The foundations of trials have remained the same for centuries, but the effects of the technology revolution on the practice of law over the past decade are indisputable. This is nowhere more apparent than in forensic evidence identification, case management, and courtroom presentation. While forensic advancements such as digital surveillance, DNA sequencing, and 3D forensic facial reconstruction have rightly grabbed the public’s attention, computer-driven technologies have had a significant impact on the effectiveness and ease of trial presentation.
While not yet as ubiquitous as a quality cup of caffeinated coffee in Seattle, the steady momentum of presentation technology being used in the courtroom is rising at rapid pace. As it stands, law firms of every size retaining the services of a trial consultant enjoy a competitive advantage. Soon, it will be as obligatory as your Android or Apple mobile device.
So what do you need to know about presentation technology to make it work for your firm and clients? In this series of blog posts, I’ll share insights that my team and I have learned and practiced being in the hot seat in courtrooms nationwide.
Right and Wrong Times to use Electronic Trial Presentation
An impact wrench is a necessary tool in the toolbox of any master auto tech but he does not need it to repair every single car that comes into the shop. Same thought applies with presentation technology. You simply don’t need it every case. Generally speaking, simple family and bankruptcy law cases don’t need presentation technology. However, cases in which a jury is required to visualize a scenario, product or procedure are excellent candidates for presentation technology. Trial presentation technology also provides an effective tool for comparing documents, photographs, issues and decisions. For simple lists of facts or numbers, you may want to consider having your Trial Consultant create trial boards to mix up the media for the jury to keep them on their toes.
If this is your first time utilizing presentation technology, consider using it in an arbitration or mediation. These proceedings provide an opportune environment to develop a presentation style that works harmoniously with the on-site Trial Technician/Hot Seat Operator. If no settlement is reached, you’ll already have a run through of Electronic Trial Presentation under your belt which will undoubtedly help you as you prepare for doing the same in trial.
Needs List for Electronic Trial Presentation
The foundation of any courtroom presentation includes having the right people and protocols in place.
Trial Technician aka Hot Seat Operator: Trial presentation technology is a tool. And like any tool, it is only as good as the person wielding it. Handing someone a Barrett .50 Cal Sniper Rifle doesn’t make him an expert marksman. In the same breath, placing an unseasoned person in the hot seat is more than likely going to blow up in your face.
It’s highly recommended that lead counsel or co-counsel do not run the electronic presentation. We’ve seen this happen too many times and it usually doesn’t end well. If you decide to roll the dice and utilize an in-house person such as a paralegal or an associate for the role of the Trial Technician, make sure that they are highly trained on all of the presentation tools that the software has to offer. In addition, this person must be allotted plenty of time ahead of the proceedings to review and do numerous practice runs on every piece of evidence in the case file which, as you know, could be a very tall mountain to climb. In fact, we’ve been involved in cases where the total number of documents and exhibits exceeded 1 million in number. Can you say Mount Everest? You’ll also want to consider that the individual you select to be run your courtroom presentation will more than likely not be available to do anything else for you beyond the arduous task of ensuring that your presentation goes flawlessly.
In addition to your Hot Seat Operator, have someone available to support the technology infrastructure in the event a glitch occurs. In many instances, the Hot Seat Operator and the infrastructure support may be provided by the same person. This is important when Murphy’s Law kicks in and your Hot Seat Operator can troubleshoot and take care of technical issues without any of the parties being aware of it.
There are some things in life that taking the DIY approach works for. Our position is that if you’re taking a case to trial, your case merits the use of a trial presentation expert. Having an in-house staff member “wing it” is a risky proposition that you may not want to gamble with. This is where trial presentation consultants are invaluable. A battle tested Hot Seat Operator can manage your presentation needs on many levels including but not limited to setting up the equipment, trouble shooting technical issues, running the presentation while the attorney is presenting their oral arguments, creating custom demonstrative aids, and being your shadow juror. The consultant’s depth of expertise allows you to focus on the trial and not be concerned with the logistics of the deployment.
[This concludes part 1 of this series. In the next installment of this series of blogs, we’ll discuss the venue, trial prep, and hardware.]
For a complimentary case review, please call our main office in Tampa 813.991.6555 or Miami 786.708.1776. You can email your requests to info@TrilogyTrial.com and a member of our staff will respond ASAP.