to help bring a high-profile defense verdict, even under the added pressure of a very limited amount of trial prep time (started work the weekend prior to trial), why do I still prefer TrialDirector? As indicated by a recent trial presentation software poll taken on LinkedIn’s Trial Technology Group, I’m not alone in my opinion.

While the two programs are more similar now, earlier versions had some stark differences in how they were designed. TrialDirector was in more of a database programmer’s comfort zone, while Sanction appealed more to the “average” computer user, in that the user interface was simpler and easier to learn. Simple is fine within reason, but when it came to dealing with large complex data sets, TrialDirector’s power came through. With that, paralegals and other “occasional” users would often prefer Sanction, while full-time trial presentation folks and others who were comfortable with data management would turn to TrialDirector.

Now, both are relatively easy to learn at least the basics. What neither can do for you, however, is what is perhaps the most important step in the whole process – getting the data organized and into a manageable format, before importing anything to the software of choice. I have seen many a disaster, usually a result of sloppy and inadequate data management. While this article is not a “how-to” for the occasional user, I will just say that friendly and descriptive file names might be nice when you’re looking at a limited number of files and folders in Windows Explorer, but when you need to locate and present an exhibit to the jury in about 3 seconds, it won’t work. Any longer than that and everyone in Court will be looking at you, wondering what went wrong. That’s why they call it the “hot-seat.”

I reviewed TrialDirector 6 when it was first released in early 2010, and then offered my thoughts in a review of Sanction 3, which was scheduled for release in early 2011. By this time, TrialDirector was clearly pushing forward into the Windows 7 environment, while it appeared that Sanction had lost interest. While my first view of Sanction 3 looked promising, they had not had an update since Sanction 2.9, and missed their announced release date by several months. In the same period, TrialDirector had gone through 2 major releases and numerous minor updates. If you’re depending on your software to help make a living, the lack of regular updates is not a good sign.

Next, Sanction gets acquired by Gallo Holdings, who then goes bankrupt less than 3 years later. Again, if I’m depending on Sanction in a big way here, my confidence is rocked. While I don’t expect they have increased their market share, especially with newcomers such as ExhibitView and TrialPad now in the game, somehow they have survived the storm. Enter the LexisNexis rainbow.

So, if LexisNexis reads this article (and I’m sure they will), I would expect them to spend some time in the trenches with all of the user groups, be they trial presentation professionals, paralegals, attorneys, litigation support staff, or anyone else who may be a current, potential or former client. Rather than believing their own marketing or assuming they have the best software on the planet, they might want to find out more about their perceived strengths and weaknesses – from outside their own door.  In the past, I’ve witnessed an attitude, if not a degree of arrogance from the company (Sanction) via numerous postings on public forums. Get over it, get busy and prove it with actions, rather than words.

Competition drives us all toward perfection, so I welcome this new start for Sanction, and expect it to be a good thing. Time will tell, but with LexisNexis at the helm, we may be seeing more of Sanction.




27 comments:

  1. Very eloquently stated

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  2. Ted, LN has a good reputation for buying and improving products to their audience. They will probably be willing to put the bucks behind this system to come up with a trial presentation product that will blow the socks off TD, TP, and EV.

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  3. Chris -

    No doubt Lexis has the resources, but looks like they have retained at least some of the same leadership. Not sure how that will all pan out.

    It's going to take more than just money to build something that people will want (and spend money on), and even more to convince satisfied customers of other products to try something new.

    I think the percentage of real power-users may be relatively small, but they're generally the ones influencing the rest of the market.

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  4. Ted,

    There are some serious flaws with Sanction. Its a great product, but I hate using it, and only do so if I have to. Silence cant be removed from video, and the presentation is not fantastic. YES. Its a good product, and I am NOT "bashing" by any stretch of the imagination. TD has some flaws (anyone have it crash??) BUT, the presentation features and useability are superior. In the end, the client only cares about what it looks like to the Jury. Sanction would have to make soe serious changes to get me to use the product on a regular basis.

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    1. I agree that Sanction is not bad -- it's just not as good as TrialDirector.

      It will certainly be interesting to see if they continue down the same old path (which led them to where they are today), of if they really come up with some fresh new ideas.

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  5. Hello Ted,

    I enjoyed reading the post.
    I was just wondering - if you have reviewed Nextpoint's Trial Cloud
    http://www.nextpoint.com/trial.html

    Any comments welcome!

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  6. Ted-- great blog! I tried to connect via LinkedIn but couldn't.

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  7. I looked at it (Trial Cloud) several months ago. This is more of an online repository than trial presentation software. Not that they're promoting the idea, but it would be far too risky to go to trial, depending on an internet connection for access to all of your exhibits. At times, it feels like even a laptop with a database is too slow.

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  8. Thanks for writing back about the 'Trial Cloud' Ted.

    One the attorney from our firm has the same opinion as you about accessing the exhibits using internet connections.

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  9. Any thoughts on this -- LN acquired CaseMap a while back. Could the handwriting on the wall be a tight integration between the CaseSoft family of products and a new and improved Sanction? Total speculation on my part, but it seems kinda interesting.

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    1. I think that should probably be their primary goal initially - to bring all CaseMap users into the fold as part of an expanded suite. It makes sense.

      The biggest hurdle I see, should LN try to overcome it, is gaining market share from outside their current customer base. When comparing the two (Sanction v. TrialDirector), TrialDirector still comes out on top, IHMO. With that, a little time and money spent on the software itself can't hurt.

      LN does have a massive advertising/marketing reach and budget, however, and if anyone can make it happen, it just might be them.

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    2. Ted, I, too, thank you for the discussion of Sanction 3. I just downloaded a trial version, and was horrified to learn that it apparently does NOT allow the user to print a document with a barcode annotation associated with the document id. I used that feature in Sanction 2 extensively so that all I had to do was hit the barcode printed on a document and it came up in Presentation mode ready for presentation/annotation. Can something similar be done in Trial Director? If so, it may be time to switch.

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    3. Ted, thank you for the informative article. In Trial Director, can you somehow embed a barcode onto a printed image of a document and use the barcode as a means of displaying the image in TD's "presentation mode?" Sanction 2 had that capability, and I used it extensively and very successfully in the courtroom, but it looks like Sanction dropped that capability in version 3. Thanks.

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  10. My pleasure, glad you enjoyed it. Yes, you can add barcodes to exhibit pages (add as a footer), thumbnail versions, or even just barcodes, in case you'd like to print a barcode sticker set.

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  11. Dear Mr. Brooks:

    In our new Sanction 3 - we have 6 presentation folders, a total of 350 color photos (all are in Acrobat 10 PDFs), architectural and structural plans, and 10 synched Video Depo/Transcripts. Our frustration / problem is the Slowness of loading a document onto the presentation screen - it is taking 15 to 30 seconds to load one document after you click on the presentation screen! It also freezes in mid-click. Our laptop is configured as optimum for Sanction 3. Can Trial Director handle this amount of documents quickly? My attorney liked Sanction 2.9's speed but not the issue of downgrading the Adobe PDFs back to Adobe Acrobat 5. Do you have any thoughts?

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    1. Assuming your laptop has enough horsepower, your issue may be in the PDF display. Have you tried converting one of your PDF files to TIFF or JPEG? You didn't mention the file types other than the photos.

      The file size of the PDF might also be causing an issue, and if they are multi-page, that could make it worse. You might try some "normal" small PDF, TIFF, and JPEG files for comparison.

      It is difficult to say whether you'd see a big difference in speed when comparing with TrialDirector in your particular situation - especially if you're dealing with overly large files. You could get a demo version of the latest release to try it. This scenario does seem to be pretty excessive. If it acts the same way with smaller files, then TrialDirector would certainly be faster than that. It will display a typical exhibit in about one second or less.

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    2. Thank you - that gives me some options to try with this case.

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  12. Dear Anonymous,

    So you know Sanction 2.9 was just updated with FULL Support for PDF files, so you don't have to worry about converting or modifying it out for use in 2.9. That easily would remedy your issues right off the bat.

    So you know, I've worked for Sanction directly since 2003 and have only encountered a few minor issues, in trial, that haven't been fixed with releases and maintenance (including Verdical and Sanction3)

    We're also in the process of a 3.2 update for Sanction3 in the near future, so that will also update the support for that product. I assume that you've downloaded and updated to the 3.1 version of Sanction3, but if you're still running into questions, please don't hesitate to let me know where I can help.

    Also TD6 also is NOT SUPPORTED on Windows8, whereas both Sanction 2.9 and 3 are running VERY SMOOTHLY on that OS.

    http://static.indatacorp.com/docs/articles/Windows-8-Support.pdf

    Thanks for the posting and let me know where I can help!

    Doug Rooney
    Litigation Technology Consultant
    LexisNexis - Sanction
    douglas.rooney@lexisnexis.com

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  13. Very happy to find you Doug.

    I will email you my concern about Sanction 3.0.
    Currently we are using 2.9.

    Thanks

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  14. Great article, I have been looking at alternatives to West Live note, which I'm not a fan of for various reasons. I think we are going to look into both programs.

    Thank you!

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  15. I use TD on Windows 8 all the time

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  16. Hi Ted: Ease of use and stability go a long way in my book. Regarding Sanction vs. TD, I confess I've never used TD though while I was with Proskauer Rose we tested it out but stuck with Sanction 2.9. I've since found out that they're buying more seats of the new and much improved Sanction 3.5, soon to be released. We found it to be more user-friendly and stable than TD, plus it's now integrated with Concordance, TextMap, TimeMap and CaseMap. And quite honestly, I've gone against a few hot-seaters who ran TD and I wasn't impressed with their skills. If you're very good with your weapon at war, you could very well defeat an opponent with a different, and supposedly better, weapon.

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    1. I agree - it's really more about the trial tech's experience and capabilities than the software they're using. A good trial tech could work with PowerPoint if they had to (provided there was enough time to set up callouts and a number of presentations).

      It will be interesting to see if LexisNexis can get a new version of Sanction into the courtroom. A year and a half since this article was published, I have yet to see anything beyond version 2.9 in trial.

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  17. Hey Ted, I just did a demo of TD it seems pretty decent especially since we are just coming from Case notebook. I'm still surprised that between all of these big companies no one has been able to create something simple and easy to use. Most trial lawyers I know aren't good with tech. It seems that they need an imovie type program. I think I'll try the Sanction demo and see how it goes. Thanks for the info

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    1. If you're looking for something extremely simple yet capable, ExhibitView may be worth a test drive. I will be reviewing version 5 soon.

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  18. I've been a staunch Sanction user, but am disappointed by what LN has done to it. This "improved" version is less user-friendly and, more importantly, removes a huge number of options and settings that allowed me to customize my presentation display output. I've tried to force myself to use 3.5 in my last 2 trials, but at the last minute didn't feel comfortable its performance, or frankly my ability to adapt to the changes, would be up to par. I see no benefit to changing basic things like hotkeys, which are so ingrained they can cause hotseat mishaps when they change. Also, not only has the maintenance contract more than tripled, it now excludes training, so you're paying exponentially more for a product that is less functional. My current head-in-the-sand approach is going to come to a head eventually, but I'm sticking with II.9 until I'm forced to make a switch; if LN is smart they'll fix Sanction and keep people like me as users, if not the switch to TD won't be any more complicated than the switch to 3.5.

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    1. Interesting. I did the demo presentation when version 3 was supposed to first be released back in 2011.

      I recall some significant changes to TrialDirector (including shortcut keys) with their major update to version 6, but they restored them with a little "polite feedback" from their users. Perhaps LN will listen to their users? Regardless, it has been a long wait for something to replace Sanction 2.9. It was very surprising to see LN advising potential buyers to get 2.9, rather than 3. I would expect a number of former users have moved on to TrialDirector as a result.

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