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 25, 2011

Deponent: iPad App to Prepare and Take Depositions

When I first reviewed this app for Law Technology News, I pointed out what appeared to be one significant flaw - Deponent utilized the "Public" folder of Dropbox for its file system. The problem with this is that if you're concerned about data security in "the Cloud" (and if you're reading this blog, you probably should be), that is one of the weakest storage locations you could find, second maybe to posting them for convenient and safe download on your Facebook page.

In any event, after a few emails exchanged with the developers, they have informed me that they will have an update available this week, which will install a new "Deponent" folder, located outside the "Public" open folder. They were very gracious and appreciative that it was identified, and thus rectified.

As with many of my other previously published articles, this enhanced version includes recent updates, extra screenshots and commentary. And, in this case, a video!


Prepare for Depositions With the iPad Deponent App

Reprinted with permission from the April 21, 2011 issue of Law Technology News. ©2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC.

The Deponent App, developed by Majority Opinion, is an iPad app designed to help legal professionals draft questions to prepare for a deposition. You can select from over 150 questions organized by category, such as Admonitions or Expert Qualifications, arrange their order of presentation, and customize the text for your witnesses. Each question can also be linked to an exhibit. You can modify the included questions and categories as well as create your own.

Josh Gilliland, Majority Opinion president and author of the Bow Tie Law blog, formed the idea for the Deponent App after he heard a state court judge claim that 93 percent of litigation in the U.S. is in state court. "I wanted to build something that could help the majority of litigators in the United States," says Gilliland. After talking with a friend who wanted an iPad, but who had no idea of how to use it in his law practice, Gilliland started thinking "what would make the most sense to a litigator?" Gilliland's thoughts developed into the Deponent, which is designed to ask more questions than it answers. And in preparing for a deposition, that's a good thing.

Is every question that could ever be asked in a deposition included in the app? Obviously not -- but most of the basics are in there, ready to use or modify as needed. You can also create your own questions and categorize them by issue or topic. And, by linking the corresponding deposition exhibit to the question, you're not likely to forget the connection between the two. In some instances, you may be able show the exhibits right from your iPad, but unless all parties and counsel are technically "enabled," you may still want to drag along a few boxes and binders.

While you can link one exhibit to a question, I would like to see this feature expanded to add multiple exhibits to a question. For example, you might ask an expert witness about their qualifications and include their curriculum vitae as well as another relevant document, such as a biography or an online profile. Another question might ask a witness to review two different versions of a document.

Exhibits such as Microsoft Office files, images, PDF files, or TIFF's can be loaded into the Deponent through iTunes and Dropbox, although the developers suggest PDF as the ideal and preferred format. When you select the Exhibits icon for the first time, you will have the option to link your Dropbox account to the app. You should note that even after linking Dropbox, any files you choose to import into the app are copied into a program folder on the iPad. So once you have an exhibit included in the app, it will not be removed if you remove it from Dropbox; the same applies to files imported via iTunes.

One issue I found: The Deponent will only allow you to access files stored in your Dropbox Public folder. Although I am a Dropbox addict, the Public folder is one of the least secure places you can find to store anything in the cloud. Although it might be relatively unlikely that someone would discover the links to any documents in your Public folder, it is certainly possible -- and there is absolutely no security. For instance, I have stored my own biography in the Public folder of my Dropbox account -- there's no password protection to keep anyone from accessing it. As long as my file remains in the Public folder, the link remains active.

Although Majority Opinion developers are working on a fix for Drop Box insecurity, I would strongly caution against using this feature unless you have no concern that uninvited guests might access your exhibits. If you are concerned, then load your files from iTunes. If you absolutely must use the Dropbox import, you can temporarily copy the exhibits into the Public folder, and then delete them after you've imported them into the Deponent. At least the risk wouldn't be "live" for long.

The Deponent also allows you to e-mail a copy of your notes taken during the deposition to yourself or others. This might include your comments and observations about the responses to the deposition questions or exhibits. This feature can replace or supplement your trusty legal pad. To help you get quickly up to speed, a series of training tutorial videos are available online. This set of short videos covers the basics quite well, although the Deponent App is certainly not too difficult to figure out on your own. Of those featured, here is perhaps the most helpful of the bunch:

In summary, like many other iPad apps for lawyers that I have reviewed, the single-purpose Deponent App does what it was designed to do just fine.

The interface is clean and simple, and there is plenty of flexibility to customize the questions and link them to exhibits to help you prepare for a deposition.

The Deponent App, $9.99, from Majority Opinion

Ted Brooks
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Trial Consulting Network

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Has iPad met its Match? Maybe Not (yet)

Review: HP Slate 500 Hits the Market

Although the iPad has a strong foothold in the tablet market, its shortcomings are well-documented. Simple things such as the lack of a USB port, inability to play Flash movies, less-than-desirable Microsoft Office file handling, and a general sense of incompatibility in an otherwise PC-dominant world, may be what other tablets need to get into the game.

I have an iPad, and I really enjoy it. However, I’m not a fanatic – you won’t find me standing in line for hours on a cold, rainy day, hoping to get into the Apple Store before they run out of their limited supply of the next iPad. It’s a great tool/toy for everything you can use it for.

I also realize that for anything I need to do on my iPad, I might have to spend another $9.99 to get yet another app. I’ll bet there are plenty of folks with more money invested in apps than they have in actual software. And, at its best, an app is generally only a very task-specific piece of software – as opposed to a total solution. When compared as a percentage of cost vs. capability, I would expect that the money, time spent researching and cobbling together several apps that can be used to accomplish most of what one software application can, and then factoring in the time spent for organization, customization and mastery of each individual app, it could far outweigh the cost of PC-based (or Mac) software.

I received an email this morning, offering the new HP Slate 500 for $799. Order today, ships today. Okay, so what’s the difference between this and the iPad, or how does it compare to a Netbook, and will it run “real” software?

The first thing that impressed me is the fact that it is running on Windows 7. This means that as long as there are enough memory, drive space and processing power, I can run my actual software applications, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, QuickBooks, etc. Since the Slate has a Solid State Hard Drive (and a standby button), boot-up times will be much better than on a typical PC. Even though the iPad has the “instant-on” feature which I love, an operating system that allows me to use my normal software: Advantage – Slate

Flash video is one of most common formats on the web today. iPad still won’t handle it. Advantage - Slate

The next good news I discovered is the Slate has a USB port. Why on Earth does the second iteration of the iPad still not have a USB port? That one tiny interface can really open many new horizons. The Slate also features an SD card port. Advantage - Slate

The battery life appears to be around 4.5 hours (estimated 2 or 3 hours less than the iPad). My laptop (in low power mode) can get me nearly home on a coast-to-coast flight already. I would expect a tablet to handle that, and then some. Advantage – iPad.

Both devices are around the same size, and the same weight.

The Slate does not have a cooling fan, which saves power. According to reviews, however, the unit gets very hot, making it uncomfortable to hold, and even to the point of making the case smell as if it is melting. Lawsuit filed against Apple for iPad overheating in direct sunlight notwithstanding, Advantage – iPad.

Both the iPad 2 and Slate feature front (for videoconferencing) and rear (for recording) cameras. The first version of the iPad has no camera.

HP includes a docking station for the Slate, which adds a great deal of connectivity. This allows you to use Windows dual-screen mode. It also includes a stylus and cover. Advantage - Slate

If you will be doing presentations, the iPad has an adapter available to connect to VGA or HDMI. Although the Slate dock features an HDMI port, it would be another piece of hardware to carry. However, a little research turned up a nice solution, which will allow you to connect to a monitor via your USB port: DisplayLink. HP also sells a DisplayLink device for $99, which gives you all you need in a portable hub. Advantage - iPad (since you only need a cable, not a portable hub - unless you have a USB input port on your projector).

Wireless connectivity is similar, in that both the iPad and Slate feature Bluetooth and WiFi. Slate does not offer a 3G Broadband option, so although you can easily use a wireless hub or tether your phone, Advantage – iPad.

The touchpad and keypad interface of the iPad is superior to that of Windows 7. Although it works, users felt that both the touchpad and stylus features of the Slate could use improvement. Advantage – iPad.

The display of the iPad is said to be sharper and clearer than the Slate. I would expect both to improve significantly, once HD displays are added to both. Advantage – iPad.

If you are hopelessly linked to the Windows platform, and want the next cool thing, the Slate is worth looking at. If you prefer something that has been tested and proven, the iPad still rules. There are also a number of Android tablets beginning to hit the market, but they will start with a disadvantage in both the operating system of the Slate, and the large market share and app collection of the iPad.

So, for now, I’m going to hang with my iPad and laptop. I think tablets such as the Slate will make headway over the next year or two, but there are still some things that need to be ironed out before they get the attention of the marketplace. I read just the other day that Microsoft had really missed the boat on the tablet game. With a little help from HP and other tablet manufactures, and with some added attention to the Windows touchpad interface, they may be on their way shortly.

Ted Brooks
213-798-6608 Los Angeles
415-291-9900 San Francisco

Trial Consulting Network

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trial Consulting Network: Trial Presentation, Graphics, Litigation Support

Trial Consulting Network
In case you haven’t noticed yet, there has been a “soft grand opening” going on lately with the new Trial Consulting Network. Trial Consulting Network has been mentioned by Monica Bay in her Daily Commentary. There has also been a Press Release. And, if you follow Twitter or LinkedIn, you’ve seen a few posts.

Trial Consulting Network begins life as a service provided by Litigation-Tech LLC, in an effort to offer the legal community an alternative to small providers, who are unable to staff large matters, and the largest providers, who seem to be out of touch with the local litigation scene. Trial Consulting Network already has over 30 member companies in many key markets, resulting in a huge talent pool from which to draw. This strategic organization features the high level of support which can be offered by the best small providers in the nation, and the sheer numbers of personnel often required to support large class actions and multi-district litigation.

Several quotes from the new web site:

Trial Consulting Network is a service offered by Litigation-Tech LLC, established in order to better serve current and potential clients, utilizing a network of over 30 of the best trial consulting and litigation support providers in the nation.

"A national level service offering to law firms, especially on large matters, is a great idea. Many of our certified trainers have joined the Trial Consulting Network and will be a part of providing high quality services and top notch “hot-seat” work. Ted Brooks (founder of TCN) has been doing trial work for a long time and knows what it takes to provide a professional level of support."
-- Derek Miller, Chief Executive Officer & President, inData Corporation

Trial Consulting Network is the only National Resource for Trial Consulting, Court Presentations, Graphics, Animation, Legal Technology and other Litigation Support Services, provided by a consortium of some of the best trial presentation providers in the country, with combined capabilities now rivaling even the largest companies. With over 30 locations throughout the U.S., Trial Consulting Network can assist in matters of any size, and in any jurisdiction -- including concurrent multi-district litigation, and large class action suits with multiple parties and large trial teams. Of course, TCN can assist in your smaller matters as well.

Trial Consulting Network Philosophy
Several years ago, only large firms with large cases could afford the added expense of utilizing technology in trial. Now, the risk of not using technology is a significant negative factor, especially when considering the added efficiency of rapidly presenting exhibits and deposition testimony in trial.

There are reasons that our Court systems continue to spend money on courtroom technology - even in the face of an economic crisis. They understand that cases may be tried in less time, and that jurors will be able to better understand the evidence. With over 30 locations across the nation, Trial Consulting Network can assist with your trial technology, allowing you to present your case in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Trial Consulting Network Services
Trial Consulting
Jury Consulting, Voir Dire
Trial Presentation
Court Technology
Demonstrative Graphics
Deposition Video Sync and Editing
War Room Support
Trial Strategy and Case Review
Evidence and Database Management
Trial Project Management
PowerPoint Presentations (Opening Statement, Closing Argument)

Trial Consulting Network Rates
TCN services are generally invoiced on an hourly basis, and in some cases, a daily rate may be available. With the flexibility of a small firm (over 30 of them, actually), TCN is able to offer rates that are more in line with the trial venue. This "geographically sensitive" approach may save your client thousands of dollars.

Although the only way to really have an idea of what your trial support might cost is to request a rate sheet and an estimate, the rate structure is in line with other trial prep and presentation providers, and will vary according to the rate of the person(s) actually handling your case.
One thing that sets Trial Consulting Network apart from the other major providers is the structure. This large network is made up of many smaller "boutique" firms, meaning less overhead and lower management costs, resulting in a better value for your client. Your case will be handled by an experienced trial professional -- not an inexperienced trainee.

Trial Consulting Network serves the following major cities (and more)  Atlanta Austin Baltimore Boston Charlotte Chicago Columbus Dallas Denver Detroit El Paso Fort Worth Houston Indianapolis Jacksonville Los Angeles Memphis Miami Milwaukee Minneapolis Nashville New York Philadelphia Phoenix Raleigh San Antonio San Diego San Francisco San Jose Seattle Washington, D.C.

Call Toll Free 888-907-4434

Monday, April 4, 2011

Introducing the iBerry Tablet Device with Built-in Keypad?

With all the buzz about iPads and legal apps being used in law firms, combined with the solid history of BlackBerry devices used by firms for many years (I remember getting one of the first ones when I was with Brobeck), I wonder if someone will complete the prophetic projections written about the “DynaBook” back in 1972, by Alan C. Kay (see A Personal Computer for Children of All Ages).
There has been speculation as to whether this might have been inspirational in the development of the iPad, and consequently, other tablet devices. Looking at the image, it features a “real” keypad, which could bring back the “touch” to touch-typing, although the article mentions perhaps incorporating it into the display. It is certainly a bit slower to draft a letter when you have to “watch” what you’re typing. The “feel” of the keys enables one to watch the document being drafted, rather than reverting to an advanced version of “hunt-and-peck” typing.

Armed with the knowledge we have today, reading this article is very interesting, perhaps like watching futuristic sci-fi movies of the 1950’s.

Actually, maybe someone will come out with a tablet device that has the large screen with a slide-out keypad, in a similar manner (but larger) as some phones do now? Maybe I will get credit for the idea? (not likely)

Until then, for portability, I’ll use my iPad, but for high-intensity typing-related work, I’ll stick with my trusty laptop.

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

Litigation-Tech Computer Rivals IBM's Watson

For Immediate Release:
Litigation-Tech and Trial Consulting Network purchase “the system” for trial presentation, a computer rivaling IBM's Watson. “This system isn’t for playing Jeopardy. Nobody else has anything close, ” says Ted Brooks. "Even the new iPad apps for attorneys can't compete with 'the system'."

Of note in the photograph below:
Notice in the back of the courtroom, a state-of-the-art 37” CRT monitor on a scissor-lift stand, cleverly incorporated into a shipping case. Weight, around 400 lbs.
On counsel tables, ELMO (document camera) device, flat-screen monitors.
In the foreground: (Highly Classified) -- We cannot completely reveal "the system," however, in the lower left, note the multiple cooling fan-equipped RAID array tower, with external CD-RW drive on top of tower (also fan-cooled), and barcode scanning pen. Weight, approximately 100 lbs.
Next, on top of the workstation table, you’ll see “the system” keyboard and mouse, and even a backup laptop. Not that "the system" will ever have any problems, but other tasks might be accomplished while TrialDirector plays the depo (complete with scrolling closed-caption text) on the flat panel, and rest of “the system.”

--- April Fools, 2011
Note: This was our actual Brobeck in-house trial setup in Salt Lake City for a trial in the late '90's. On one hand, it’s not really that long ago. On the other, this stuff looks like what cavemen might have used.

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