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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Monday, November 7, 2011

Ten Questions to Ask Your “Hot Seat” Provider

First, I’ll define the term “Hot Seat.” In litigation, this is used to describe the role of the trial presentation technician or consultant – the one responsible for managing and presenting the evidence to Judge and Jury. Any delay in presenting the requested exhibit can seem like an eternity. One miscue on their part, such as bringing up the wrong exhibit, can immediately result in a mistrial – hence the term, “hot seat.”

1.       How much will it cost?
Make sure to get the “real numbers” in any estimates you receive, and see if there are hidden extras, such as overtime, travel, equipment, weekend or holiday charges, project management fees, etc.

2.       How much do you personally make?
Cost does not always equal value, and hourly rates do not necessarily indicate the level of competency of the individual actually providing the services. This may be a very personal question, but if the hourly rate is $250, and your hot-seat tech is making $25 of that, there’s a problem.

3.       How many actual court trials have you personally handled the “hot seat” in?
This should be a realistic number, and is not the same question as, “How many cases have you worked on in any capacity?”

4.       Have you ever been involved in a trial similar to this?
Your “hot seat” person will be comfortable, and thus more effective, in familiar surroundings. Although it would be unrealistic to expect experience with the exact case type, things like the size and value of the matter, venue type, data formats, and general type of litigation are all helpful qualities.

5.       What extra value do you have to offer the trial team?
In some cases, the answer may be zero, and that is fine. In others, similar case experience, case feedback, jury monitoring, or other extras may help make the decision whether or not to hire.

6.       May I see your bio?
Don’t expect to see a résumé, as you’re not hiring an employee. However, you have every right to request a bio of the person(s) who will be assigned to your case. Make sure you’re getting what you pay for.

7.       How long have you been doing this type of work?
A few years can be a reasonable amount of time to master most of this. Unless you’re knowingly hiring a trainee (can you spell m-a-l-p-r-a-c-t-i-c-e?), make sure they’re not learning on your dime, and at the expense of your case.

8.       Can you assist with Opening Statement and Closing Arguments?
Depending on the case, it can often be helpful to have another set of eyes looking at things, and offering ideas on how to tell the story visually. This may or may not be something you need or are willing to pay for in your case.

9.       Are you capable of producing on-site graphics?
Any hot-seat technician should be able to make at least minor changes on the fly as needed. There’s simply not always time to engage the “graphics team,” regardless of wherever they may be located.

10.   What sets you apart from your competitors?
This can apply both to the company, and the individual(s) assigned. However, hiring a well-known company does not necessarily mean that the person they will assign is the best for you. Make sure it’s a good fit from top to bottom.


  1. I think an extremely important thing to ask for are references.

  2. Absolutely - references can be very helpful. You have to be careful there too, as it depends not only upon the performance of the consultant, but also the perspective of the referrer. Someone with little experience themselves, or who is clueless on technology may be totally impressed by someone who is doing the "earn while you learn" or "fake it 'til you make it" plan.

  3. References would help but practical guidance from others would help more i think.


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