Trial lawyers like the capabilities of the new litigation software, and many have grown quite comfortable going to the digital screen. As Robert Abrams notes, "It's not magic. It's what trial lawyers should know, or they're not going to be good trial lawyers." Legal Times interviews with D.C. litigators reveal that good litigators are also aware that high tech isn't always the best way to sway the jury. "The flash is not the goal," says Gregg LoCascio. "It's all about getting the message across."
The complete article, which includes short quotations from a number of lawyers, will give you lots of ideas for using (as opposed to over-using) technology at your next trial.
You can find some interesting examples of litigation-related Powerpoint presentations in the "PowerPoint Examples" category of Blake Boyd's The Trial Technologist's View. And you'll find more useful tips in the other categories of the weblog.
Is it possible to use too much courtroom tech? Undoubtedly, yes. When your trial technology is slowing down the trial or confusing the jury, you're trying to do too much. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
The primary purpose of trial technology should be to help the jury learn and remember your key points. It should never confuse the jury or get in the way of understanding.
Not every point is a key point. You don't need a timeline of unimportant events or an animation of something that doesn't matter.
You must be comfortable with your trial technology. If you're not comfortable, the jury won't be comfortable. If you're not working the machines yourself, which you're probably not, come up with a simple shorthand method of communicating exactly what you want to your technology staff. And remember to say please.
It's easy to serve up too much information. Anything you project on a screen should complement what you are saying, not compete with it.
Remember that few jurors can do two things at once. Don't expect them to read a projected document and listen to your questions about it at the same time. If you're going to educate with technology, give the jury a chance to learn.
When you move onto your next point, what's happening on the screen should reflect that. Don't continue to display an exhibit after you've moved on. Dim the screen immediately.
In opening and closing, you can move beyond the reading-while-listening problem by using photos, animations, or graphics that illustrate your points, a style popularized by Mark Lanier.
If it helps the jury to learn, comprehend, or remember, don't be afraid to entertain a little. Even though you're a lawyer, you're not required to be boring.
Finally, jurors are very sensitive to how quickly a trial is moving along. Whenever your trial technology is slowing things down, your trial technology is a mistake. Make sure your technology staff is sensitive to this important point.
In terms of numbers of episodes, it's fairly new: The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. But I've listened to parts of the first two episodes and they're both very interesting. I'm going to listen to them in full:
Hosting The Digital Edge are Sharon Nelson, President of legal-tech company Sensei Enterprises, Inc., and Jim Calloway, director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program and proprietor of Jim Calloway's Law Practice Tips. Thanks for the link to Celia C. Elwell, a paralegal in Oklahoma City.
From PowerPoint presentations to slick graphics flashed on interactive whiteboards, computers are transforming the way justice is delivered to defendants who want their day in court.
The Internet is filled with tip sheets for lawyers looking to get the most out of computer technology during trial.
Professional legal conferences include sessions on using technology in the courtroom. A conference Friday in Tacoma was titled, “Using Courtroom Technology in Thurston County and Pierce County,” and featured speakers from both counties’ prosecuting attorney’s offices.
Pierce County prosecutors recently debuted an interactive whiteboard that allows them to introduce evidence and re-create crime scenes for a jury with the click of a mouse.
“I certainly think it’s going in that direction,” said Michael Kawamura, who supervises Pierce County’s public defenders.
Legal consultants agree.
“At a presentation I recently gave to a room of 150 to 200 lawyers, almost every one raised his hand in response to my question: ‘How many of you have used PowerPoint or an electronic presentation program in a closing?’” said Todd Flaming, an Illinois attorney and adjunct law professor who recently served as chairman of the Illinois State Bar Association’s standing committee on legal technology.
Some legal consultants tout interactive media as a way to better connect with jurors who increasingly are immersed in a gadget-filled world.
The quoted article is an example of the way lawyers are perceived in the lay press. But it's not really true that gadgets are replacing oratory; rather, gadgets are enabling a new kind of oratory. It's one that all lawyers should be familiar with. Though some lawyers with lesser-damage cases think that the use of technology might result in "over-trying" a case, one could argue that even if juries don't expect or demand technology in every case, they certainly won't object to it in a way that would be harmful to the client. The quoted article proves the point.
You can review, analyze, and present documents and other evidence with TrialSmart, which costs only $295 for a single-user license. This makes it cheaper than its most popular competitors, e.g., Summation, Sanction, Trial Director, and LiveNote.
With TrialSmart, you can import, analyze, and present depositions, documents, video, and more. The only downside is that at present, it requires a Mac. TrialSmart won't work for Windows users.
I’ve put together a disk ‘Winning with PowerPoint’ that has over 100 examples for plaintiff’s attorneys. There are more than 10 opening statements, 10 closing arguments, 35 full mediations (medical malpractice, nursing homes, premises liability, car wrecks…) and more than 50 partial examples (timelines, lost wages, liability, damages…). The examples come from attorneys throughout the country.
To get the disk, click on the "Free CD Rom" button on the front of Swanner's weblog. Although free, Swanner asks that anyone who requests a disk contribute an example. Details here.