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.

All materials © Ted Brooks, unless otherwise indicated.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Trial Tech Tips -- Equipment Failures

I've often said that when it comes to trial technology, it’s not a question of if it will fail, but rather when it will fail, how bad that failure will be, how long it will take to fix it, and whether anyone else will even notice that something has gone wrong.

I arrived well before the trial day started in a California U.S. District Court recently, and proceeded to connect my laptop to the system in this “wired” courtroom. I connected everything just as I had been doing every morning, and proceeded to display a document – just to make sure everything was working as expected. It was not. A blank screen showed on all displays, where the document should be.
It is extremely unlikely that this would be the end of the story. Let’s take a closer look at everything stated, with possible and actual outcomes.

This article is number 3 in a series entitled “Trial Tech Tips.” Focused on the crossroads of law and technology, and in no particular order, we will share a collection of proven and tested methods for accomplishing a wide variety of common and/or critical tasks encountered during trial preparation or presentation. We will also try to rank them from one to ten on a “geek scale,” with one being not too technical, and 10 being very technical. On a geek scale of one to ten, this article would be rated at about a 5.

“…arrived well before the trial day started” – Well, at least something went right in this scenario, and it was not by accident. It was the result of planning ahead, and having the experience necessary to anticipate problems. Those who feel comfortable and confident enough to come sauntering in a couple minutes before the judge enters the courtroom are not the ones you’d want in charge of your trial presentation.

“…proceeded to connect my laptop to the system in this “wired” courtroom” – Many Federal Courts have everything needed to connect your laptop into their system and present your evidence electronically. Some State courts also have equipment. In any event, it is imperative to hook up and test the system prior to the first day of trial, and then perform a quick check daily. Bear in mind that systems and connections differ, and don’t expect them to accommodate your desire to connect an iPad wirelessly.

I connected everything just as I had been doing every morning, and proceeded to display a document – just to make sure everything was working as expected” – These is only one way to verify that everything is in working order. Test it. If it works, great. If not, and you’re in trial, and you’re in a rush (which you always are during trial), you have a real problem. Even if you’ve been in trial for several days, weeks, or even months, you should never assume that nothing has changed. From something as simple as a cord getting unplugged, to a major computer meltdown, something can and likely will go wrong at some point.

It was not. A blank screen showed on all displays, where the document should be” – Now here’s where this story could take a number of different directions. One suspect would be the courtroom equipment. Maybe someone has unplugged a cable, switched to the wrong input or output, or turned the system off.

If you have only one trial laptop, you’ll have to quickly check for problems there. If you can’t find anything wrong, you must proceed to begin troubleshooting the presentation system, attempting to isolate, locate, and correct the problem. If you’re not familiar with trial presentation equipment, it’s much too late to call someone else to help. At this point, you’re in pretty deep without a backup plan or the experience to fix the problem. It’s pretty much “game over” for you at this point.

If you do have a backup laptop ready to go with the current and updated trial database, now’s the time to connect that and see if that fixes the problem. Many things can go wrong with a computer, and although most are not really serious, one little problem can be enough to ruin your day (or career) when you’re really in a hurry. Switching to your backup quickly eliminates the other computer and its connections to the system from the equation. If that corrects the issue, you’re good to go. If not, then as in the previous scenario, you will have to look for other problems with the system.

In this particular case, one laptop had a display setting issue. Not a major problem, but one that might be expected when connecting and disconnecting several times per day to courtroom equipment during the day, and war room equipment in the evening. Since I did (and ALWAYS do) have a backup ready to go, the problem was quickly corrected, and nobody knew that anything had happened. The setting was switched and both laptops were back in action.

Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised. (Dennis Waitley)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Trial Tech Tips – Zoom and Highlighter

Two of the most important and frequently used features in trial presentation are also two of the most basic – the zoom and the highlighter. These two features can literally bring a document-intensive trial to life – quickly navigating to the desired page, then narrowing the focus to a single paragraph and emphasizing key text within that paragraph.

NOTE: This article has been featured by TechnoLawyer as the LitigationWorld Pick of the Week!

This article is number 2 in a series entitled “Trial Tech Tips.” Focused on the crossroads of law and technology, and in no particular order, we will share a collection of proven and tested methods for accomplishing a wide variety of common and/or critical tasks encountered during trial preparation or presentation. We will also try to rank them from one to ten on a “geek scale,” with one being not too technical, and 10 being very technical.

On a geek scale of one to ten, this article would be rated at about a 2. As promised in the previous article (Trial Tech Tips - TrialDirector Bates Numbering), we are aiming for the lower end of this scale in this installment.

It may seem that a trial rich with photographs, graphics, animations, videos and other interesting visuals would be the sort of trial to benefit most from using trial presentation technology. While it might indeed be difficult (if not impossible) to show some of this without a decent courtroom setup (projector, screen, monitors), the boring, document-intensive case may benefit even more.
In fact, trial presentation software was originally designed with this goal in mind – to take a plain paper document, and devise a method of showing it to the entire jury, and further, to control which part of that document the jury is able to read. The end result (trial presentation software) is an excellent example of improving upon both the efficiency and effectiveness of a process that has been around for years. In the past, a printed copy of an exhibit was shown to each juror individually, making sure everyone had an opportunity to thoroughly review it. Hopefully (but not likely), they were only reviewing what you wanted them to. Now, the process which has become commonplace in the courtroom is to show everyone at the same time. This alone can dramatically shorten the length of a trial.

While each software package (i.e., TrialDirector, Sanction, ExhibitView, Visionary, TrialPad, etc.) has its own options for zooming in on an exhibit, there are two basic methods. For purposes of this article, we will refer to them as the “area zoom” and the “callout.” The images used here were captured using TrialDirector, and are taken from an article entitled, “Trial Presentation in Large and Complex Cases.”
Area Zoom
The area zoom approximates what can be done with an ELMO, or using the pinch-zoom feature of an iPad or other tablet. Although it is a feature that jurors will be familiar with from their own computer use (another assumption that is not so much of a variable nowadays), the image is not precisely controlled, but rather just appears closer in a general area.
Callout Zoom
The callout is more precise, cutting out the surrounding area and bringing to focus only the desired portion of an exhibit. This callout is typically displayed on top of the source document, showing it (for authentication) but making it difficult to view (controlling focus). The callout is very effective for showing text in documents.

You can also highlight sections of an exhibit. It is generally recommend that you only highlight the key text, rather than an entire paragraph.
Doing so can look a bit odd when zoomed, and does little to draw focus to specific language. Highlighting everything can have the same effect as highlighting nothing, and can have a negative visual impact from the huge bright yellow block.

As you can see in the image below, we have now isolated the paragraph we’re concerned with, and highlighted the specific language within that paragraph. The first place your eyes are drawn to is the highlighted text. Done properly, this can have a powerful effect on what a viewer understands and remembers.
Callout Zoom with Key Text Highligted

Stepping through the images progressively illustrates a few different methods of displaying your exhibits, and the benefits of each. In the end, the more you are able to control the focus of the jurors, the more likely they will recall what you considered important enough to bring to their attention. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Trial Tech Tips - TrialDirector Bates Numbering

This article is the first in a series entitled “Trial Tech Tips.” Focused on the crossroads of law and technology, and in no particular order, we will share a collection of proven and tested methods for accomplishing a wide variety of common and/or critical tasks encountered during trial preparation or presentation. We will also try to rank them from one to ten on a “geek scale,” with one being not too technical, and 10 being very technical.

On a geek scale of one to ten, this article would be rated at about an 8.

In litigation, it is generally a good idea to make sure that when a certain document is referred to, it is that exact document, and not another version of the same. In situations where there are more than one, and it can be proven, it can result in an interesting trial.

Bates numbering has been around for some time, and is one good method of making sure that everyone is on the same page – literally. Through the years, inked stamps have been used, printed stickers, and nowadays the method most commonly used adds them via software – generally in the lower right corner of each page. Although the most efficient methods can handle a large volume all in one operation, this can also be done at the individual document level.

There are many reasons for adding a Bates number to your exhibits, and there are many for adding yet another Bates number. For instance, if your exhibits have already been numbered according to document productions, it may be helpful to add another set of numbering tied to trial exhibit numbers. This makes it easier for counsel, judges, witnesses and jurors to quickly get to any given exhibit page. Rather than having some lengthy production-based Bates number (e.g., PLTF000024) that may or may not be followed by its next numerical page (PLTF000025) when used in a trial exhibit, we can simply make reference to the trial exhibit and page number (e.g., 0178-002 would be trial exhibit 178, page 2). In this article, we will show how to do this using TrialDirector software.

We’ll begin with an exhibit or a group of exhibits we’d like to export to PDF with a new Bates number.

If you will use the document ID in the database, you’re ready to export. If you need to add an exhibit field or trial exhibit field, you can do so as a batch process (Tools/Batch Field Fill Selected Items/Trial Exhibit).

If you are only doing this for one document, you can do it by right-clicking the document ID and accessing the Properties dialog.

Once you have the proper fields populated for your Bates numbering, you can select one or a group of exhibits, right click and select the “Make PDF from Selected Items” dialog.

Make sure the “Print with Page Footers” option is selected, and you may set up which field to use as your new Bates number. Notice the new trial exhibit Bates page number at the bottom right of the document.

If this seems like something just a bit outside of your comfort zone, at least you know that it can be done, and roughly how it is handled. In our next article in this series, we’ll aim toward the other end of the geek scale.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Microsoft OneDrive Goes Unlimited

Some time ago, I covered several of the most popular cloud files storage apps. Since that time, as the reliance upon cloud-based file storage has pushed the limits of bandwidth (to transfer all of this data), Dropbox has upgraded their Pro account to 1TB (that is 1000 gigabytes). YouSendIt has added nice features, including a convenient personal upload page link that others can use to send you files.

OneDrive (Microsoft) came out with a full terabyte about the same time as Dropbox, keeping them running head-to-head with Dropbox in the capacity department. Although Dropbox is still the cloud-storage provider in direct connectivity to numerous mobile apps, those who have upgraded to Microsoft Office 365 can enjoy the cloud storage option at no extra cost. For those running earlier versions of Office, they do offer a free basic account with 15 GB.

For many, some big news came just this week:

Your Office 365 subscription comes with OneDrive, which allows you to store and share your documents, photos, and videos, and access them from virtually anywhere.

Today we announced we will be increasing the amount of OneDrive storage that comes with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University subscriptions from 1 TB to be unlimited! As a valued subscriber, you will get this at no additional cost in the coming months.

You’ve been selected to be one of the first to get more storage. While we work on removing all storage limits we want to get you well on your way and have added 10 TB to your account.

While this scenario doesn’t fit everyone, it certainly works nicely for many individual users, small firms and business. Unlimited storage is truly a game-changer, and clearly sets OneDrive at the forefront of reasonably-priced data storage. Of course, the fact that this service is a Microsoft product does not mean it is infallible, but you can rest assured that some of the best programmers in the world are working on it.

I have been using Dropbox and OneDrive for some time now, and really like the sync features, providing an automatic backup. Dropbox still has a little more flexibility, and download speeds seem to be faster than OneDrive. There is something nice about that "Unlimited" part though. For now, I will continue to use both (along with a few others for occasional use and testing purposes).

As a final note, OneDrive and Dropbox both offer a direct photo download option via their mobile apps. This is a very convenient way to have access to your photos and videos from any computer – not just your phone.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Windows 8 and That Annoying Little Toolbar

If you've upgraded to Windows 8, and are doing anything with dual monitors, you may have seen that little stripe visible at the bottom of your second monitor. If you're in auto-hide mode with the Toolbar, mousing over it brings it up. If not, it just stays there on both screens.

While this may be a nice idea if you're running dual monitors on your standard work desktop, it's certainly not ideal for use in Trial Presentation. Nobody wants to see which apps you have open, or a little stripe on the bottom of the display. Worse yet, if you happen to get an alert, it begins flashing. Not pretty during trial.

So, how do you set this properly? I like to set the Toolbar to auto-hide so I can get more screen real-estate. Even with today's larger monitors, more is better. You can deselect the default setting, enabling Toolbar display in both monitors (Show toolbar on all displays).

The catch here is that if you are not in dual screen mode (e.g., extended display, as used with Trial Presentation software or PowerPoint), the option will not be available. Just another little discovery along the trail...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HDMI v. VGA: Time to Upgrade?

Although the HDMI video format has been available for several years now, the majority of courtroom trial presentations are still done with VGA cables and equipment in a 4:3 format. For comparison, the diagram below shows common settings with monitor #2 in 16:9 (1920x1080), and monitor #1 in 4:3 (1024x768).

If you’re planning on providing your own projector and associated equipment, you can decide whether to go with something that nearly anyone can connect to (VGA), or with a format that offers a higher resolution (HDMI) with more pixels and a sharper picture. If you’re connecting to an existing courtroom system, you will be using whatever they have available. The majority of “wired” courtrooms have VGA systems, and while newer installations are running HDMI, they are also generally including the VGA option for compatibility reasons. When contacted by courts going through upgrades and new installations, I have encouraged them to include the VGA option to help ensure that everyone can connect.

At the Brobeck firm, we used two “massive” 37” monitors in custom hydraulic scissor-lift cases. In the image below, one of the 37” monitors can be seen in the background. An equally-dated computer system can be seen in the foreground.

Today’s setups look a little nicer, are much easier to move around, and are certainly easier for jurors to view – especially when projected on a 10’ screen.

Many courtroom setups have large flat monitors rather than a projector and screen. This offers excellent image color and contrast, but can be lacking a bit in image size. Plus, it can be helpful to have one “main” point of focus for all, allowing counsel or a witness to use a laser pointer as everyone views the same image.

 Some laptops have a VGA port, some have HDMI, and others have both.


And, some have only USB or DVI ports, which offers a special challenge, often requiring an adapter. Regardless of which you’d prefer to use, make sure that it all works together before showing up in court. The last thing you want in trial is a surprise, realizing you won’t be showing your exhibits or slides.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Friday, July 11, 2014

Deposition Video (MPEG-2) DVDs and Windows 8

Congratulations! You've just upgraded your laptop with the latest from Redmond (as in Redmond, Washington, home of Microsoft), and have finally figured out how to bypass most of the “purple charms” screen stuff. You’ll still need it to open apps, but other than that, unless you’re running a tablet, it’s cute, but not so functional – at least for lawyers, legal professionals, and other business-minded people. Everything is peachy, up until you try to play a deposition video or video DVD.

Now I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on things regarding the intersection of law and technology. When I informed one of my clients that we had a whole bunch of MPEG audio files (which were supposed to be deposition videos), the panic alarm began to wail. What a horrible discovery, as we scrambled to prepare for the next trial-of-the-century. When I tried to play the files using the default Windows Media Player, I could hear the audio, but there was no picture.

My client was able to “view” the video files using Windows 7. I assumed he was running some crazy rare CODECS (coder-decoders are used to play various audio and video files), and that these videos had been produced by someone with no clue as to standard video file formats.

I decided it was time to do a little research (I had apparently missed the Microsoft Developer Network bulletin) to see if others were having similar issues. After reading a few posts on the Microsoft site, I came upon an article that spells it out pretty well, How to Play DVDs in Windows 8. Bottom line – unless you either upgrade to the Pro Pack ($99 from Microsoft) or download another media player, you cannot play MPEG-2 video in Windows 8.

Fortunately, there are some decent alternatives, since at $99 per Windows 8.1 laptop, I wasn’t too excited about the Pro Pack. I went with the free (as in, “you’re not scraping another $100 per computer out of me this time”) AVS Media Player, since I have used some of their video software for several years. It works great, runs your MPEG-2 files just fine in TrialDirector, and disables the panic alarm. Another option, mentioned in the article is VLC media player. I haven’t tried it, but have found many positive comments about it.

If you’d prefer to stick with the Windows Media Player, you will find instructions here:

Hopefully, some will read this article before making their own horrific discovery…

Monday, June 16, 2014

PowerPoint: Still Relevant for Use in Trial?

Since its introduction in 1990, PowerPoint has been used (and abused) by attorneys in countless trials. If you’ve been in trial since then, chances are you’ve seen some “interesting” creations. I know I have. For some excellent suggestions on doing it correctly, see Top Ten Tips for Creating Professional Trial Presentations Using PowerPoint (Ted Brooks), Five Essential PowerPoint Tips for Attorneys (Morgan Smith), and 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint (Ken Lopez).

PowerPoint for Court

If you’d like some in-depth help that comes complete with a nice legal-specific set of materials, check out Herb Rubinstein’s PowerPoint for Court. The package includes a recently updated fully-illustrated e-book of over 50 pages covering all of the most important functions of PowerPoint, several helpful software tools, a series of PowerPoint templates, video clips, and animated tutorials. They are currently including 5 years of personal email support, in which they will answer questions, and will even review your slides and offer suggestions on how to improve them. It’s like having your own personal PowerPoint coach.

The program was reviewed by Charles Perez in 2008, where the author had nothing but praise, even admitting to “beginning to sound like an infomercial.” Originally published on the Trial Presentation Blog (which unfortunately no longer exists), the review is still available on the PowerPoint for Court site.

Inserting a video clip

As I was reading through the e-book (PDF document), I found many of the “secret shortcuts” that I work with as a frequent PowerPoint user, including resizing text, jumping to specific slides, and blanking the screen. The CD includes several “courtroom-appropriate” PowerPoint slide templates, some useful Flash animations (and tools to work with them), video clips and audio files (with editing tools).

PowerPoint may not be quite as powerful as some high-end graphics applications like Photoshop or Illustrator for creating content, nor specifically designed for presenting a database of hundreds of trial exhibits like TrialDirector, but in the hands of someone who knows how to find and use the bells and whistles, it can be used to prepare and present some very compelling presentations. At $149, PowerPoint for Court can help put you in that category.

Friday, May 30, 2014

ExhibitView: Simply Trial Presentation

If you’re in the market for trial presentation software, and you don’t have the time or energy to master a more complex program, or are only an occasional user, ExhibitView may be right for you.

ExhibitView 5.0 runs well on Windows 8 and in wide-screen formats, and of course also works on older systems and formats. With its simple interface, anyone can quickly and confidently present and annotate exhibits. From the first introduction of the program in 2008, one of the primary goals of partners Bill Roach and Robert Finnell was to develop a program that anyone could quickly learn and take to trial. Although it certainly has enough power and capacity to handle large databases, the real key strength of ExhibitView continues to be its simplicity and ease of use.

Interestingly, Roach started this journey using TrialDirector, assisting attorney Finnell with his trial presentation needs. According to his bio, “In 1996, Roach & family moved to Atlanta to start his own audio/video business where he met and assisted Robert Finnell with many legal cases. One heart-wrenching wrongful death case ignited the spark that led Roach to create a presentation software any lawyer could use to win more cases. As VP of Customer Relations, Roach uses his creativity and innovation to make ExhibitView the trial presentation software that lawyers prefer.”

After a significant wrongful death case in 2004, the idea for ExhibitView was conceived. The entire story is detailed in an interesting timeline, showing the development and evolution of the program.

I have tried most of the popular trial presentation programs available today, and can confidently say that an attorney who wants to save a client some money by handling the entire trial presentation on their own won’t be intimidated by ExhibitView.

ExhibitView 5.0 (click to enlarge)
ExhibitView comes with a sample database which can be used to quickly get up to speed on the program. The desktop offers tabs for documents, images, and other exhibit items.

Once you create a new case database (one of the options from the startup screen, or may be accessed from the File menu), you can present evidence in just a few minutes. Please refer to this desktop screenshot for reference.

1.   Import documents – In the Documents tab, you will see an “Add Documents” icon in the top left corner (see image above). Click, and follow the prompts to your exhibits. While I’d like to see a true drag and drop import from the file folder to the program, this works fine.

2.    View exhibits – Drag and drop a document onto the presentation screen (center, left or right) area. Zoom in using the Callout tool, highlight desired text, or try some of the other annotation features. Some other programs such as TrialDirector will allow more options for displaying additional documents, but in reality, the most common presentation will be of just one or two exhibits together at a time.

3.   Connect your projector cable – In most cases, the projector will be automatically connected to the program, so you’re ready to present.

4.   Present your evidence – Click the Projector icon (at the top right of program window). You may leave it on, or use it to blank the screen. Alternatively, you may clear the presentation preview, which will put up a blank screen. This can be helpful if your projector defaults to a blue or white screen when there is no signal. ExhibitView differs from other trial presentation programs in that annotations are done directly on your preview screen, rather than your presentation view. This isn’t a problem unless you have a small laptop running the program, since you are not viewing the exhibit in a full-screen view.

5.   Win your trial – Well, that part is up to you, but you’ll have the tools to help you present the evidence.

  ExhibitView is available for $549, plus $149 for an annual support contract. They also feature an iPad version and TranscriptPro. Additional info may be found on the ExhibitView website.

NOTE: If you are considering ExhibitView, it is available for 50% off today (May 30, 2014) and tomorrow. Purchase Any ExhibitView PC or TranscriptPro product for 50% off, by using promo code 50%OFF.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2014 Trial Presentation Laptop Specs

Toshiba Qosmio X75
The last pair of trial laptops I purchased for myself was in 2010, so after 4 years of solid use, I figured it’s about time to update the fleet. Everything is still running fine, but I’d rather not push it until I have a courtroom meltdown.

When I purchased my last pair of laptops (yes, it is best to have two identical computers if you are in the “hot-seat”), I shared my Top Ten Trial Presentation Laptop Specs. Interestingly, those specs would still make up a capable trial presentation laptop today. The computer evolution cycle has certainly slowed since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when a computer could become completely obsolete within a couple years. At the time, the development pace of operating systems and software was so intense that if you wanted to upgrade to the latest version of something like TrialDirector or high-end Adobe graphics programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, you would find that a hardware upgrade was necessary to get the most out of them.

In 2010, the nicely-configured Dell laptops were around $1400 each. The 2014 models I purchased run around $1900 per copy. Here are the specs:

Model (Toshiba Qosmio X75): There are a few options for high-powered laptops, including HP, Dell (Alienware), MSI and Toshiba. Since a lot of the software we use is designed for Windows, if you’re a Mac fan, you’ll need to add some extra software such as Parallels or Boot Camp.

Processor (Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ): The latest and fastest available is generally the best option, offering a longer replacement cycle.

Operating System (Windows 8.1): A few months ago, I would have insisted on Windows 7. Now that Windows 8.1 has been released, things appear to be working properly. While the fluffy new “charms” desktop is cute and may be helpful if you’re using a touchscreen, it is simple enough to set up your desktop like Windows 7.

Memory (32GB DDR3L 1600MHz): RAM is one of the elements of speed, which is critical to trial presentation. Get as much as you can.

Display (17.3” widescreen): Although the small ultra-portable laptop or tablet make nice travel companions, there is not enough screen to work with if you are doing video, graphics oranimation work, or just running several open windows. When you are not connecting to a large external monitor, you’ll need all the screen real estate you can get.

Graphics Memory (3GB GDDR5): Discrete graphics memory is important if you are working with graphics, video or animations. This frees up the system RAM to focus on your applications.

Hard Drive (256GB SSD + 1.5TB standard): Unless you’re only carrying a couple of small databases, you’ll want as much hard drive as you can get. The solid state (SSD) drives are much faster, but are also more expensive, and are not yet readily available in the larger sizes. Some high-end computers feature an SSD for running the programs, and a standard drive(s) for storage. Although you could make an argument for using external drives, the more you depend on cables and extra hardware, the greater the risk for disaster or loss.

Optical Drives: As with the extended life of the 1.44” floppy drive in the legal professions (remember getting all of those transcripts on these?), so is the CD/DVD. Don’t be convinced that all you need now is a USB connector. You will still see CD’s and DVD’s frequently used to distribute video, exhibits and other media, and although you can get external drives for this, an internal is always sure to be with you.

USB Ports: USB (3.0) is the latest available standard, said to approach ten times the speeds of USB 2. You’ll really notice the difference when copying a case database from one drive to your backup. As with other features, more is better. Add an external drive, wireless mouse, remote for PowerPoint, and maybe charging your phone on another, and you’ve already eaten up 4 ports.

HDMI: Many recently-outfitted courtrooms offer HDMI connectors, so this is something to consider. You can always use an adapter if necessary, but less junk is better if your laptop comes with a port.

RGB: The SVGA cable is still considered the “standard” in trial presentation, as is the 4:3 screen display. Again, you can use an adapter, but having the port is easier, and will also help when configuring the external display.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Power PDF: Alternative to Adobe Acrobat Subscription

With the recent abandonment of the Windows XP operating system by Microsoft, many holdouts are now looking at replacing some old iron. Although I have been comfortably running Windows 7 since 2010, I recently decided to upgrade a couple of my trial laptops. This means getting a few software updates as well.

Adobe offers its free Acrobat Reader PDF viewer, which comes pre-installed on many new computers, or you can download the latest version. However, if you need to create and modify PDFs, perform redactions, or add Bates numbers, you’re going to need something a little more powerful. Unless you want to install an old full version of Acrobat, Adobe offers either a standalone upgrade version for $199 or a subscription plan for $19.99 per month for a single user. The subscription idea may work for some, but many prefer to choose when and if to spend money on software upgrades.

With the nature of law-related work, having full control over the documents is a must. As fate would have it, Nuance (makers of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, PDF Converter, PDF Reader) just released a new product called Power PDF, with two versions priced at $99 and $149. The Power PDF Advanced ($149) version is required if you want the added functionality of things like redactions and Bates stamping. They offer a 30-day trial of the software, which appears to be fully-operational.

Power PDF Advanced Desktop

Working with the software seems to be similar to Adobe Acrobat. If you know your way around Acrobat, you won’t have any trouble getting things done in Power PDF. Additionally, if you are making a computer switch, which likely includes Windows 8.1 at this point, everything is going to look a little different for a while anyway, so it might be a good time to consider any changes with other software.

Although there are some nice features, for the single-user license, I’m not sure $50 is enough of a difference to replace Acrobat. I would expect they will offer a discount in the near future, as they have already with the standard version ($89). Volume pricing is also available.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

R.I.P. -- LinkedIn Polls

The recent discovery that LinkedIn had removed poll data collected on its group pages came as a surprise (see A bit of digging found the following explanation --

At LinkedIn, we strive to provide a simple and efficient experience for members like you. So we continually evaluate how our current products and features are being used. This sometimes means we remove a feature so we can focus our resources on building the best products.

The LinkedIn Polls app was retired on June 30, 2013.

We're continuing to support polls in Groups.
As always, you can continue to engage with fellow members by sharing an update or participating in conversations directly on the LinkedIn homepage.

Well, at least this next bit of related news comes with ample notice (assuming one month is “ample”). I first saw this on April 15 –

This announcement is prominently displayed on all group posts, stating that on May 15, 2014, you’ll no longer be able to create or access polls on LinkedIn. Following the “Learn More” link brings us to the following information, with the note that it was “Last Reviewed: 04/14/2014,” suggesting that is the date it was posted --

At LinkedIn, we aim to provide a simple and efficient experience for our members. To do this, we're continuously evaluating how our current products and features are used, and seeking new ways to focus our resources on building the best products. This sometimes results in the retirement of certain features.

LinkedIn Polls in Groups will be retired on May 15, 2014.

You can continue to engage with fellow members by posting a question to get the group's response or sharing an update or participating in conversations directly on the LinkedIn homepage.

As a group moderator/owner, I wasn’t too thrilled when all of a sudden our monthly poll results from the past two years went missing – especially without warning. Hey, it wasn’t critical data by any means, but we had collected some valuable insights regarding law firms and their use of technology. I guess our monthly poll will come to end now, but at least we still have a little time to enjoy it.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Trial Presentation Software Sale!

Recent posts on the Trial Technology LinkedIn group announce new releases of two popular trial presentation software packages, both getting some extra attention with a limited-time price reduction. If you’ve been considering ExhibitView or TrialPad, now would be the time to buy. Here are the posts:

HiTrial Tech folks...I asked Ted before posting this. Our company ExhibitView has released serious updates to ExhibitView & TranscriptPro. We will offer this group a serious offer.
"Anyone in this group, and only in this group, can acquire a copy of ExhibitView or TranscriptPro for 1 week (so try if you like first) for the price of $149.00/ per single user license. I know, ridiculous. Obtain 1 or both products by purchasing ONLY the support contract, software free. We have been around for a while and I think ExhibitView 5 will start to impress some folks in this group. Send your request for the direct link to purchase at this price to me directly. We want to control this a little bit. My email is and/or you can Skype me at "exhibitview" or call 706-622-3305 1 WEEK to take me up on this offer!!!!”

New TrialPad 4.0 on Sale
"Just launched at ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago on Thursday, TrialPad was featured by Apple as the #1 Best New App in the Business section of the App Store. Normally $89.99, it's on sale for $49.99 until 11:59PM 4/29/2014."

Membership of the Trial Technology group does indeed have its privileges, and above are two good examples. If you’re on the fence for either, now’s the time to jump. They are both excellent choices for trial presentation. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Don't Want Trial Technology?

Originally published in the February 2014 edition of Los Angeles Lawyer
By Ted Brooks

NOTE: The article below shows the progressive attitude of the L.A. Superior Court system. Another example is taking place in a downtown trial in which I am currently involved, where we are publishing all of the evidence electronically. There is a full hard copy exhibit binder set in the courtroom, but they have only been used a couple times. Prior to an exhibit being admitted, the witness, Court and counsel may all view the document on their monitors. Once it has been admitted, it is then published to the jury on their large monitors. In this scenario, the pace of the trial is increased exponentially, as everyone sees the exhibit immediately, rather than searching through the binders for the correct exhibit and page, and distributing several copies. This can easily offset costs for trial presentation. And if you happen to be on the winning side at the end of the trial, these costs may be fully recoverable.

LOS ANGELES COURTS are once again on the cutting edge of technology; this time in the decision of Bender v. County of Los Angeles, a recent case in which trial presentation costs were deemed fully recoverable. In the past, much of the preparation work for trial has been recoverable, including demonstratives, animations, videos, video editing, preparing an exhibit database, and printing oversized boards. Oddly enough, the time spent during trial actually showing the evidence to the jury was generally not on the list. Although the courts have openly appreciated and encouraged the use of technology in trial for many years, even to the point of installing trial presentation equipment in many of our courtrooms, associated costs to make it all happen in trial were not specifically addressed. 

In a subsection of Bender devoted to assessing the costs for trial technology, the court wrote:

Under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032, the prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs. Section 1033.5 identifies cost items that are allowable [and] items that are not and further provides that items not mentioned in this section may be allowed or denied in the court’s discretion. Any allowable costs must be reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation rather than merely convenient or beneficial to its preparation, and reasonable in amount. We review a costs award for abuse of discretion. 

Plaintiff’s memorandum of costs included a claim for $24,103.75 for courtroom presentations. These costs consisted of ‘Trial Video Computer, Power- Point Presentation and Videotaped Deposition Synchronizing’ and the cost of a trial technician for nine days of trial. Plaintiff used a PowerPoint presentation in closing argument that consisted of a detailed summary of trial testimony, documents and other evidence as well as a comprehensive evaluation of such evidence vis a vis jury instructions. The costs included charges for creating designated excerpts from deposition transcripts and video, converting exhibits to computer formats and design and production of electronic presentations. Defendants’ motion to tax costs challenged this item, contending case law establishes these costs are not recoverable and that similar costs were specifically disallowed in Science Applications Internat. Corp. v. Superior Court. 

The trial court carefully considered all of defendants’ contentions but ultimately declined to tax any part of these costs, explaining its reasoning in considerable detail. In essence, the court thought the costs should be allowed in a case like this where attorney fees are recoverable costs if the services in question enhanced counsel’s advocacy during the trial, so long as the costs were reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation. The court found both points to be so: the synchronizing of the videotaped depositions, for example, including the cost of employing a projectionist to recover and retrieve the excerpts selected by counsel, both enhanced counsel’s advocacy during trial and was reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation. 

Defendants contend, based on Science Applications, the costs at issue are explicitly nonrecoverable and the trial court had no discretion to award them. In Science Applications, the appellate court approved some technology costs and disapproved others. It approved costs of over $57,000 for graphic exhibit boards and over $101,000 for a video to help the jury appreciate the difference between manual and computer assisted dispatch systems that were an issue in the case. It disallowed costs of $200,000 for document control and database for internal case management; more than $47,000 for the production of laser disks containing’ trial exhibits; a graphics communication system with costs of more than $9,000 for equipment rental and $11,000 for an on-site technician; and more than $35,000 to have videotape depositions edited for effective presentation of the testimony to the jury. The Science Applications court was concerned with technology costs in staggering proportions, observing if costs are routinely awarded for high-powered technology, most parties will be unable to litigate. 

Almost 20 years have passed since Science Applications was decided, during which time the use of technology in the courtroom has become commonplace (including a technician to monitor the equipment and quickly resolve any glitches), and technology costs have dramatically declined. In a witness credibility case such as this, it would be inconceivable for plaintiff’s counsel to forego the use of technology to display the videotapes of plaintiff’s interviews after his beating, in the patrol car and at the sheriff’s station, and key parts of other witnesses’ depositions. The court in Science Applications was troubled by review of a case in which a party incurred over $2 million in expenses to engage in high-tech litigation resulting in recovery of only $1 million in damages. This is not such a case. The costs at issue total just over $24,000, and the trial court specifically found the trial technology enhanced counsel’s advocacy and was reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation. The court acted well within its discretion in allowing recovery of these costs. 

With obvious value to all prevailing litigants, the decision in Bender is a significant step toward enabling and providing the benefits of technology to many who might otherwise go without. 

See Bender v. County of Los Angeles, 2013 Cal. App. LEXIS 536 (Cal. App. 2d Dist. July 9, 2013), available at

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Is LinkedIn Data at Risk?

Reprinted with permission from the Feb. 7, 2014 issue of Law Technology News. ©2014 ALM Media Properties, LLC

What a week—Super Bowl Sunday, followed by LegalTech New York! One thing is certain: You will always find many of the nation’s top players at both.

Last week, I had planned to write an article examining three years of survey data collected from our monthly polls on the Trial Technology LinkedIn group. Questions and responses covered a wide variety of relevant topics, such as favorite trial presentation software, size of firm you work with, type and value of cases you’re involved in, etc.

As I began to prepare, I recalled having some difficulty finding the older poll results. Since this article was going to refer to and analyze that data, it was time to see if I could locate it. It wasn’t included among the more current poll results. There was an option at the bottom of the list to go to the next page. That just brought up the general discussions, not older polls.

Having a bit of experience in running LinkedIn groups, I looked everywhere I could think of, including even backtracking a specific link from an older article of mine,  iPad Apps for Trial Presentation, in which a poll is mentioned: LinkedIn Poll: iPad for Legal Professionals - Tool or Toy? The link goes to a page that simply states, “Poll not found.”

This discovery prompted me to search LinkedIn for possible explanations, and to my dismay, I found a user’s question, with what appears to be an official response from LinkedIn. In summary, the response simply states, “The LinkedIn Polls app was retired on June 30, 2013,” but then continues with “We're continuing to support polls in Groups.” Oh, so in essence, we’ve decided to remove all of the poll data you’ve collected over the past few years, but if you’d like to keep using it, we’ll still support it? I noted in my reply to LinkedIn’s response, “With any user-driven application, it would be safe to assume that some people might actually be using its features, and that they might actually be interested in the results of their work.”

Interestingly, the LegalTech group on LinkedIn has a similar issue, where a user asks, “How do you prefer to get the latest in law news and information?” The response is simply, “Sorry the results for this poll are no longer available.”

There is a new monthly poll on the Trial Technology group in which you are all invited to vote and leave your commentsWhat do you think about the removal of group data?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

LinkedIn Deletes Data without Warning

Although I started to write a piece analyzing the results of our monthly poll in the Trial Technology LinkedIn group, when I attempted to review the data, I’ll just say it was “missing.”

If you cannot read the LinkedIn post due to link issues, you will find it by clicking here.

Those who are members of the Trial Technology LinkedIn group are aware that we have had an ongoing monthly poll for over three years. I noticed a while back that the earlier poll data appeared to be missing. I finally looked into this further, as I was going to write a piece about the resulting data. Although it may not truly qualify as a “scientific” study, we’re talking about a decent amount of very relevant information, collected from group members over 36 months. Looking at the poll data now, it goes back only 11 months.

So here is my little rant to LinkedIn, which I’ve posted on their forum. While I don’t expect to ever see the data again, hopefully they will at least consider my perspective before wiping out more data.

Although it’s nice that LinkedIn strives "to provide a simple and efficient experience," and that it "continually evaluate(s) how (its) current products and features are being used," the fact that the decision was made to retire the Polls app and flush all of the data with it, and without any advance notice to the users, is very disappointing. With any user-driven application, it would be safe to assume that some people might actually be using its features, and that they might actually be interested in the results of their work.

So, what is the current plan - will new polls be flushed periodically, or will the results remain accessible "indefinitely" - at least pending another decision to "remove a feature?"

With that, here is a bit of historical data they weren’t able to delete.

12/30/2010 iPad Apps for Trial Presentation – This article was written just as the first two iPad apps for Trial Presentation were released, TrialPad and Evidence. A new poll is mentioned in an update: 1/10/2011 LinkedIn Poll: iPad for Legal Professionals - Tool or Toy?  The poll link goes to a page that simply states, “Poll not found.”

2/13/2011 Exhibit A: iPad App for Trial Presentation – As the wild, wild west of iPad app development was in full swing, yet another iPad app for Trial Presentation was released, Exhibit A. The results of the above-mentioned poll are shown at the end of the article, showing that group members were using their iPads as both a tool and a toy. I wonder if that has changed. Sounds like fodder for a new poll, although if you’re reading this a year late, the data may no longer be available.

1/10/2013 Inside Trial Technology on LinkedIn  - This piece discusses the Trial Technology LinkedIn group, and in fact promotes the poll feature of LinkedIn. The article shares the poll results of what was the “most popular poll” at the time -- Which software do you use for trial presentation?  Maybe another one to revisit…

Your comments and thoughts on this topic are welcome!