A Day in Trial

There is an increasing interest in using trial presentationsoftware to help persuade jurors in litigation of all types. Once considered the domain of themega-firms with their billion-dollar clients, trial presentation technology hasnow trickled down to the point that it can be used in most any matter. Thedecision is no longer whether or not to use it, but how to get the most out ofit, while staying within the budget. There are a few common options.

You may want to have an attorney handle it. At first glance,this appears to be a perfect match. Another attorney billing on the case, andthey are already familiar with the exhibits and the case. From a client’sperspective, however, the billing rate is likely quite a bit higher than thatof a trial technician, but even more importantly, it takes a great deal of timeto manage the database, prepare exhibits and deposition clips, and present theevidence. If the assigned attorney has little else to do, it could work. Ifthere are other “normal” trial responsibilities, adding a menu of tasks thatrequire constant attention and maintenance may not be a good fit.

Another way to staff your trial presentation is to pull aparalegal and have them do it. However, as in the example above, chances areyou’ve already assigned a full day’s workload on your paralegals, and unlessyou’re able to relieve them of all of their other chores during trial, burnoutmay be on the near horizon. It is notrealistic to expect anyone to work two full-time jobs, and that is about whatit amounts to.

Other considerations are familiarity with the software,protocols, and the case itself. Trial presentation software is not unlike manyother specialized programs that unless you use them regularly, you are notreally comfortable or familiar with the features. In trial, you don’t have time to search the Help Menu for solutions,or call for support when you have a problem. It’s all on you, and if youcannot make it work in a matter of seconds, you may find yourself using the hardcopy exhibits.

Whether in-house oroutsourced, a full-time trial presentation technician or consultant isgenerally going to be the best option available. Someone whose solefunction is to ensure that every exhibit is accessible, and presented to thejury as needed. The more experience they have in this role, the better thingswill flow, and the trial presentation database should be their primaryfunction. All other tasks should take secondary roles, as it often requires14-16 hours per day or more during trial to keep everything rolling smoothly. Oncecounsel is finished preparing for the next day’s witnesses and retires for theevening, the trial tech goes to work, getting all exhibits and testimony readyto go, backing up the database, and adding new documents. They will also befamiliar with the courtroom presentation equipment, and how to deal with theCourt staff.

Although it may seemcounter-intuitive to bring in someone who isn’t already familiar with yourcase, this can actually be one of the greatest assets of a consultant. Itis true that they don’t know the case, or how you view things. Neither willyour jurors, and if you have someone willing to share an objective “outsider’s”perspective, that’s the closest you can get to the mind of your jurors. Don’texpect (or ask) them to see it your way, and don’t attempt to convince them. Youdon’t need another pat on the back or a “yes-man.” Just ask for their feedback,and take advantage of any insight they have to offer.

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