We have blogged previously about some of the improvements we would like to see at the new courthouse. Next week is your opportunity to share your own ideas and learn more about the new Multnomah County Courthouse. Attend the open house in person next Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 4-6 PM or online at the project’s website.
Legal Tech Blog
Archive for the ‘Trial Technology’ Category
Anyone who has provided assistance in trial presentation will identify with this. When I go to trial I bring with me everything you might expect: miscellaneous office supplies, several volumes of paper exhibits, a rolling bookcase, a laptop, small printer, second monitor, splitter, and if I’m sharing equipment with opposing counsel, a switch; and since most courtrooms were not built with any of this technology or the extra set of hands required to run all of it in mind, I find I usually also need a chair, small desk, projector, a table for my projector, sometimes my own projection screen, speakers, lots of cords, extensions for all those cords, power strips, my own personal hot spot, and plenty of duct tape. Most judges and court personnel are very friendly and accommodating, and I do my best to try to make all this extra gear fade into the background, but unfortunately, sometimes, despite my best efforts, cords that extend to the opposite side of the room get in the way, there is no ideal place to project evidence onto a screen without blinding someone, binders overwhelm witnesses and attorneys, and my presence behind counsel’s table, with all this equipment, does not go unnoticed. The good news is that any distraction it causes is temporary and is outweighed by the benefits of being able to publish and annotate key evidence for the jury and display dynamic demonstrative exhibits for them without fumbling around with large poster boards (not to mention the advantage of being able to edit them on the fly). However, hauling it through security (often up stairs in buildings that also weren’t built for ADA compliance), setting it up and breaking it all down (sometimes several times to make way for other court proceedings) can be time consuming and very difficult. It sure would be nice if courtrooms were designed to handle modern-day trial presentations, and as Multnomah County considers plans for the new courthouse, I hope that they’ll make a few improvements. Here are some suggestions that would help with some of the biggest obstacles:
- Several power outlets located at counsel’s table;
- Empty shelves behind counsel’s table and in the witness stand;
- Speakers, large projection screen, and monitors that both sides can tie into and positioned so that everyone in the courtroom can see and hear the evidence;
- Lighting designed for displaying electronic evidence;
- Space behind counsel’s table for a paralegal or someone else hired to assist with trial presentation (maybe even a small desk or table?);
- Internet access.
Obviously, the most important thing is that we build a secure courthouse that won’t crumble in an earthquake, but I think there’s also an opportunity to design it for the courtroom technology that attorneys and jurors have come to rely on and expect.
Jurors, trial judges, and arbitrators have grown to expect that lawyers will use technology in the courtroom to help present the evidence. As a result, lawyers must know how to manage the trial exhibits, demonstrative aids, and other visuals to be used at trial in an electronic environment.
With all of the new apps available for the iPad and other tablets, a lawyer can now do much more on his or her own. Complex cases like class actions, however, typically have a large number of trial exhibits, videotaped testimony, and fact patterns that involve hard-to-grasp issues that require more sophisticated demonstrative aids. In those cases, it can be invaluable to have an assistant who can rapidly find and display trial exhibits, visually connect a piece of testimony to a demonstrative exhibit, and pull up videotaped deposition testimony for impeachment.
Many capable, independent third parties offer their services to assist with trial presentation. An in-house paralegal experienced in current trial presentation software, however, provides several advantages over an outside consultant:
First, an in-house paralegal may be as familiar with the documents as the lawyer, if not more so. That familiarity makes the process of calling out or highlighting a specific part of a document very smooth. It also makes the process easier if the lawyer goes off-script during the course of his or her presentation. Jurors, judges, and arbitrators notice and appreciate that a lawyer and trial assistant work well together.
Second, an in-house paralegal has a more hands-on role pretrial than an outside consultant and therefore will be familiar with the witnesses, themes of the case, and what demonstrative aids are intended to emphasize. He or she will often be able to suggest a trial exhibit to use for cross-examination and may offer a layperson’s perspective on how the evidence is unfolding during trial.
Third, it is easier to practice opening statements and closing arguments when working with someone in-house. The lawyer will have the opportunity to practice different approaches before trial because in-house paralegals are in the office almost every day. And the paralegal’s feedback could lead to important changes to how and in what order visuals are used during opening statements and closing arguments.
It may seems like a huge undertaking to train a paralegal to use the necessary hardware and software, but a few simple steps can make it relatively painless.
Trial presentation software programs offer customized training solutions, including on-site training for lawyers and staff and thorough written materials. Then it’s just a matter of practice, practice, practice. Starting as early as possible with building the trial database and practicing with case evidence in the database will give the paralegal the opportunity to see what works, identify technical problems, make corrections and adjustments, or seek out more training in advance of trial.
Going through the practice sessions together multiple times will help the lawyer and paralegal learn the best ways to communicate with each other. A paralegal who knows the case may also be able to help the lawyer refine the message. Others who sit in on a practice session can provide additional feedback.
Courtroom logistics are a critical part of trial presentation. Coordinate with courtroom personnel in advance to make sure that equipment and additional furniture can be accommodated (there might not be room at counsel’s table for your paralegal). Visit the courtroom to get a feel for the layout, including where to access electrical outlets, set up a projector or monitors, and place demonstrative aids. You should also figure out where the attorney can best engage the jury while being able to communicate with the paralegal. The technology available in courtrooms varies greatly; you may need to make arrangements with opposing counsel to share some of the technology, such as monitors or projectors. If possible, set up and test all equipment the day before trial to prevent disasters from happening later on.
There is no replacement for experience, but the more the lawyer and paralegal practice together, the more confident both will be in each other’s abilities.
Given the potential for better performance, increased satisfaction from the fact-finder, more peace of mind for the trial lawyer, and lower costs for the client, using an in-house paralegal for trial presentation is an alternative that should be considered.
© 2013 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.
A few of us here at Stoll Berne love our iPads. We also love trial technology. Until now we hadn’t bothered with any of the apps available for trial presentation on the iPad because nothing we had seen in the demonstrations gave us the confidence that any of them could help us manage the volume of exhibits and video testimony we typically use in our cases. So we were pretty excited when inData announced the release of its free TrialDirector app for iPad. (Just a few months earlier, the firm had switched from Sanction to TrialDirector.) We have successfully used TrialDirector for trial/arbitration presentations in complex cases, but until now have been limited to doing so using a laptop and the aid of a paralegal to run the presentation. We’re excited about the combination of a trusted trial presentation software and the iPhone’s mobility and familiarity. We love that it allows you to prepare your exhibits in TrialDirector on your desktop and then export your workbook to TrialDirector for iPad. The initial reviews looked promising, so we’re doing some testing of our own and look forward to sharing our own experiences using this tool. Have you had the chance to use it yet? We’d love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, it’s available for free on iTunes. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/trialdirector-for-ipad/id563312644?mt=8