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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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

$haring Trial Support Costs

Regardless how large your trial may be, saving your client a little money is usually a good thing -- at least when it doesn't come at the cost of compromised quality (or malpractice). Here are a few possible ways to reduce some of your trial costs. 

Joint Trial Exhibits

Many courts appreciate (and some require) parties to agree upon and submit a set of Joint Trial Exhibits. A good place to start would be the deposition exhibits – particularly if they have been sequentially numbered from the outset, rather than starting over with each deponent. Here – let me repeat that: Sequentially number your deposition exhibits. Even if you have a few gaps due to depos being taken simultaneously, it will save a lot of time and trouble later. A good database programmer can work with just about anything you hand them, but dealing with duplicate numbered exhibits, then adding in some with letters just makes it more difficult. I would also recommend always using numbers instead of letters, as it can be difficult in a courtroom to understand whether you’re asking for exhibit “B,” “D,” “P,” or “T.” Unless you’re experienced with using the phonetic alphabet, your court reporter will not be happy.

Printing costs are also shared, and duplications are less likely. Any exhibit stickers may be placed electronically, and then saved/printed with Joint Trial Exhibit Bates numbers, making it an easy task for all to quickly get to the same page.

Stipulation can save a great deal of trial time, since you won’t have to go through the authentication process for every exhibit.

Trial Presentation Equipment

Sharing a projector and screen happens almost always. In fact, I have only seen parties each bring in and use their own separate systems once in my entire trial presentation career of nearly 20 years. That was a “unique” experience, to say the least. Opposing counsel had two projectors, two screens, and two trial techs – one for exhibits, and the other for video. Our side just had me using TrialDirector, which looked and worked out better.

In any event, most courtrooms won’t have the extra space to set up two of everything, so it is a good idea to breach this topic with opposing early on. In fact, our standard trial support estimate includes the following language: “Presentation equipment costs would normally be split between parties. In some cases, other costs and services may be shared between parties.” A complete courtroom setup can run $1000 or more weekly, so cutting this cost in half is a no-brainer. Since I am often asked, I will also mention that a properly installed system will NOT allow opposing counsel or their trial tech to see anything you are doing, unless you are presenting evidence to the jury and/or Court.

Even when you're fortunate enough to land in a "wired" courtroom, there are still some things you may need, and it is always advisable to have your trial tech inspect and test it out before trial. You may need extra cables, a speaker set, monitors or even an ELMO. You will also need to determine if both HDMI and VGA are available, and which will work better with your laptops.

Neutral Exhibit Access

Full-service trial prep and presentation support can run $10,000 or more per week. Although this isn't always necessarily the ideal arrangement, cutting costs by 50% can often be a quick and easy way of getting a client or insurance carrier on board. What it does mean is that someone must be a gatekeeper to all the evidence. Giving the keys to the kingdom to some unscrupulous trial tech working for both sides could be a direct ethical conflict, and might also be considered malpractice.

For this type of arrangement to work properly, only one party (usually the original hiring party) will be able to discuss work-product and privileged information with the trial tech. Opposing counsel will have only neutral access to display a desired exhibit upon verbal request during the trial. In trials where both parties need to prepare exhibits or deposition impeachments in a confidential or privileged manner, two trial techs should be used – one for each party.

Your Trial Presentation Consultant should be able to discuss these options with you, and should also be experienced and willing to assist in brokering a cost-sharing arrangement with your opponent.

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