One of the many questions that should be answered well in advance of a possible trial is: “Who will be dedicated to preparing/pulling up exhibits/video clips for the Judge and Jury? Lead attorney, other in-house person or dedicated trial presentation specialist?”. “How far in advance” and “Which trial tech” are topics for other blog posts, but for now we’ll focus on some criteria to help you assess your in-house resources and determine whether you outsource the trial presentation duties to a full-time certified specialist.
At TrialSupport, we often get calls from a savvy Associate, a sharp paralegal or an IT professional trying to figure out how to manage courtroom technology, who they need for trial, assess their internal capabilities, and/or get a quick quote from us for help. Over time we developed a simple checklist to help Clients, Trial Attorneys, Associates, Paralegals and IT Department personnel answer this question for themselves. Ultimately the decision is made by the lead trial attorney or client, but often with some important input from their team. Of course, if you have the luxury of an always available 24/7 in-house certified full-time trial presentation specialist, then use them. If not, then this article is for you.
Here’s a summary of some basic questions you can ask yourselves. For our full checklist, download the printable pdf here.
1. NO presentation assistance needed IF….
- No technology in courtroom and few exhibits or demonstratives, no PowerPoint or video
- You have key exhibits blown up on large foam boards
- Opposing counsel has stipulated they are not using any technology, projector or ELMO
- Client doesn’t understand benefits of using technology to present your case
- You expect no surprises
If there is a projector or large monitor in the courtroom, we never recommend an Attorney manages the presentation of exhibits by themselves from a laptop or iPad or elmo [however tech savvy they are], since it is almost impossible to effectively and simultaneously focus on trial content, opposing counsel, exhibits, jury and judge.
2. Assess what trial exhibit presentation techniques you will need
The individual you use will need to be very comfortable and fast with using specialized trial presentation software to perform any of the following basic actions on the fly:
- Pulling up a pdf/tiff/jpeg/png image within 1 second
- Zooming into specific text or images
- Calling out specific and multiple paragraphs in a complex document
- Enlarging text in multi-column or page documents or spreadsheets
- Creating side by side comparison image views from different exhibits
- Redacting exhibits
- Saving marked up documents as separate exhibit # or to present later
- Preserving all annotated exhibits for the record from both sides
- Save markups from portable Elmo
- Play/stop/pause/replay/edit video
- Play/stop/pause/replay/edit depo clips with synced text
- Play/stop/pause/replay/edit depo clips with synced exhibits
- Play/stop/pause/replay/edit audio
3. Assess trial presentation software proficiency and experience
- Use Professional trial presentation software [i.e. TrialDirector or OnCue]
- Certified with software [recent and current]
- Well trained and performs at multiple trials per year
- Ability to create optimized trial database
- Coded all the exhibits for fast recall and screen presentation
4. Assess Other Software Skills needed
Determine the degree of need, familiarity, experience, certified status, etc.
- Adobe Acrobat –
- PowerPoint –
- Excel –
- Video Editing software –
- Word –
- Exhibit stamping [batch 100+ docs/1000 pages+]
- Deposition Software
7. Assess availability of Critical Trial Hardware
- Dedicated trial computer [ensure minimum specs]
- Dedicated identical BACKUP trial computer [synced daily]
- Dedicated trial iPad
- Portable elmo for expert on stand
- Portable elmo for attorney
- Cables/connectors for all laptop types
- Backup cables, strong laser pointers [red/green/blue], PPT remotes, etc..
8. Assess Trial Focus/demeanor
- Is extremely calm under pressure and trial tested
- Familiar with courtroom etiquette/rules
- 100% reliable and on-time
- Track presented/ admitted exhibits for both sides in real time/ generate reports
- Personality/Gender compatibility with trial team
9. Assess Client/Budget
- Client understands need/benefit of trial tech
- Budget approved for dedicated trial presentation tech [$5k+/week]
10. Other Misc. Trial Attorney Needs
- Any other unique needs your firm or team may have
Some of these skills above may not be needed at all, so focus on the core competencies: typically, 80-90% of a trial tech’s time in court will be spent on pulling up pdf exhibits fast, zooming in, and highlighting key phrases or excerpts. However, it’s invariably that 1% task [system crash, cable malfunction, excel spreadsheet exhibit, extra depo clip, last minute exhibit etc.] that really tests the tech in front of the judge and jury. Hopefully this is a starting point for a more detailed discussion and assessment of your in-house and outsourced needs.
Lastly, what could go wrong!
Most trial techs have been in trials where one side had an efficient, smooth, professional delivery of evidence. The jury could see key facts clearly and the attorney was able to move confidently through various documents with precision and clarity.
Conversely, opposing counsel was slow to find documents, unable to zoom in correctly, used an ELMO to wave out of focus images across the screen, had a laptop malfunction or freeze, presented exhibits to the jury before they were approved by the judge and had images that were too wide for the projector screen. The Jurors smiled politely and took notes.
At TrialSupport, our trial techs do this for a living, 12 months out of the year, in a wide variety of wired and non-wired courtrooms, so are as prepared as possible for what happens during trial. We cannot try your case for you, but we can certainly help you effectively present evidence to the judge and jury, and free you up to focus on the other moving variables of trial.
For our full checklist, download the printable pdf here. Use this to better assess your in-house resources or use as backup to justify the benefits of outsourcing.
Got questions? Contact us here 24/7/365.