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Mention the terms “technology,” “trial” and “courtroom” in the same sentence in a small firm and the reaction you get could range from “you have to be kidding,” to “we can’t afford that,” to abject, speechless fear. It’s not uncommon for small firms to avoid the use of technology in trial for two primary reasons: cost and knowledge. Many small firms see technology as being cost prohibitive due to budgetary constraints and the general fear of learning new technology, especially when it is to be used in the courtroom. The good news for the small firm is that trial technology is already in your firm, your budget and your core competency. A small firm does not have to spend thousands of dollars in technology or learn new software if the axiom of Keep It Simple, Solicitor (KISS) is followed. With a little innovation small firm trial attorneys can take the software that comes standard with most desktops/laptops and develop an effective demonstrative presentation. CASE STUDIES Consider the following case studies (real disputes, but names withheld for privacy): 1. The problem: A trial team is asked to prepare a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation for an arbitration, with a very limited budget. The team needed to incorporate photos and a videotape into the presentation. The strategy: The team converted VHS videotape into mpeg files, extracted pertinent portions, and then linked the mpeg files to the PowerPoint presentation file. Photos were scanned and imported into PowerPoint as jpeg files. The team created a flowing presentation that allowed the attorney, with the click of a button, to play video snippets, and show pictures and text to the arbitrator. Total cost: $600. Result: Case won. 2. The problem: Preparing for a case to be argued in a federal bench trial, the team needed to show specific extracts from an employee’s records. They needed to highlight false statements. They wanted the ability to draw attention to specific segments of the employee’s records, and be able to present records side-by-side so the judge could examine them easily. They also needed to be able to move from record to record. And of course, all this needed to be accomplished on a limited budget. The strategy: The employee records were scanned into PDF format. Using the highlighting tools and bookmarks — and capitalizing on the ability to present records side by side — the litigation team presented its case to the court definitively and unambiguously. Total cost: under $500. Result: Case won. 3. The problem: The trial team was asked to prepare an exhibit to a motion for summary judgment that demonstrated the mechanics of an invention, as well as to insert pointers to identify critical processes of the invention. The strategy: The team downloaded the schematic of the invention from the U.S. Patent Office, and scanned it, using Microsoft Photo Editor and Paint. They then “cut and pasted” the schematic, added text and embedded it into the motion for summary judgment. Total cost: $0. Result: Case settled before trial. Lessons Learned: In all three scenarios, no special software or training was required. The equipment was existing hardware and software — a laptop computer, a LCD projector, and Microsoft Corp.’s Office Suite. So don’t think you need to mortgage your cat or sell your first-born child to begin using trial technology. Experiment. Use the tools you already have and know. Start with small steps, and you’ll reach your destination. J. L. Huddleston is assistant administrator with Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley, based in Atlanta.

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