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For lawyers who are old enough to remember Perry Mason, it can be hard to let go of the image of the great litigator who goes into a courtroom battle with nothing but a legal pad and a brilliant mind. But those days, for better or worse, are over. Competition, jury expectations and plain old human progress have made technology and trials go hand in hand. As a consequence, many law firms are undertaking substantial investments in litigation-support technologies. But firms often discover that their litigators do not fully take advantage of expensive new systems or software applications. This can happen when law firms fail to develop an adequate training strategy, and attorneys and legal assistants do not fully understand the benefits of the support technologies and consequently do not use them. This wastes not only money but also human and professional potential as well. Development of a comprehensive training plan can resolve this problem, and ensure that all attorneys who need the training truly absorb the information and skills they need to be competitive. Training in new technology has often been done on an ad hoc basis. The key change in litigation-support technology training lies in the shift from educating a handful of attorneys and legal assistants within the firm or from a reliance on outside consultants to broad training of virtually all of the firm’s litigators and legal assistants. Such training is best seen as an integral part of every courtroom lawyer’s professional development, rather than as a rare or exotic bird pulled out only on special occasions. Although many variations of support technologies exist on the market, most law firms select a discovery-management software and a case-presentation software as the basic package of technologies to support litigation efforts. When a discovery-management software is selected by a firm, various levels of training should be offered to every litigator and litigation legal assistant to develop a firmwide understanding of the software and its capabilities. An example, for discussion purposes, is training for Summation Legal Technologies’ Summation Blaze, version 2.1, for discovery software. Attorney and legal-assistant training for the software is divided into two levels: A threshold level for senior litigators and an enhanced level for younger litigators and legal assistants. Every litigator and litigation legal assistant is encouraged to participate in at least one level of training. The threshold level of training is designed to include education on how the discovery-management software organizes materials, how attorneys must define issues for effective use of the software, what functions the software can actually perform and constraints in the use of the software. The threshold training also focuses on the ability to access data compiled with the use of the software and appropriate staffing levels for use of the software in a given case. Without this type of overview training, senior attorneys cannot make informed decisions in using the technology. IN THE BEGINNING… Threshold training of this nature is offered in sessions lasting three hours, a minimal time investment for busy litigators. Training-class size is limited to eight participants so that individual attention can be given to everyone. Training is undertaken in a room specially equipped with individual work stations, so that each person actually performs functions using the software. This hands-on technique improves general understanding of the features of the software significantly. More extensive training is offered to attorneys and legal assistants who will operate discovery-management software on a daily basis. This involves full exposure to the software functions and requires hands-on operation of the software at a work station during training. Full operational training of this nature generally requires a period of 12 hours. Breaking the training into two six-hour days maximizes the information covered during the session while reducing the risk of exhausting the participants. Classes are limited to eight participants to insure individual attention. Training rooms with individual work stations are mandatory for this type of instruction. The training program also includes an additional level of training for non-lawyer personnel within the firm’s information systems department. This training relates to installation and maintenance of the software. Systems personnel are also included in sessions for attorneys and legal assistants. Providing this broader range of opportunities for systems employees insures a broad range of resources to answer future questions from software users. Because of the extensive number of functions performed by discovery-management software and because the software continues to evolve in new versions, training for this type of technology may best be acquired through vendors from outside the law firm. A few caveats: A vendor should be certified by the developer of the software; and the vendor should have a set schedule of fees. Fees should be reviewed for the number of training classes that will be required within the firm at different levels, showing the full cost of the outside expertise. The vendor, however, also should be evaluated for its ability to communicate with attorneys and legal assistants. The success of any training program is largely predicated on the ability of the course leaders to communicate clearly with the participants. If trainers speak in technical jargon that is not understood by participants or move too quickly through program materials, the training effort will be ineffective. MAKING ONE’S CASE Training in the use of case-presentation technology can also be offered at multiple levels. A threshold training level should be geared to familiarize attorneys and legal assistants with the capabilities of the software, the practical requirements for its use and potential objections or problems. An advanced training level should focus on hands-on operation of the software and preparation of evidence for use with the software. One approach is to offer both the threshold and advanced training levels to attorneys and legal assistants in the firm. InData Corp.’s Director Suite, version 2.3, offers an example of a frequently used case-presentation software, for discussion purposes. All litigators firmwide should be encouraged to enroll in at least one level of training. The threshold training level is offered in a two-hour session to groups as large as 50. Individual work stations for this training are not required. Threshold-level training includes a demonstration of all of the features of the software. Unless participants see the features with their own eyes, they will not understand all of the courtroom document special effects such as color highlighting, enlargement, underlining, document scrolling, document rotation and free-hand writing on the document. Threshold training also covers presenting videotape testimony, impeachment of witnesses by use of videotape clips, use of animation, timelines and demonstrative evidence. Initial training includes instruction on hardware configurations, emphasizing how equipment, including monitors and projection screens, can be configured for the particular trial courtroom. This first level of training also includes an emphasis on the schedule of events that must occur if case-presentation technology is to be used effectively. Users of the technology should understand which decisions must be made from inception of the case to trial, and the time frames for implementation of those decisions that are required if case presentation technology is used. Attorneys need to ask themselves: Is the technology suitable for a given case? Will the court permit it to be used? Do the local court rules limit its potential use? One should also consider the timing of related disclosures to opposing counsel and the court and coordination of use of the technology with other counsel who might use incompatible technologies. Threshold training also includes an explanation of the digitizing of evidence so that it is in computer-readable formats. One needs to understand the time frame for digitizing to ensure that trial plans are not impeded by an inability to timely secure digitized materials. Importantly, threshold training should include a review of potential objections to the use of technology in the courtroom. This review of objections emphasizes authenticity and potential unfair-prejudice issues. General resources for information on such issues include case law under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 and various professional commentaries on technology use in law reviews. Local court rules may affect the outcome of such objections. A successful way to conduct advanced trial presentation technology is by training in eight-person classes. Hands-on training in the advanced course is generally focused on younger attorneys, legal assistants and systems personnel who will actually operate the software both during preparation for trial and at trial. At this level, participants learn the full operation of the software and use each of the trial presentation features on screen. Training also includes methods of making videotape clips for cross-examination impeachment purposes. The program includes training by non-lawyer systems department personnel to develop the support resources needed to ensure that hardware is properly assembled in courtrooms and maintained between trials, and creates an additional future resource for the firm. HIGH-TECH, BIG PICTURE After a law firm completes training a significant number of its attorneys and legal assistants in basic litigation-support technologies, it should plan on incorporating litigation technology as part of the firm’s in-house continuing education programs. For example, firms might want to use an annual litigation department meeting to showcase new developments in litigation. It can be highly beneficial for such meetings to focus heavily on numerous aspects of litigation technology that complement the detailed training programs being implemented by the firm. Law firms are not the only training grounds. Anecdotal evidence already demonstrates that law school curricula are beginning to include introductory presentations in trial advocacy courses. Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson School of Law, for example, has recently included a trial-presentation technology lecture as part of its advanced advocacy course. The law school is also exploring the best means of making available litigation-support technologies for educating its students before they enter the practice of law. Training programs within law firms in the future will build on the likely expansion of law school programs. Educating a much larger group of attorneys and legal assistants in litigation-support technologies will significantly increase the use of these technologies, and give well-trained lawyers a key competitive edge. Jack M. Stover is a member of the board of directors, vice chairman of the litigation section and chairman of the litigation technology working group at Pittsburgh’s Buchanan Ingersoll and resident in the firm’s Harrisburg, Pa., office. His e-mail is [email protected] Matthew C. Browndorf, also of the Harrisburg office, is a member of the firm’s litigation section and is a member of the litigation technology working group. His e-mail is [email protected]

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