First, a quick reminder that there are still a few spots remaining to see Jason Barnes, along with Robb Helt and Ted Brooks at the Trial Presentation Seminar in Dallas. Check the link if you're interested.
Jason Barnes has been involved in trial technology nearly as long as technology has been involved in trial. In order to remain competitive, Jason shares that today's trial team needs more than just hot-seat jockeys. They also need access to competent communication consulting, information design, graphic production of all kinds, along with logistic and technical support. As always, feel free to add your thoughts and comments.
1. Where do you currently
work, and what is your primary role?
co-founded Barnes & Roberts in 1998 after 8 years at a now defunct firm. I
serve as the Practice Manager, which means I lead our team of 9 trial
consultants. I also act as chief art director and mentor. It’s one of the best
parts of my job, helping my team work through difficult visual problems to find
2. Share a little about
your background, education and work experience prior to your current position.
went to university to study computer science but dropped out after 3 years when
I realized that, although I was capable enough, I had approximately zero
interest in actually being a computer programmer. What I really wanted to do
was be a commercial artist. So I spent 2 years in night school studying graphic
art while delivering furniture on weekdays and tending bar on the weekends.
After graduating, I was managing a restaurant/bar and doing freelance work when
I got married and thought a full-time job would be a good idea. As luck had it,
I landed a job with what was then Legal Arts in Dallas. I had a wonderful
mentor in Pat Stewart, the owner and a pioneer in the field. The rest is
3. Share a little about
what you do when not working.
pretty focused on becoming a better photographer, mostly landscape work. I try
to take at least one long camping trip every year, generally by myself but also
with my wife who tolerates my compulsion to get up predawn and head to the best
sunrise spot, linger for hours waiting for the tide to go out, or drive down 10
miles of jeep trail just to see what there is to see. I post regularly at https://500px.com/jasonbarnes.
|Jason "on the trail"|
4. Tell us about one or
two significant cases or experiences in your career.
v Adobe in 1997 would be the first on the list. It was my first digital trial.
We worked with the folks at InData who had a brand new program called
“TrialDirector.” As I recall, we had programmers on site who were fixing bugs
as they were identified, we through breakers in the court house because our
monitors were all giant CRT screens, and we had all video edits done in both
DepoDirector and traditional non-linear systems (Media100) just in case. It
didn’t always go well with the technology, but anyone with half a brain could
see that those techniques would be the way of the future. So, a few months
later, I opened my own firm to focus on the new techniques and technologies.
second pivotal case we had was Texas Industries v Hyundai in 1999 - the case
that spawned an industry in the Eastern District of Texas. TI wanted to assert
some patents against rival chip maker, Hyundai but didn’t want to wait years to
get to trial. They looked around and found the EDTX docket to be nearly empty.
They filed. They went to trial. They won. Big. We were proud to work with the
TI/Jones Day team on that trial (yes, we used TrialDirector to great effect).
Since then, the EDTX has become the busiest patent infringement docket in the
nation. Being in Dallas, and having a strong background in computer science, we
were well positioned to ride that wave. Other cases have been bigger in terms
of dollars or effort, but none have had more impact on my career.
5. Share about one or two
disasters during your career, and how you managed to recover.
one of our first trials in 1998, a little state court summary jury trial, we
showed up and plugged in our system set up our projector and screen, and fired
up Trial Director. We had the opening and witness all scripted out using only
live documents. The hard drive crashed. There was no back-up! Yeah, I know, but
it was literally our first case. What to do? I had an identical hard drive with
me and a tool kit (pre-9/11 security) so I took a chance that it was the power
supply and not the drive itself. Firewire drives of the time had notoriously
finicky internal power supplies. I disassembled both drives and laid them out
on the table, cut the wires on the bad power supply and spliced in the new one.
With my attorney already standing up and addressing the jury, I plugged it in.
It worked! He never knew until I told him afterwards. The memory of those parts
stretched out and taped together in front of me on the desk will haunt my
dreams forever. First rule: have a back up. Second rule: have another back up.
6. What is the best piece
of advice you could offer to someone considering stepping into your shoes?
think the most important question to ask yourself is, “am I committed to this
industry?” Being a trial consultant or hot-seat person is difficult and
demanding. Long hours and clients with very high expectations, time on the road
away from friends and family, the pressure of the courtroom combine for a very exciting
but taxing job. If you don’t love it, if you’re not committed, you will flame
out sooner than later.
7. If you had to do it
all over, what would you do differently?
would have spent more time, earlier in the development of the business, on
training and mentoring. In the first five years, I was always running from case
to case and didn’t spend enough time developing employees how to do what I was
doing. Since nobody ever trained me, I didn’t have that experience and didn’t
know how to do it for others. Now we have a formal training program and also
many built-in opportunities for ongoing training.
8. Where do you see
yourself in 5 or 10 years?
would like to be retired (or mostly so) in 10 years. Honestly, it’s hard to
imagine being 100% away from trial. I still love it and feel rewarded when I’m
doing it. So, maybe I’ll take two long camping trips a year. There are a lot of
places to see and photograph.
9. What would you
consider the biggest change that has transpired during your career?
I started, all demonstratives, with the exception of some early work in
animation, were created by hand. My desk was a drafting table. I used Pantone
and markers for color and added type with Letraset rub-on lettering. I used radiograph
pens, french curves and triangles. The revolution in desktop publishing brought
so many new tools: Illustrator, Photoshop, PowerPoint, Flash, 3D Animation,
TrialDirector, as well as large-format printing and mounting. Now we are
creating models with 3D printers and VR is likely on the (distant?) horizon. It
is exciting to think where technology, as well as the neuro-psychology of
teaching and decision-making, will take us in the future.
10. What do you predict for the future
for those in your profession?
think we are in a period of maturing technologies: boards (still important),
PowerPoint, TrialDirector/Sanction/OnCue and others. You see an incremental
advancement in these tools but nothing very disruptive to the basic status quo.
There are some areas where we are ready for a change, though. The move to all
HD (1920x1080) switching, distribution and viewing is on the near horizon. The
change will be painful though as hardware and software upgrades will be needed
in courts across the country - some of which have only recently “upgraded” to
SVGA capable systems.
noted above, I see a lot of promise in 3D printing but widespread use of VR is
still, I think, a long way off. I believe that the 3D capabilities in modern
HDTVs could be put to good use right now by folks creating 3D models, for
example, in construction defect cases. It is not quite “VR” but the idea of
asking jurors to wear polarizing glasses is easier to imagine than having them
don giant headsets.
On the business side of things, I see growing price pressure and commodification of hot-seat services. More and more law firms are likely to at least experiment with in-house presentation staff. For providers, we have to make the value proposition compelling. We have to offer more than hot-seat jockeys: communication consulting, information design, graphic production of all kinds, logistic and technical support must all be included. Of course, experience is a key. Many of us have more trial experience than our clients will ever have. Bring that experience to the team.
Contact Jason Barnes