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Trial presentations are getting increasingly sophisticated, thanks to TV-style techniques, including detailed animations, edited digital video clips, and closed-caption-style transcripts. Courtroom presentation technology often gets positive reviews from lawyers (who say it helps them win cases), judges (who say it reduces trial time), and jury members (who say they find it compelling). “More and more federal judges are singing the praises of courtroom technology,” reports The Third Branch Newsletter, published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Judges have found that “technological advances can both streamline litigation and increase juror understanding.” The down side is that technology is expensive, and there is a learning curve. For many small firms, the most cost-effective way to take advantage of the new presentation tools is to hire a consultant. Many attorneys don’t go to trial very often; trial consultants are in the courtroom regularly. Even in firms where the lawyers spend a lot of time in trial, they often lack the technical staff in-house to keep up with the latest tools for courtroom presentations. By hiring a trial consultant, you can focus on the case and let the consultant focus on how to enhance your presentation. HIRING A CONSULTANT Getting a referral from someone you know may be the best way to find a reliable consultant. Another method is to use online tools, such as VerdictSearch or the Law Technology News resource guide ( www.ltnresourceguide.com) (sister entities to SFB), or FindLaw’s Market Center ( http://marketcenter.findlaw.com). Look for a solid track record. For example, Litigation-Tech, a San Francisco consultant, has several victories under its belt — and was co-winner of the 2003 Law Technology News award for most innovative use of technology in trial, with four-attorney Abramson Smith Waldsmith. They won for a personal injury case, Shropshire v. City of Walnut Creek. Their client was a student at the University of California, Davis, and an Olympic hopeful. He became a quadriplegic after landing on a swimmer while diving into a city pool. Partner William Smith and Litigation-Tech created graphics of the pool that showed safety lines and areas of lifeguard responsibility. During the trial, while Smith interviewed a key witness, a technician edited the diagrams “on the fly” to illustrate Smith’s argument that the California city neglected to enforce safety rules and protect the swimmers and divers properly. Another tip: Before you select a consultant, be sure to do your homework and check references. Mark Rosch, of Internet for Lawyers, suggests that you “Google” the expert to find news reports about your candidate, as well as discussion group postings, and authored articles. Make sure that the company’s staff is well qualified and is large enough to handle your needs. The consultant should be facile in competing software (e.g., both Concordance and Summation transcript managers), and knowledgeable in a wide range of litigation support tools, to provide maximum flexibility. The ideal time to hire a consultant is when you get the case, even if you’re hoping to avoid a trial. “The earlier we get involved, the better,” says Scott Allen, director of trial support and technology at Doar, the Lynbrook, N.Y., litigation support and trial services company that also sells document cameras and projectors designed for use in courtrooms. “Even if you don’t retain a consultant, you’ll get an idea of what it will take to get the case ready.” You may gather evidence differently if you know how it might be used in the event that you do go to trial. For example, if you know you’ll want to use clips of videotaped depositions in trial, you’ll be sure to have all the depositions videotaped digitally and stored on DVDs to facilitate retrieving and editing clips. What happens if you didn’t hire a consultant early on? Even if you have only 48 hours before the start of a trial, a consultant may be able to help you put together an effective presentation with a simple tool, such as Microsoft PowerPoint. Expect to spend a significant amount of your own time working with a consultant on your presentation. He or she may be able to handle a lot of the technical legwork, such as scanning documents, and will likely offer significant input on how best to enhance the presentation of evidence — even down to using color theory science to recommend colors for each graphic in order to get your point across to the jury (for example, green can suggest positive trends, especially financial ones). Even if you outsource, you will still need to spend time getting comfortable with the technology and rehearsing. Smith says that adding technology meant he spent an extra 75 hours doing pre-trial preparation for Shropshire — his first high-tech trial — than he would have for a traditional trial. TECHNOLOGY TOOLS High-tech courtrooms are still the exception rather than the rule, according to the results of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s annual technology survey. Before assuming you can use technology at trial, “Always check with the court, review the layout, and bring back-up to keep away the worst-case-scenario,” advises Catherine Sanders Reach, associate director of the Center. To check out some high-tech courtrooms, see www.courtroominformationproject.org — the Web site of the College of William and Mary Law School’s Courtroom Information Project, which provides photos and information on the technology available in participating courtrooms. In the courtroom, you may be tempted to use equipment you already own, such as an overhead projector and screen from your firm’s conference room. But chances are they won’t be ideal in court, says Ted Brooks. He recommends using a projector with enough light to display documents well in a brightly lit courtroom. That means a projector with at least 3,000 lumens, as compared with standard projectors, which use 1200 to 1500 lumens. Brooks also recommends a large screen (seven or eight feet) that can be viewed comfortably from 20 or 30 feet away. You will also need a document camera that sends images to the projector; four flat-panel monitors for previewing evidence (one for judge, witness, and each counsel table); and an amplified speaker set (for deposition video). Your consultant may own much of the specialized equipment or should be able to arrange for you to rent it. Equipment rental typically costs about $5,000 per week. You may want to consider approaching opposing counsel about sharing the costs. In court, Brooks recommends using two laptops, in part for backup. Another advantage to having two laptops is that while one is being used to display a document, the other can be used for other tasks, such as searching through files. Expect to pay a technician $100 to $200 per hour to operate the computers and any other equipment. To manage the case, most litigation support consultants use off-the-shelf software programs designed specifically for trial presentations. Among your options are Sanction II from Verdict Systems, based in Tempe, Ariz.; TrialDirector from inData Corp., based in Gilbert, Ariz.; and Visionary 7 from Visionary Legal Technologies, based in Dallas. Selling for about $600 each, these programs make it easy to assemble case exhibits — including video and audio clips, transcripts, and documents — into a digital presentation. The costs do add up. William Smith estimates he spent approximately $75,000 going the high-tech route on the Shropshire trial, including equipment rental and in-court technician fees. But the investment paid off. In that case, the jury awarded Smith’s client $27,750,000.

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