Is it possible to fit your trial in the palm of your hand? My answer is yes, but that may vary from firm to firm. We all know that technology has changed the face of a normal trial. Trials move at a quicker pace, and the incorporation of audio and visual equipment has made the average trial more exciting.
It is almost impossible to navigate through your day without the use of technology. As we walk down the street, we talk on our cell phones, listen to our iPods and anticipate arriving at our destinations so we can pull out our laptops. In society, we are drawn to visual effects and pictures with high quality. Now that our homes are in high definition, it’s time for the courtroom. A large number of multimedia photo and video presentations have hit courtrooms. If jurors are prone to remember the pictures that affect them most, then why wouldn’t they be prone to remember the presentation that affected them the most?
The first step to making your trial a multimedia success would be to determine if your courtroom is wired. Now this term can mean different things to different courts. I once had a trial consultant tell me that he called a courtroom to confirm that they were wired and when he arrived the clerk rolled out a cart with a TV/VCR combo. This situation proves that it is always important to contact the court before you bring your audio and visual needs. Contact the clerk to determine if the judge will allow technology in his or her courtroom. Determine if the courtroom has its own technology and if it is compatible with what your office is using.
We can’t argue that technology makes our lives easier. However, there have been times when technology has failed us. Therefore, always pack a backup of anything you bring to court. Would you come to court with one pen? Then why come to court with just one CD of your documents? Bring your backup scandisk that has your multimedia with documents. Some attorneys and paralegals have couriers bring an extra laptop and extra projector just in case something happens. Always double check your trial bag and bring all necessary backups. It’s no fun to be the attorney or paralegal whose laptop dies during trial.
When you present your case to the court, you want your presentation to have an impact. Prior to court, determine which multimedia explains your case in a way a juror won’t forget. If you are assisting with a plaintiffs medical malpractice attorney, you will want multimedia photos of the plaintiff before the incident — photos of the plaintiff playing with the family, playing a sport or taking care of household duties. This will give the juror another view of the plaintiff and his or her family life. Your next slideshow should include pictures of the plaintiff injured. If the plaintiff was alleging a knee injury, multimedia of the knee before and after the incident will be sufficient. At this time, the plaintiff will introduce experts and documentation to support the plaintiff’s alleged incident.
As for the defense, they will also have photos of the plaintiff before the incident. The defense may want to show multimedia pictures or video of the plaintiff working, playing sports and doing household chores. These photos will be similar to what the plaintiff produces. However, the defendants can also show a timeline of prior motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls and work-related injuries that the plaintiff’s attorney forgot to mention during his or her slide show. With multimedia timelines like those in LexisNexis’ TimeMap, you will be able to add an interactive map of the plaintiff’s entire medical history to your picture show. The map is interactive and allows you to link documents and photos. If you want to mention the plaintiff’s motor vehicle accident from 1998, you can attach the complaint the plaintiff filed that has all of the same alleged knee injuries as your case. If the defense wanted to go the extra mile, they could also use a Trial Director animated show (approved by their expert) that would show how over the years the culmination of the plaintiff’s falls, motor vehicle accident and work-related slips all added to the degenerative state of the plaintiff’s knee.
Multimedia photos and videos are not restricted to just the courtroom. There has been a surge of clients asking for law offices to put together a brief demo of plaintiffs’ injuries. These demos are being used anywhere from conferences and arbitrations to mediations. The area of law that multimedia is used in knows no bounds. There are attorneys who prepare multimedia video presentations for clients in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Some clients can obtain a better understanding of what value a case has once the accident reconstructionist has provided a video of what happened in a case.
When a client is 10 states away, how do you explain the accident scene, injury and damage value of a case. The majority of attorneys and paralegals prepare a lengthy report to the client. Why not go the extra distance to show your client how on top of the case you are? Attach a multimedia copy of the plaintiff’s injuries, and video of the accident site. Most clients are requiring no paper reports, only e-mail reports. This makes your report process even easier. With the click of a button, you can upload photos and video to your e-mail. Some attorneys complain of how clients are unwilling to budge when it comes to early settlement discussions. Provide your client with a multimedia package at the beginning of the case to see if there is any hope of early settlement.
Elbert Hubbard once said: “One machine can do the work of 50 ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” With the use of multimedia at your next trial, the judge and jurors will think your case is anything but ordinary.
Jamerra J. Cherry has been a defense litigation paralegal in Philadelphia for 11 years. She is a medical malpractice paralegal with the health care practice group of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. Cherry was elected to the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals Board of Directors this year. She is also the managing
editor of the Philadelphia Forum, co-chairwoman of the technology committee and board adviser for the paralegal studies program at the Community College of Philadelphia.