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In 1995, Ropes & Gray built a model life-size courtroom in its offices in Boston. The courtroom opened to much fanfare. It was supposed to be a trip to the future, where lawyers could rehearse for trials and use cutting-edge technology to hone their skills. But when the 21st century rolled around, the real estate that the room consumed was deemed more valuable than the virtual reality that it conveyed. Last October, Ropes tore down the room and installed offices in its place. It now has a downsized version of the courtroom, about half the size of the old one, housed in the firm’s former library, which itself has been downsized, as electronic research replaces bound volumes. “We ran out of office space. We had to sacrifice the courtroom,” says partner Steven Kaufman, who heads the firm’s litigation training program. The old courtroom was designed to emulate Courtroom 21, one of the most technologically sophisticated courtrooms in the country. Courtroom 21, at the College of William and Mary Marshall Wythe School of Law in Virginia, opened in 1993. (It can be found on the Web at www.courtroom21.net.) Like Courtroom 21, Ropes & Gray is teaching lawyers to handle evidence and argue cases the new way: using technology. Ropes & Gray’s original courtroom had a traditional feel to it. It had “all the accouterments” of a federal courtroom, says Kaufman, including velvet curtains and a 14-person jury box. The new courtroom has no windows and a smaller jury box. “It doesn’t feel as regal,” Kaufman laments. The new courtroom does have the same technology. But while the video monitors had been mounted on a wall, now they are mobile. The firm itself continues to be a heavy user of litigation support software, including TrialDirector, Summation, CaseMap and TimeMap. The firm also uses Elmo, a video monitor that can blow up evidence and display three-dimensional images. To learn the ropes, so to speak, of trial practice, litigation associates go through two 15-hour training courses at the court. First-year associates learn about pretrial procedures, like discovery. Senior litigation associates conduct a mock trial. They learn the meat and potatoes of trial skills, and they are trained in technology. They learn to videotape their witness examinations so they can critique them later, and do the same for witnesses, Kaufman says. To present evidence at the mock trial — a will dispute — they also learn to project evidence, such as charts, and compare deposition transcripts. Kaufman says that the investment in the courtrooms (he won’t say how much that is) is worth it. Not all associates can appear before a judge. This is the next best thing. “We consider it important for litigators to feel confident. They can’t get that confidence by frequency, so we figure they can get it by verisimilitude,” he says. Being handy with technology is part of that confidence, Kaufman says. But the best training comes on the job, says Jane Willis, an eighth-year litigation associate who admits she took the training course so long ago she barely remembers the nuts and bolts of using the technology. Willis says she’s honed her examination skills in the mock courtroom and has used Summation in direct exams at trial. Ropes lawyers also use the courtroom to get ready for trial. The firm has an on-site trial support specialist who helps attorneys prepare evidence and who often accompanies lawyers at trial. Kaufman longs to get his old courtroom back. At the end of this year, he says, the firm may add more office space. Kaufman says he’s hopeful Ropes & Gray will build another courtroom there.

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