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, July 30, 2012

Why You Should NOT Use Technology in Your Trial

This article should help clear the air on some of the most common arguments against the use of technology in trial. Please share your thoughts, opinions and questions in the Comments section at the end of this article.

1.       It Costs Too Much
There are indeed added costs to consider when deciding whether or not to use technology to assist with your evidence presentation. In most cases, cost alone should not be the deciding factor  - especially when it can help in the outcome of the trial. You may request an estimate from any trial presentation firm, or if handling it in-house, have someone figure out how much money needs to be added to the trial budget. Depending on the length of the trial, this might amount to only a few thousand dollars, or can run into the tens of thousands or more.

2.       The Jury Will Think We have deep pockets
It is a fact that your jury notices the difference between boxes and binders, or a projector and screen. But, does it really look more costly? If the jury believes your client has deep pockets to spend on litigation, it is more likely they will attribute these expenses to legal fees of counsel than to how they choose to present their evidence. (Also see Courtroom Projectors, Screens, and Monitors)

3.       Our Client Doesn’t Want It
When a client is against using technology in litigation, there are likely no solid arguments to this. It is often more a lack of knowledge and understanding of the options than actual fact-based opinions. To simply accept your client’s decisions as to how you should try their case could be problematic in this, or any other trial-strategy decision. Clients may need to be reminded that is your duty to do everything you possibly can to help persuade the jury to rule in your favor, and that you are responsible and accountable in that regard.  

4.       I Don’t Know How To Use It
Learning to properly use trial presentation software can take time, and unless you work with it often, you may not be comfortable enough to bring it to trial. If you’re willing to invest a little bit of effort in training and practice, however, you can certainly learn to handle the basics. Additionally, there is no requirement that you personally learn and operate the software. This is something you can have someone else from your firm or an outside professional trial consultant take care of for you, if you prefer, letting you focus on trying your case. (Also see Trial Presentation in Large and Complex Cases)

5.       I’ve Never Used it Before
A large percentage of trials today do not utilize technology, and a large number of attorneys have yet to try it for their trial presentation. While I cannot speak to the qualifications and experiences of others, I can tell you that every attorney I’ve worked with who had never used technology prior to working with me will never go back to the old way of doing things. I will add that as an attorney, you should be able to try your case in the same manner, regardless of whether or not technology is used to present your evidence to the judge and jury. If you don’t feel comfortable operating everything yourself, have someone else do this for you.

6.       It Looks Too Flashy
This argument may have had some validity 20 years ago, when much of this was new, and considered on the cutting edge of litigation. Today, it would be difficult to find a juror who is not familiar with the Internet and other forms of electronic communication. Although trial presentation software is a powerful database application, to the viewer, it looks like little more than a PowerPoint ™ presentation. Again, these days, you’re going to have a tough time finding jurors who are truly “impressed” with the way this all looks. (Also see Top Ten Tips for Creating Professional Trial Presentations Using PowerPoint)

7.       What If it Fails?
It’s really not a question as to whether something will go wrong when you are depending on technology to present your evidence, but when – and then how quickly you can recover, before anyone else even realizes there was even a problem in the first place. You should always have a backup plan in place. This might be a backup laptop, a document camera, or even the hard copy trial exhibits.

8.       The Court May Not Allow It
You should make sure the Court will allow you to present your evidence electronically before trotting in your portable drive-in theater kit. With that, our judicial system is spending a great deal of money equipping our courts with technology at the State and Federal levels. Rather than discouraging the use of technology, you are more likely to find a judge encouraging you to use it – especially if the equipment is already available and provided by the Court. In these “wired” courtrooms, all you need to bring is your laptop or iPad in order to connect to the courtroom system. You should also try to work together with opposing counsel if you will be bringing in your own equipment. (Also see Judiciary Opinions on Technology in Trial)

9    The jury appreciates handling the actual hard-copy exhibits
Jurors can often appreciate the opportunity to hold the actual exhibit in their hands, and they may even view it as “more genuine” than the same exhibit projected on a large screen. In some instances, this can be true. Now if all of the evidence is presented electronically, and then one exhibit is physically handed to the jurors to inspect, that would certainly have a greater impact than passing every exhibit to them. Additionally, post-verdict juror surveys confirm that they appreciate the effort involved and resulting efficiency of using technology in trial – especially when contrasted to opposing counsel who insisted on doing their trial presentation without any technology.

10.   This case is too boring for technology
Some cases may certainly benefit more than others by presenting the evidence electronically. However, document-intensive cases might actually benefit more than those with a number of photos and other visual evidence. Of course, without showing your photos and other demonstratives to the jury, they can only speculate as to what your witness might be describing. But, when “boring” documents such as contracts are displayed, zooming in on a key paragraph and then highlighting the critical language can help bring that exhibit to life in front of your jury.

I would be happy to send you a list of typical trial support and presentation services and equipment, including actual rates and pricing upon request. You may send me an email request using the link at the top of this page.

Your opinions, questions and thoughts are welcome and valued here. Please share yours by posting in Comments box below. Thank you!