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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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Comments on The Jury Expert Article

The Use of Technology to Enhance Communication Strategies in Litigation” (by Susan Pennebaker)

This is a timely and well-written article, offering numerous professionally-prepared examples of how an expert in visual communication can help in preparing and presenting a clear message about a complex set of issues. I have seen excellent examples of these techniques used in court, and I have seen plenty of disasters as well. The disasters I have witnessed have often been prepared and/or presented by in-house staff as a side-project, when they have other high-priority tasks and specialties to handle. This is not to imply that working in-house means unqualified, but to remind all trial teams that we get only one shot at a first impression. If it looks amateurish, the impact (and credibility) may be severely handicapped. Further, this is a very specialized field, and to expect a paralegal to handle all of this in addition to their regular role may be asking quite a bit. Technology is a full-time job during trial.

Understanding and explaining are two different things. Frequently, assumptions are made and evidence or argument is presented in such a manner that the fact-finders simply do not “get it.” It is generally very helpful to bring in someone who does not already know all of the fine details or minutiae of the matter, who can objectively offer opinions as to what is understandable, and what is not. This might formally be performed in a mock trial or focus group, and/or might be one of the tasks of a Trial Consultant during the trial.

Even though many attorneys have never used technology in court, it is not difficult to incorporate all of its effectiveness when partnering with a firm specializing in this sort of work. I will add that over the years, a great deal of my clients had never before utilized technology in trial, and that the work flow and process remain the same. I will also add that most of these first-timers won their first technology-enabled trial. Only the method in which the evidence is published to the jury changes, along with the increased efficiency and control of that evidence – provided an experienced expert is working on the matter.

Ms. Pennebaker has pointed out that today’s jury pool is made up of people who have become accustomed to learning via digital media, be it television, Internet or other portable devices. The human mind is capable of understanding and retaining a great deal of information at a very high rate of delivery – thus supporting the multi-stream formats used by many news services.

As referenced by Ms. Pennebaker, studies have shown that we learn more and retain that information longer when the message is presented in a mixed-media fashion. That is, when we hear the spoken word and see the pictures, we are then able to store the images and associated facts in our mind. The utilization of various types of media is also key, including blow-up boards, PowerPoint slides, demonstrative graphics and the use of TrialDirector or other trial presentation software.

With so many resources for professional demonstrative graphics, trial presentation and technology available, coupled with the fact that jurors do not see this as an “over-the-top” expense in trial, there aren’t any good reasons remaining to hold out. Feel free to consider asking your vendor to meet with you and your client, so they too can be involved in the decision-making process. To offer a client anything less is to offer them less than is readily available to them. Great article!

Ted Brooks, President
Litigation-Tech LLC
"Enhancing the Art of Communication" Member, American Society of Trial Consultants
Certified inData TrialDirector Trainer
415-291-9900  San Francisco
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
925-429-0500  Concord

1 comment:

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