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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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best Wishes for a Successful and Prosperous 2016!

I hope this past year and Holiday Season have been good for you, and that the New Year brings new and exciting opportunities. Of course, we each have a certain degree of control and personal responsibility -- I’ve never seen a door knock upon itself. Every one of us must do our part to search out new opportunities and take advantage of those that might work for us. What we choose to do when presented with those opportunities is up to us. We will pass by some, investigate others, and jump straight into the middle of a few. 

Along these lines, I would like to add that there are only a few opportunities remaining to attend the first-ever Trial Technology Seminar, this February in Dallas. Once it is booked up, that’s it. If you are interested in the use of technology in trial, graphics, database management, business development, marketing and other related topics, this may be one of those opportunities you should look into. You can view the flyer here:

Thank you for reading, and I truly hope you find this blog helpful. Happy New Year, and may 2016 be a great one for all of us!

Ted Brooks 
Litigation-Tech LLC 
Los Angeles, San Francisco
888-907-4434 Toll-free
2015 Best Courtroom Presentation Providers Award

Monday, December 28, 2015

Preparing for Trial – Local Courts


Many things are often taken for granted, especially when in familiar surroundings. With that in mind, here are a few general items to consider when preparing to go to trial in your "local" courthouse. Unless you're in trial more often than most, things may not go as expected. Forgetting even one of these could easily add a little extra panic to the recipe.

1. Scheduling – In busier venues such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, you may find that your “Trial Date” is actually when you will be assigned a Department, which can then put you in a “trailing” position for a few days or even weeks. This can make planning and scheduling a little tricky, but you should be prepared to adjust your calendar. This affects your entire trial team, including witnesses, vendors and support staff.

2. Courtroom visit – Even though you may be familiar with your local courthouse, unless you’ve been in trial recently (within a year or less) in the same exact courtroom, with the same Judge, Clerk, Bailiff and Reporter, you may be in for a surprise. You might find changes in court staff, equipment availability or preferences as to how and when you may set up. You should determine desired seating arrangements and explore options for Internet access. 

3. Exhibits – You should avoid making assumptions as to how many hard-copy exhibits sets you will drag into the courtroom, or where you will store them – especially in larger matters with lots of exhibit binders. It can be helpful for parties to agree upon a joint list for the bulk of the evidence, each adding their own exhibits as needed. Check the Local Rules, but also discuss options with opposing counsel and address the issue with the Court. It can save a lot of time, frustration and money. Most courts will not appreciate a lot of duplication.

4. War Room – How “local” is local? Just because your office is downtown near the courthouse does not necessarily make it a convenient place to work from during trial or after-hours. Where will you work during lunch or in the evenings, when time is limited? Will you have a printer and scanner in the courtroom? Although a local copy service can be very helpful, the more you can handle on-site, the better. This is especially true for small, quick jobs during the court day.

5. Commuting – If long commutes are a concern, it might make sense to get a hotel near the courthouse. Eliminating 2-3 hours or more of commute time daily can be a real benefit during trial. Your trial day is not over at 4:30 – you will often find yourself preparing for witnesses late into the night and early in the morning before trial resumes. 12-hour days or longer are not uncommon in trial. A printer and scanner can be placed in a guest-room as well, even if a separate war-room is not available.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pro Files: Jason Barnes

Jason Barnes
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?

I 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 solutions. 
2.       Share a little about your background, education and work experience prior to your current position.
I 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 history. 
3.       Share a little about what you do when not working.
I’m 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
Jason "on the trail"

4.       Tell us about one or two significant cases or experiences in your career.
Quantel 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.

The 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.
In 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?
I 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?
I 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?
I 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?
When 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?
I 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.

As 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
Phone: 214-421-5900 

Don't forget - if you haven't already registered, there are a few spots left to see Jason Barnes, along with Robb Helt and Ted Brooks at the Trial Presentation Seminar in Dallas.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Pro Files: Bruce Balmer

If you've ever been involved in the technical aspects of legal videography, you've likely learned a trick or two from Bruce Balmer. He is a regular and frequent contributor on the Yahoo Legal Videography group, offering equipment and software recommendations, and tips on how to correctly record a deposition. Even if you're not concerned with how it gets done, Bruce is a very interesting guy. 

Bruce Balmer, CIRM, CLVS, CCVS
1.              Where do you currently work, and what is your primary role?
CompuScripts, Inc. and CompuScripts Captioning, Inc., two closely held companies specializing in court reporting, legal videography, and closed captioning services. I provide technical and IT support for both companies and lead the legal videography efforts.

2.       Share a little about your background, education and work experience prior to your current position.
I have a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of South Carolina, along with several professional certifications related to manufacturing operations and legal videography.

My professional career began as a manufacturing specialist with Corning Glass Works (now Corning, Inc.), Whirlpool Corporation, and a European startup in South Carolina. I ultimately moved out of manufacturing and into distribution in the mid 1990’s. I was a part of a team developing a brick and mortar company’s entry into internet ordering in the early 2000’s, along with the installation of a number of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. I left that company to join my wife’s court reporting and captioning firms – she needed help, and I had a lot of exposure on how to streamline operations so we could expand our offerings without working ourselves to death.

3.       Share a little about what you do when not working. 
I’ve been a runner since 1978. I play golf (poorly), walk my rescue dogs, bike, and contemplate the universe, one day at a time. I spend a lot of time helping out other videographers on several of the legal video blogs on the web. I serve on the Media Team at a local church and on the NCRA CLVS Council.

4.       Tell us about one or two significant cases or experiences in your career. 
I had just started in the legal video business and was brought into a multi-deposition case requiring fast turnarounds. We were running MiniDV tape at the time, and I was having to encode the tape every night to meet delivery deadlines. Woke up every 85 minutes to flip tapes. Insanity, and sleeplessness, reigned. I went to a convention in LA and saw a software application that would digitize and QC video on the fly (Serious Magic’s DV Rack). My world perspective changed overnight. I was a computer junkie who was able to leverage that exposure and experience and apply it in (what was then) a unique way in my new profession.

5.       Share about one or two disasters during your career, and how you managed to recover.
My first camera purchase did not have the capability to do timestamping on digital ports, and I ultimately had to scrap that camera in order to achieve the streamlined workflow I envisioned for legal video. It ultimately forced me to become a prolific reader (and collector) of operator manuals used in the legal video industry. Nobody in the industry was doing what I was trying to do, and I had to depend on my own research to figure things out. I’ve since developed, maintained, and circulated numerous lists of equipment that are appropriate for the legal video industry to help the new folks from tripping up on an inappropriate purchase.

On a completely different note, our captioning company received some money in advance to do a large amount of work over an extended period of time. We didn’t allocate the money properly and ended using it up before the bulk of the work was completed. We cut spending to the bone to meet payroll and complete the work, impacting our cash flow for a period of time. We ultimately set up a management system that released money to the company’s spending account based on completed work delivered to the client. Call it the growing pains of a (then) young, private, company.

6.       What is the best piece of advice you could offer to someone considering stepping into your shoes? 
Become certified. It opens your eyes to what should be done. Learn how to read manuals and understand your equipment and connection paths. Become a great troubleshooter and problem solver. Always bring multiple solutions to a potential problem to every event. Listen intently. Be willing to throw out equipment and processes when they keep you from moving forward. Delight the client, even if you have to jump through hoops to do it.

7.       If you had to do it all over, what would you do differently? 
I was afraid of dropping out of corporate America and into small business. A majority of my family was employed by larger companies for most of my youth. As a result, I didn’t get exposed to the benefits (and struggles) of small, closely held businesses. I’ve now been in the small business sector for over a decade, enjoy it immensely, and wish I had made the change sooner. It takes two minutes to make major decisions – decisions that take months in the corporate environment.

8.       Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? 
I’ve been giving back to the industry for the last 8 years. I plan on expanding the sharing of what I’ve learned over the next 10 years – the industry needs someone who can read manuals.

Balmer: "Learn how to read manuals"
9.       What would you consider the biggest change that has transpired during your career? 
I started my professional career in May, 1981. The IBM PC was introduced to the business world in August, 1981. You had a choice – stick with the proven past, or take a risk with the newest of unproven tools. I took the path less traveled, and it dramatically impacted the rest of my career (thank you, Robert Frost, for The Road Not Taken).

10.   What do you predict for the future for those in your profession?
There will be constant change in offerings in the legal video sector, and capital acquisitions are going to have a shorter life span than what we experienced in the past. Embrace the trend and seek a path that embraces continuous improvement in your breadth and quality of offerings.

Contact Bruce Balmer
Phone: 803-988-0086

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pro Files: Robb Helt

This is the first interview of a new series in which we will take a look at what makes some of the people in our professions tick. If you've been in the trial technology trenches for a few years, you've probably heard of Robb Helt. He started the original Trial Technology group on Yahoo, recently launched a popular podcast series, and has a very impressive resume'. Feel free to follow up with your questions and comments.

Robb Helt

1.       Where do you currently work, and what is your primary role?
Suann Ingle Associates LLC. - Director of Trial Technology and Client Development

2.       Share a little about your background, education and work experience prior to your current position.
I started in this industry in late 1998 doing video depositions for McDaniel & Wells. This moved quickly into the role of Trial Presentation. Prior to coming to M&W I graduated from Wichita State University with a BS in Information Systems Management and then a Masters from the University of Arkansas in the same. I left McDaniel & Wells on June 28, 2004 to start my own company, Litigation Resource Group in Fort Smith Arkansas. LRG was in business from Jan 1 2005 to Jan 16 2014 when we were purchased by a firm in Memphis TN. After spending a little over a year in Memphis, I am now living in Dallas/Fort Worth. 

3.       Share a little about what you do when not working.
When not working I am playing golf and spending time with friends and family. It is very rare that I am not working. I have an extremely understanding wife.

4.       Tell us about one or two significant cases or experiences in your career.
The West Memphis Three case was one of the most memorable for me because of the impact that it had. The second, of course, was the Super Bowl of trials and that was the BP Oil Spill Trial in New Orleans. The BP trial was exciting because of the stress level. 125,000,000 documents to call up at a moment’s notice. It was different because the prep lasted 15 months and there were more than 70,000 exhibits. We pushed everything to it’s limit…the software, hardware, and ourselves.

Robb at work in the Haliburton war room

5.       Share about one or two disasters during your career, and how you managed to recover.
1. I used the "pack and go" feature one time in the middle of the day during trial. It completely wiped my database and all global paths. I recovered by grabbing the database backup, shoving it to another laptop and moving the DAT, CMS and MDB. All of this was done while my lawyer was asking questions of a witness.
2. I had a kidney stone during a trial in 2009. I was able to do the trial while on prescription pain meds and never missed a beat. However, I do not remember 2 days of the trial. I was there but I have no memory. I was truly on Auto Pilot.

6.       What is the best piece of advice you could offer to someone considering stepping into your shoes?
Trial Technicians have an insatiable work ethic to do great work and provide superior service to our clients. My success is a result of my dedication and discipline: I eat, sleep and breathe trial.  The only other advice would be NEVER sign a non compete. 

7.       If you had to do it all over, what would you do differently?
I would not change a thing, other than the sale of LRG in 2014. I would have kept the company and merged it into my current company.

8.       Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
Teaching this industry to those who are willing to learn.

9.       What would you consider the biggest change that has transpired during your career?
The reception of my podcast and the introduction of all things "touch"

10.   What do you predict for the future for those in your profession?
I think it is going to be more of a Software as a Service industry and with things becoming easier and less expensive, you are going to see more and more paralegals and lawyers trying to do this themselves. It has been going that direction for 10 years and continues to go even more with all things touch being at their disposal.

Contact Robb Helt:
Phone: 682-593-5610