More on Attorneys Struggling With Trial Technology
Here's a summary of part 2 of the conversation between Xact's Matt Verga, and Shannon Bales on the presentation of ESI at trial on the Xact Data Discovery First Chair Podcast . The Tip of the Night for September 12, 2020 discussed the first part of their conversation.
Hot seat trial techs need special equipment for electronic presentations. Laptops with better video cards are required for editing and presenting video files. Every trial tech should have a back-up laptop. During trial a laptop will be needed, since the first laptop will be subject to unusual demands, and there cannot be any interruption in the team's access to data. A switch is needed to go from one laptop to the next.
Big screen TVs, which are brighter and don't have fan noise, of 75 inches or longer are needed to display documents so a jury can read their text. A document should be easily seen from 20 feet away.
Bluetooth speakers should be obtained to use as a back-up to the a/v system.
A third party equipment rental vendor should be used, to ensure the hardware has been properly maintained, and also so an opposing party can't accuse your firm of using defective equipment on purpose. Costs can be split and service obtained without the suspicion of gamesmanship.
Someone should create a schematic of the courtroom before the trial begins. Ascertain the number and position of outlets in the courtroom. Gain an understanding of the presentation environment so you know how large fonts should be in PowerPoint presentations; how loud speakers need to be to be audible for entire courtroom; and if courtroom equipment will display colors accurately.
Trial Director 360 and OnCue are the two most widely used trial presentation applications.
PowerPoint presentations are linear - from one slide to the next. Trial presentation software allows for exhibits to be called up in any order, at any time.
Presentation software will allow video of deposition testimony to be called up by page and line number, and can be a very powerful impeachment tool.
Creating video clips is very difficult. Preparing clips in advance will allow them to be tweaked to eliminate silences, and reviewed to show the impression the witness makes. Making clips on the fly is very difficult.
Law firms should have licenses for trial presentation software so they can understand how it functions, even if they use a hot seat trial tech from a vendor. If a firm employee is used for trial presentations, it may difficult to keep them busy throughout the year.
A judge may have a kill switch system. These are very common in federal courts. In smaller courts it may be left to the trial tech to cut off video presentations.
Some parties may try to bring in equipment that will give them an advantage. For example, a 75-inch touchscreen monitor may be brought in which will be set up for their team's presentation but cannot be used by opposing counsel.
If you do have to help the opposing party get connected in the courtroom, you should make clear to the judge and jury that you are providing this assistance.
It may take as long as 30 minutes to confirm that your equipment is connected and ready to go in the courtroom.
Shannon recently worked on a trial at which $1B was at stake. The opposing counsel consisted of more than 20 attorneys. They refused to pay for a/v equipment leased from a third party vendor; didn't have a professional hot seat trial tech; declined help from Shannon's firm getting dialing into the a/v system; had nothing on screen for the first 2 days of the trial; couldn't get power cables for a newly configured system on the third day, even though they had a large office in the same city; and the opposing counsel tried to call up documents by Bates numbers rather than exhibit numbers.
Attorneys will always look bad if they have not practiced with the hot seat trial tech.
Even though images will usually not be created for Excel files produced natively, it may be necessary to create them for Excel files marked as trial exhibits.
Video should not be presented in a courtroom by someone who has not had experience doing so.
The hot seat trial tech should not be someone with other responsibilities.
There should be a project management life cycle just for the trial.
Be ready to place documents not available on the laptop on the ELMO or document camera. Shannon calls the document camera the most under-utilized piece of equipment in the courtroom.
Attorneys should be prepared to respond coolly with alternative ways of presenting evidence, if a trial tech can't bring up a document on the monitors.