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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Monday, April 26, 2010

First Review: TrialDirector 6

First Review: TrialDirector 6
By Ted Brooks

If you’ve never before used trial presentation software in your practice, now is the time to consider it. If you’ve used previous versions of TrialDirector or other trial presentation software, now is the time to consider springing for the upgrade.

Note: Since this remains a popular article, I will add that TrialDirector  6.2, build 900 is the current version, released 12/16/2010, and that several things have been upgraded and even some great new features have been added. I also anticipate another release within a few days to fix a PDF issue. With such a major overhaul of the program required to work with Windows 7, these past few months have allowed the folks at inData time to get the "real world" feedback necessary to make sure that it continues to maintain its reputation as the "Gold Standard" in trial presentation software. It is comforting to know that they are driven to continue developing and improving the program by listening to those who actually use it daily. Hope you enjoy the review.

Four years in the making (version 5 was released on 5/1/2006), TrialDirector 6 brings together all of best features from previous versions, and includes many feature requests by current users. This shows they are listening. 

I have been running version 6 for several months now (going through Alpha and a few Beta versions), and unlike many new software releases I’ve worked with, this one is now stable and ready for prime-time. As a disclaimer, I will say that I have used TrialDirector for many years and have a close working relationship with inData, the makers of TrialDirector. I have not been compensated by inData for this or any other reviews or mention of their products, nor have I submitted this article to them for their review, approval, editing or modification. I have also used other trial presentation software with good results. Competitive products such as Visionary and Sanction are also excellent platforms for trial presentation. That stated, while I may admittedly be a bit partial, I will do my best to offer an objective analysis of TrialDirector 6 in this brief review. For purposes of this review, I will not attempt to cover every feature of the software, nor those features which were already in version 5. For more info on version 5 (and some features in common with version 6), please refer to my review (, or to the inData website ( for additional product information, including a very helpful new set of online tutorials.

At First Glance

Upon launching the program for the first time, everything looks familiar. The Case Library view looks like version 5.

From here, we will take a look at a few of the major changes – the first being something I have been asking inData to implement over the past 4 years – the return of the Grid View. The Document Manager tab now brings back the fully functional, editable and sortable database view, reminiscent of version 3 and 4. For the occasional user, this may not be a big deal, but for those who must build and manage large databases, and many of them at one time, this is a critical feature. It simply allows another perspective (albeit somewhat geeky), that enables quick editing of any column. So, instead of having to right-click on a document in the Case Library to display properties, or use the F2 shortcut to get a one-line editable row, you can now see all of them at once.

This is not actually a “new” feature, but rather an improved version of something dating back to version 4 that simply makes sense to those who use it. Not everyone will appreciate this feature, but for those who will use it, it’s one of the best parts of version 6. Sometimes, older is better. Also, the Coding tab at the bottom is essentially the same database as in previous versions. There is nothing monumental to report here in the way of updates. It works great, and does everything a basic coding database should do.

Transcript Manager

The Transcript Manager also looks familiar when you click the tab on the bottom – but it has been totally revamped. Being a long-time user of TrialDirector, I had become accustomed to creating clips by selecting the desired text and then listening to “edit,” or trim the beginning and ending of the excerpt.

Can you simply input the page:line designation start and end to create a clip? Yes.
Can you select the desired text to create a clip? Yes.
Can you use the clip wizard to assemble clips? Yes.
Can you use the segment editor to create and assemble clips? Yes.

Can you still edit clips by selecting text and then listening to make your adjustments as in version 3-5? No, not really.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t been a real fan of “visually” creating clips, even though it has been out for several years in version 5. There was just something missing for me, be it accuracy, the speed in which I could get the clips created and edited, or who knows what. In TrialDirector 6, you will need to decide which of these methods works for you. Some will like the option to just type in the page and line numbers. Others, like me, will likely develop their own “hybrid” method. I find that it is fastest for me to select the text manually, and then go to the visual and audio display to trim the excerpt. One reason this works for me is that by selecting the text, I automatically assign it an ID, based on my desired settings, found in “View,” “Options.”

So, instead of having to manually name the clip, it is already named and sorted for me. You can also choose something like “Clip 1,” “Clip 2,” etc., but then you don’t bring any descriptive information into the database. This method also enables me to view the text, making sure it makes sense, and isn’t starting or ending in the middle of a question or answer.

Frankly, I was amazed at the accuracy of the clips when dealing with the visual display waveform editor. Maybe my sync was dead-on accurate, but the start points were almost always perfect – something that would rarely happen when using only the audio (tape deck or VCR-inspired controls) for editing – regardless of sync accuracy. As a result, clip creation and editing speed are now much faster and more precise.

It’s All About Presentation

Perhaps the most important thing TrialDirector or any trial presentation software can do is present evidence to a jury and/or judge. Of course, without a proper system and method of data management, it wouldn’t be much better than PowerPoint. That stated, if you’re looking for bells and whistles and/or cool new features, there are plenty to be found in the presentation and what I will refer to as the “pre-presentation” areas.

When in dual screen mode (one showing the database, the other the trial presentation), there is a new “Mirror Mode” feature which allows the user to zoom, highlight and/or otherwise work with a document in the “Preview” screen and have the results displayed “live” on the presentation screen. So, rather than display the cursor or other annotation tools in front of the jury, you can simply have your work “appear” on the presentation, while you are working in the preview screen. A real benefit of all of this is that although you are able to display only the results, you are still able to view and work in the database, and if you need to move the cursor over to the presentation to point something out, you still can do that. So, you now have the option of setting something up in Preview and then presenting it, or doing the whole thing “live,” in addition the typing in an exhibit number, using barcodes, or the improved document explorer in the Presentation screen.

The toolbar has a nice “auto-hide” option, in addition to improved settings which may be saved. The presentation also offers some very flashy (read: glitzy) display options, such as a mirror and backlight effect, which are probably a bit over the top for actual trial presentation. They can be used for other types of presentations, however, as in a recent matter in which I provided a recap of the trial in a PowerPoint presentation. For that, I was able to take advantage of some of these effects.

The Bottom Line
If you already own TrialDirector, I would say the decision to upgrade is a no-brainer. If you are current with your TrialDirector 5 annual maintenance, the price of the upgrade is offered at a 50% discount. If you are purchasing without a qualified upgrade, the list price is $695 for the software, plus $139 for annual maintenance, keeping it in line with other competitive programs.

The upgrade from version 3 to 4 was dramatic, 4 to 5 introduced many new features, and now TrialDirector 6 has really brought it all together. In my opinion, inData’s TrialDirector has once again raised the bar, which will likely help it remain the market leader in trial presentation software.

Additional resources:
Court and Trial Technology Blog
LinkedIn Trial Technology Group
Trial Technology Yahoo Group
LinkedIn: Ted Brooks
Twitter: litigationtech

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Trial Technician Certification

This topic was posted on the Trial Technology LinkedIn Group by Chere Estrin, Editor-in-Chief at SUE Magazine for Women Litigators. Who really stands to gain with certification of trial technicians? Read on...

Where do trial technicians get trained? Where are the courses and texts for trial technicians? How do you know if someone has received adequate training of the core competencies?

-Chere Estrin, Editor-in-Chief at SUE Magazine for Women Litigators

While the original topic of this post seemed to be directed more toward the technical issues of trial presentation, ethics and proper protocols are certainly a key part of this profession. It is not enough to simply know how to put up documents with TrialDirector if one doesn’t know how to effectively communicate with counsel or know the rules of the court.

I would also add that there should be a distinction between a trial tech and a trial consultant, the latter having a great deal of actual experience in offering helpful insight regarding the trial itself – not just the technical issues. You won’t get this with a certificate.

As a result of having been employed by a major law firm, I learned things like ethical issues, the litigation process and many things that make up the big picture. While I would suggest that this may be one of the best possible routes one might take, it is not always an option. Law firms, like most other companies, aren’t in the business of training people who have no prior experience or qualifications.

That stated, I am a strong supporter of the efforts of OLP, NCRA and ALSP in their respective roles of developing course material and examinations for certificates and certification of trial technicians and other litigation support roles, such as electronic discovery.

While the NCRA (National Court Reporters Assn) has their roots in other areas, I will say that the people actually involved in the trial presentation section are indeed qualified, and are not court reporters. They can also provide a natural transition path for the many legal videographers they represent. I was very skeptical at first as well, but can say (first-hand, as a guest-instructor) that if they continue in the same direction, they will likely succeed. They do have a wealth of experience in education and certification processes.

The OLP (Organization of Legal Professionals; they have a LinkedIn Group) is a relatively new organization, which is focused primarily on education and certification in several areas. Having this single focus will certainly be beneficial, and the Principals and many members have a great deal of experience in education of legal professionals. They are also reaching out to many well-known and established professionals to increase their level of credibility.

The ALSP (Association of Litigation Support Professionals; also have a LinkedIn Group) is yet another organization with similar goals, although (at least to my understanding), they are a completely volunteer organization in these efforts, and as a result, have some limitations with respect to the level of time and resources they have available.

In my opinion, the ones who will benefit immediately from all of these efforts, regardless of the sponsoring organization are our clients, and ultimately as a result of a higher degree of professionalism, ourselves and our profession. Will one be better than the others? Only time will tell.

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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review revisited: TrialDirector

With the release of TrialDirector 6 just around the corner, I am posting this review of TrialDirector 5, originally published as a Technolawyer TechnoFeature, on December 19, 2006. Version 5 was officially  released on May 1, 2006, and I would expect them to work toward the same anniversary date for release of TrialDirector 6. I have been involved in pre-release alpha and beta testing, and can assure you that version 6 will be worth the price of the upgrade. New features include an excellent deposition clip editing interface, return of the the database grid view with sortable fields, and a powerful new set of presentation features. If you were hoping for more power, it's in there; more features, check; easier to use, done. Overall, TrialDirector 6 will blow your socks off. But, that's for an upcoming review I am working on - hopefully ready within a week or two. For now, here's a little trip down memory lane...

Technoscore: 4.8
1 = Lowest Possible Score; 5 = Highest Possible Score

As a long-time user of TrialDirector, when I first saw
version 5, I was amazed at the difference from previous
versions. It seems that inData has really focused
on making this stuff simple for the occasional user — and after looking at the program thoroughly, I
think it has succeeded in its effort.
Now, a TrialDirector user no longer needs to also be
a database expert — however, my opinion remains
as it has with previous versions: If you have a big,
important, high-profile and/or high-stakes case, do
not wait until trial to learn a new software program
or save a few bucks.
(Disclosure: As a Trial Consultant, I have worked
with inData to provide feedback regarding issues
and features for several years. I have not been compensated
by inData for this, however, inData and
other software companies including Verdict Systems
(Sanction software) and Summation have referred
work to my firm.)

Installing TrialDirector is relatively simple, and has a
few options you may want to consider with respect
to what goes where — although the default settings
will work just fine.
I normally make sure to modify the “Cases” location
first (in priority, not installation, order). Rather than
burying my database somewhere about 5 levels
down in Windows Explorer (C:/Program Files/in-
Data/Cases/Case0001), I would rather start with
the setting of C:/Cases (or D:/Cases, if running
multiple hard drives). I do this by simply creating
the new folder named “Cases” at the root of the
C:\ drive. Then, when it’s time to create a new case
and begin populating folders with images, videos,
and documents, I will first create a subfolder for that
new case. I will create the new case inside this new
case folder (named per the matter), which places a
“.dat” file in that folder as well, enabling TrialDirector
to “see” the case(s) located within that folder. Otherwise,
each new case results in a case folder with the
next sequential number. Try guessing which case is
in folder “CASE0054”.
Although you can now name the case folder with
the name of the matter, this can get messy, and is
much better organized in the following fashion: C:/
Cases/Smith_v_Jones. The first database created
within the Smith_v_Jones folder will be Case0000,
next will be Case0001, and so on. This is not the
name that you will see in the database — it is only
the folder name which contains the actual database.
One additional advantage is that if you choose to
copy the case and all materials to another location,
everything stays all together in one place. Caution:
stay out of the Case0000 database folder, unless
you really know what you’re doing. Databases do
NOT have “undo” features. You whack it, there’s no
getting it back.
You can also choose which Program Folder to install
to. If you have previous versions and want to keep
them installed (I recommend this), let the program
defaults create a new group for you. If you don’t,
choosing to install in your existing TrialDirector folder may make it difficult to get to your previous version.
I have always kept the previous versions available,
especially during upgrades. You never know when
you might need to get back to a familiar version and
do some “magic.”

Again, I recommend keeping any previous versions
of TrialDirector installed. When TrialDirector 5 first
came out, as expected, there were a few issues to
be worked out. Having the “old standby” ready is
always a good plan. Now, inData has worked out
the kinks in most of these initial issues, and will roll
out another update soon — a good reason to take
advantage of inData’s TrialDirector Online Update
feature, first appearing in version 4. In the Program
group for TrialDirector, you’ll find a link to their Web
site which checks their latest version available
against the version installed on your computer. If an
update is available, you are prompted to download
and install. I would recommend shutting down Trial-
Director prior to downloading.
You may have more than one version of TrialDirector
installed on a computer, and they will all work fine,
but you should only run one version at a time. Otherwise,
you end up accessing the same database
from two different sources. It may work; it may not – feeling lucky?
Another nice thing is that no matter which version
you use, it will still open the last case you were
working in — even if you were not working in that
particular version of TrialDirector.

The new interface design found in version 5 is such
a significant change that users of previous versions
may feel lost at first. Everything is still in there — it’s
just been moved around a bit.
The first-time user (assuming all else being equal)
will likely dive in and feel right at home.
When I first saw this in development, I wondered,
but why? It worked just fine before. But then, so did
my DOS operating system (geek-speak for antiquated
computing software).
While in previous versions you opened and accessed
each program in the Suite separately and
individually, TrialDirector 5 has incorporated everything
into one running application. Instead of
opening another program, you can use convenient
tabs located within the program window to access
the Case Library (master view), Document Manager
(similar to DocumentDirector in earlier versions,
for working with exhibits), Transcript Manager (a la
DepositionDirector), and Coding. Selecting a tab
opens the corresponding window views, similar to
what you would find in each individual program in
previous versions.
This feature greatly reduces the time it takes to get
back and forth between and to start up separate
applications. This works fine between Document
Manager and Transcript Manager, keeping the active
document there when you come back to it, after
reviewing some deposition video. When the Case
Manager is selected, however, it will close all open
folders in the Document Manager. This is not necessarily
a bad thing, but something to remember if you
just “hunted down” some document. You’ll find it
similar to selecting the “All” tab in previous versions.
It will not affect the Transcript Manager.
One tab you won’t find is the Query. Instead of
an option to view search results in a temporary
Query folder (which disappears when accessing
the All tab), you can now save your search results
in a more permanent folder. In other words, once
you select another tab, or shut down and restart
TrialDirector, that folder with its results is still there.
You may manually delete it if desired. This is a
very useful improvement, as you no longer have to
repeat or manually save common searches. The option
to view the search “hits” one-at-a-time remains

Along with the major changes in appearance and
interface, TrialDirector 5 offers a lengthy list of new
features, many of which were requested by current
One of these improvements is Workbooks. No longer
are you restricted to a large group of individual
folders in a separate (on top of and always in the
way of something else) window, without the ability
to create sub-folders. The Workbooks enable you
to add folders within folders several levels deep (I
stopped counting at 5). However, be careful when
deleting Workbooks, as just like Windows Explorer,
deleting an upper-level folder will also delete its
contents, including sub-folder Workbooks. You may
also color-code them for quick visual sorting/organizing.
If you open a case created in a previous version,
the folders you created are still there, although they
now appear as Workbooks. You can also now color
issue-code transcripts, adding the selections into
an Issue Workbook. Then you can export these to
Word, PDF, etc.
In addition, the clip creation process now features a
visual graph of the sound patterns, enabling you to
“see” where the speaking begins and ends.
OCR (Optical Character Recognition) files from
vendors or in-house scanning software were previously
incompatible with TrialDirector. There was an
optional add-on module which would enable you
to OCR the database, but it would take a considerable
amount of time (as does any OCR process),
and you could not import “standard” coding data.
Now, when loading images, if TrialDirector spots
corresponding OCR files, you are given the option
to load them. Indexing will take some time, but you
can do that at a more convenient time, if desired. It
is a very processor-intensive operation.

There are a few new options here, but it’s pretty
hard to improve on TrialDirector’s presentation
features. One new feature is a movable highlight,
similar to the Projection Callout zoom but without
the magnification. You can use this to focus
attention on a particular portion of an exhibit or
demonstrative, without zooming in on it. Similarly,
the Signature tool enables you to zoom and “copy”
a selection and continue to show it as you bring up
another document for comparison.

inData offers training, as do a number of vendors
and Certified Trainers. Even with its great improvements
with respect to simplicity, if you really want to
get into the “bells and whistles,” of which there are
plenty, you might consider getting some training.
Often, some valuable experience-related issues are
shared, offering a more thorough exploration of the
Alternatively, one might take the time to explore
each menu button to get a feel for what drives
this machine. Considering what you plan to use
this software for, regardless of whether you opt for
training or decide to step through the program one
menu at a time, it would be time and/or money

Three features I liked least of the upgrade:
•    A little more time-consuming to do database field
editing as a result of changes in the interface.
•    The program seems to run a bit slower. I am told
by inData that a release will address this issue very
•    The Annual Maintenance Program. Although other
major litigation support software companies have
done this for some time, I’d rather buy the upgrades
when I want them.
Also, in the next version, I would like to see the OCR
database use the existing files rather than indexing
and creating a new set of OCR text files.

inData is second to none in this department. I’ve
been working with this software for years, and I have
always been very pleased with the response times
and solutions to my issues. This is not Microsoft
Word. It is a very specialized software application,
in which most users never go too far into the bells
and whistles. I am an exception, and I have seen
updates developed and released within days of my
notifying inData of an issue.

If you’ve used TrialDirector before, you’re going to
like it. If you’ve never used TrialDirector, you’re going
to love it.
Can an average attorney or paralegal spend some
time learning to use TrialDirector 5 and go to trial?
The answer is yes. Would you want to purchase TrialDirector on Friday and then go to trial on Monday?
Probably not, but I’ve heard it has been done.
Other options include hiring a Trial Consultant or
Technician to assist with the preparation and/or presentation,
should the matter warrant it. Could you
call a Trial Consultant on a Friday and expect to be
in trial on Monday? Not recommended, but I can tell
you with certainty this has happened. Just knowing
the software isn’t the only issue. A lot of data will
likely need to be prepared and loaded first.
inData has kept its pricing at $595 per single copy
( installations), but they have now gone the route of
the annual maintenance fee — a common trend in
legal software. The downside is you continue to pay
each year — the upside is that you never again have
to purchase future updates for version 5 (inData’s
updates often contain new major features, such as
version 4.5 last year).

The issues I’ve noted are actually very minor, and
I’ve been informed we can expect updates soon.
Overall, I would give TrialDirector 5 a TechnoScore
of 4.8, with TrialDirector retaining its status as the
“Gold Standard” in Trial Presentation Software.
Copyright 2006 Ted Brooks. All rights reserved.

Ted Brooks is the President of Litigation-Tech LLC,
a trial technology consulting firm based in San
Francisco. Ted has worked on many high-profile
civil and criminal cases, on both sides of the table.
He has won the Law Technology News Award for
Most Innovative Use of Technology in a Trial, and is
a frequent speaker and author.

For more information, contact:
Sales Department
inData Corporation
(800) 828-8292