I am pleased to present the following Guest Post from Blake Boyd, who is one of the premier Trial Technologists and Legal Presentation Specialists in America:
Since the advent and rise in popularity of the internet, the general public has changed the way we all gather our news, research and general information. This electronic age has trickled it's way into the courtroom. Many major cities in the United States are adding courtroom A/V expenses into their budgets. Newly constructed courthouses are almost guaranteed to at least include a projector, screen, and sometimes individual monitors for the Judge and Jury to view. Have you found yourself wondering how you can take advantage of these visual tools?
As the technology has become more popular so has the usage of Trial Technologists. When I started helping present evidence in trial 8 years ago, the major fear of most attorneys was they would look "too flashy". Other attorneys in the courtroom would joke saying, "Are you going to show us movies? Do we get to watch you play games? What is all of this for?" I would sit back and smile as they didn't understand how powerful it is to explain the issues of a case visually to the Jury. Now those same attorneys are trying their hardest to incorporate audio visual presentations into their case.
I talk to many attorneys that are having trouble justifying the added expense of hiring a Trial Technologist, and while I'm an strong advocate of the usage of technology in the courtroom, some cases do, and some don't, justify that expense. When trying to help them answer this question I tell them to think about these different options, each has their pro's and con's:
Hiring a full service Trial Technology company. If the Technologist hired is experienced and competent, you will receive some great benefits. One of the most important of these is we spend more time in trial than most attorneys do. While we may not know the in's and out's of the law, we see the real world strategies and their results on a monthly basis. Many times, I get hired on a case that is very similar to one that I have previously worked. I can then give suggestions of what another attorney's strategy was, and whether or not it was effective.
When you are in the heat of the battle you can always use another opinion. A Trial Technologist's opinion is one that is more of an outside view. While we strive to do everything in our power to help bring positive results for our clients, we have no monetary interest vested in the outcome. We also don't typically know the minute details of your case, which gives us a more independent view of how testimony is going. I have a group of clients that hire me specifically for my opinion, but I would never claim to be a Jury Consultant. Our opinions might not be the correct one, but having a different person's point of view is always helpful.
Computers break and we all know this. Your Trial Technologist should be able to troubleshoot any and all equipment glitches. This added benefit not only helps ease ones mind, but allows your case to run smoother and quicker. Another often overlooked aspect is that we possibly know the court staff, which can be useful in getting even more opinions, access to normally off limits conference rooms and other small perks such as private restrooms and coffee in the mornings.
But beware, as quickly as this technology has become widely used there have been many companies that are offering these services, but do not have the experience to provide all of the benefits listed above. These services are also costly, as our expertise in this field is rare, and it cannot be taught in a traditional school setting.
Having an associate or paralegal run the technology. If your case cannot justify the added expense of a Trial Technologist, the next option is typically to look within your office peers to help run the technology. Most paralegals and/or associates can be quickly taught how to setup the equipment and run the basics of trial presentation software. In fact, most of the legal presentation software packages are designed for ease of use.
If you decide to take this route, you may still hire a Trial Technology company to load your documents, videos, and photographs into your laptop at far more minimal costs. They can also design your PowerPoint/Keynote presentations ahead of time, so all that is required on your end is loading the presentation and clicking next. This type of service is what's known in the industry as a "Trial in the Bag" approach. If used properly it can be very cost effective.
You should make sure the person you choose to help you has some trouble shooting background and has more expertise than the average computer user. You don't want to call your next witness by video deposition only to find out the computer isn't working.
Run the technology yourself. Out of my 150+ trials, I've seen multiple instances where attorneys have attempted to run the whole show themselves. And the majority of the time they have failed, packed their equipment and proceeded without using technology at all. On the other hand, I've seen some that run a flawless presentation from voire dire to closing.
The most effective use, and where I see the majority of success is using only PowerPoint/Keynote in opening and closing. It truly is hard to cross examine a witness while at the same time trying to find a document to put on the screen, rebut their answer, and find the next document to impeach with. Can you see how it would get complicated?
In my opinion this should be a last resort as when you are in the trenches of trial, your focus should be on proving your points through question and answers, and not having to worry about using the technology.
Do not use any technology. Not every case justifies using technology at all. Matters that are not complex still benefit from having a couple blowup boards created, and those being the extent of your visual aides. If neither you nor none of your peers feel comfortable running the technology, it's normally a better to leave the equipment at home and try your case in the traditional sense. Having no technology compared to have a poorly run trial is far more beneficial to your case. I personally have attended trials where I thought my cost was not justified.
Whether you use technology in your trial depends on many factors that only you can answer for yourself. But in today's world, with the way your jurors have learned to gather their information, it is wise to step back and weigh all the options. No longer is a legal pad and pencil the way to try a case, Jurors want to see the document you are questioning from, they want to see the witness testifying by video and they are starting to expect it.
Recently a juror said it best when being questioned by opposing counsel after the verdict was rendered: "I'm a 1st grade teacher and one way we teach our children is through the use of projectors and PowerPoint in the classroom. Your lack of technology made some points very hard to follow".
Blake M. Boyd is a Trial Technologist and Legal Presentation Specialist that covers courtroom technology at his blog The Trial Technologist's View. In 2001 he founded, Litigation Dynamics (LD) which offers complete Litigation Support services for clients throughout the country. Over the past 6 years LD has created hundreds of presentations that have been used in cases ranging from small hearings to multi-national trials. LD clients range from solo practicioners to AMA100 firms, with a focus on providing cost effective solutions to solo and small law firms. Mr. Boyd has gained invaluable experience from over 150 jury trials, 300 mediations and countless other legal matters.