In last week's blog entry, we discussed the courtroom and the Situation Room. In our 3rd installment, we'll continue to discuss highly effective ways to implement electronic presentation into your case preparation and execution throughout your trial.
Software: The trial presentation computer should always include a full copy of your case data, including the evidence management software used to build the database. In addition, you’ll need access to additional tools and/or people to build and/or modify custom exhibits.
For simple courtroom presentations, a generic presentation tool like Microsoft PowerPoint® is sufficient. The advantage of PowerPoint is that many people are familiar with it, so working with it is relatively easy. PowerPoint® lends itself well to canned presentations. Using PowerPoint®, it is possible to display an array of embedded programs like data tables or videos. However, PowerPoint® displays it’s weakness during trial when flexibility and the need to turn on a dime is paramount. Modifying a Powerpoint® presentation on-the-fly can be awkward. In addition, retrieving a slide out of sequence can be cumbersome and prove to be a distraction especially when the goal is to have a smooth, seamless presentation. There are other features that it lacks like easy zooming on specific parts of a document that is very important when trying to drive home a theme to your jury.
Dedicated trial software seeks to overcome the limitations of programs like PowerPoint®. Trial presentation software is designed to display a variety of different formats at the same time, so the programs are optimized to meet the specific needs of litigators. For example, you can display a deposition video with scrolling transcript text while simultaneously displaying related exhibits. Using software specifically developed for use in the courtroom, you can work from a prepared presentation yet seamlessly adapt as the trial develops. Numerous tools in the application allow you to quickly locate and extract impeaching testimony from video depositions and/or recall and highlight exhibits. Some trial presentation programs give you the ability to keep track of the admission status of the trial exhibits. The key value with these tools is their adaptability, the capability to immediately respond to changing conditions in the courtroom, to easily recall just the information you need, exactly when you need it. A technologist who is experienced with trial presentation software can make a critical difference when courtroom conditions change. And many would argue have one of the toughest jobs in the courtroom.
Preparing Your Exhibits: Just about anything can be electronically displayed to your jurors, witness and judge during the electronic presentation including but not limited to documents, photos, transcripts, reenactments, video depositions, expert testimony, animations, and custom exhibits. To take advantage of the technology, video depositions should be encoded and synchronized with the transcript so that clips can be created prior to and during trial. These tools become invaluable when you cross examine a witness and impeach him/her with their own testimony from a previous video deposition. Need to educate a jury on a point of biomechanics? Consider retaining a college professor to do a five-minute video demonstration. An advantage to this kind of presentation is that it can be recalled readily at any time to emphasize a point or refresh the jury’s recollection. Determine how you want to present your case visually. Do you need to recreate the scene of an accident by using a 3D animation? Do you need to simplify complicated engineering schematics? Or are you simply focusing on the specific language documented in a commercial contract? In cases when you need detailed and specific imagery, you may want to employ the use of a graphic designer or illustrator to prepare your exhibits. If one good picture is worth a thousand words, how much might a good animation be worth? 3D animations and other demonstrative aids will work well inside of the trial presentation software and have proven to be great way to connect with your jury.
Effectively Working with Trial Consultants: Trial consultants are specialists with extensive knowledge of every facet of the trial process including jury selection, witness preparation and presentation technology. One of the essential questions you should ask yourself is “When do I need a trial consultant?” Trial lawyers must consider that consultants can assist you before, during, and after a trial. A seasoned, sharp trial consultant can help you prepare witnesses, plan your presentation strategy, organize your trial binders and present your case electronically at trial. If you are a beginner or you prefer to go at it alone, a trial consultant may be a prudent safety net. Since trial consultants are frequently in the courtroom, they are very familiar with creating an effective electronic presentation and interacting with the court’s staff on technology issues. Do you have a case set for trial that has significant damages or exposure? The decision to use an experienced trial consultant in that instance is an absolute no-brainer. You do not want to risk the presentation of electronic evidence in such a high-pressure situation to a staff member or yourself. You have oral arguments to focus on and trying to manage this process could prove to be a stumbling block.
When it comes time to decide who to use, you’ll want to confirm experience, knowledge, and references. Speak with them on the phone. Setup a face to face meeting. This isn’t the time to gamble. Thoroughly interview candidate consultants to determine what they know, how they present themselves and their company, extent of their involvement in trials, equipment currently using, and with whom they’ve worked. All trial consultants are not created equal. Investigate the depth of their experience so that you make sure that the consultant you select is a good match for your case and your firm.
[This concludes part 3 of this series. In the next installment, we’ll conclude this series by discussing tips and practice.]
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