HOW TO COMPETE WITH STAR WARS: TECHNOLOGY IN LITIGATION
In order for you to inform or persuade anyone, you must first gain and retain that person’s attention. It is probably clear to all of you that most people are distracted easily and have a short attention span. To be effective in mediation or at trial, it is essential that you gain the attention of the people you are attempting to persuade early on. You must then maintain their attention as much as possible throughout the presentation of your case in order to be successful in the representation of your client. The use of technology in the form of PowerPoint presentations, demonstrative evidence, photographs, videotapes and computer generated animations, if used properly and efficiently, is a very effective way of gaining and retaining the attention of the people that you must convince to see it your client’s way. In today’s media saturated world, people are used to constant stimulation from television, movies and the internet and tend to multi-task more than any prior generation. If you do not want to lose the attention of the participants at mediation or the jurors at trial, your presentation must be engaging on the same level as entertainment.
II. Purchasing a Quality Laptop
In many instances, the first item you will need in order to make an effective and persuasive presentation is a high-end, state-of-the-art quality laptop that has sufficient hard drive capacity, RAM and multi-media cards to smoothly and quickly present PowerPoint and other capacity demanding presentations. The laptop must be able to burn and read DVDs and CDs.
III. Microsoft PowerPoint (or other graphic presentation software)
The second item you will need is Microsoft PowerPoint or some other graphic presentation software program. PowerPoint can create graphics as well as multi-graphic and multi-media formats on various slides. One thing that needs to be kept in mind whenever utilizing your laptop, software and the information that is stored on the laptop, is that it must all be readily located or the effectiveness of your presentation will be seriously impacted.
IV. Portable Projector & Screen
Even though many courtrooms and mediation services have projectors or televisions to which you can connect your laptop, if you are going to make PowerPoint or similar type presentations on a regular basis in different locations or different courtrooms, you should consider purchasing a portable projector and projector screen. Many times courthouses will only have a certain number of projectors, screens or televisions available and they may be in use in a different courtroom than the one in which you are presenting your case. Also, if you have your own projector and screen, you can utilize them at depositions or at mediations if those offices are not already equipped.
V. Colors Utilized in PowerPoint Slides/Conversion Software
For effective PowerPoint presentations, you should be aware that the background color for the slide and the color of the contents on the slide will affect the visibility and impact of the slide. It typically increases the visibility and impact of the slide if you have a background with a darker color and contrasting brighter letters or images for the content. For you to be able to have the contrasting background and colors, it is often necessary to change the format of the content to Word or some other format that can be modified. There is relatively inexpensive software that will convert audio, video and audio-video content to any format that you need.
VI. Preparing to Use PowerPoint at Trial
A PowerPoint presentation can often be effective and persuasive in the opening session of a mediation or for your opening statement at trial. If you are using a PowerPoint presentation in your opening statement at trial, you need to make sure that the trial court judge has approved the presentation and its contents. Using PowerPoint effectively in your opening statement will give the jury both an oral and visual presentation of your position, will provide you with an outline for what you are going to say and will make it easier for the jury to follow your evidence when it is presented.
VII. Numerous Exhibits
If you’re going to have numerous exhibits at trial or have exhibits you want the jury to be able to see while the witness is testifying, a copy of the exhibits should be put in a format that can be presented to the jury on a projector screen or television while the witness is being examined. Also, if the exhibits are in this format and have been preapproved by the court and opposing counsel, you can often effectively use these exhibits in your opening statement. It is imperative that you confirm with the court and opposing counsel the admissibility of an exhibit or approval of demonstrative evidence before showing them to the jury.
VIII. Numerous Photographs
If you have multiple photographs that you intend to use at a deposition, in mediation or at trial, it is often effective and efficient to save those photographs onto your hard drive, a flash drive or a CD or DVD and show those on a projector screen, monitor or television. As long as you have a monitor and opposing counsel agrees, you can frequently introduce a CD of the photographs as an exhibit to the deposition, provide a copy of the CD to all counsel at the deposition and show the photographs on a flat screen monitor or projector screen that you bring to the deposition.
IX. Adobe Photoshop Elements
Another software program that you should consider learning is Adobe Photoshop Elements. The potential for effectively utilizing Photoshop cannot be addressed in an article of this length. Review the capabilities of Photoshop on Adobe’s website and consider how you can effectively utilize those capabilities in preparing exhibits, demonstrative evidence and examining witnesses. When utilizing Photoshop, it is imperative that you always consider what will need to be done to get whatever you do in Photoshop into evidence. Also, if you want to learn Photoshop, you can find very good video tutorials on learning basically any type of visual, video and/or audio software program at www.Lynda.com.
Another software program that is very helpful is Snagit. This software program allows you to copy portions of things appearing on your computer screen and then save them to a separate file. With this software you will be able to capture portions of a photograph, videotape, website and other things shown on your computer.
XI. Aerial Websites
Most people are aware of aerial maps on Bing, Google Earth, MapQuest and TerraServer, but the capabilities of these aerial maps are often overlooked or underused by attorneys. Many times it is advantageous to have an aerial photograph of an accident scene or other areas that are relevant to the case. Also, when you have a case in which changes in the terrain, bodies of water or structures are important, you can often find on TerraServer, Google Earth or US Geological Service maps aerial photographs taken at different periods of time.
XII. Utilizing Videos
If you intend to present a video at mediation or at trial, it is important that you make sure that the video is in a format that can be read and projected by the laptop. There are various software programs that can convert audio and video formats to any type of format that is readable by your video software; that can enhance the appearance of a poorly made or deteriorated video; that can cut and splice portions of a video; and that can convert single photographs into a movie. Whenever you use software to alter a piece of evidence, it is essential that you obtain approval from opposing counsel and/or the court before utilizing the altered evidence.
If you have any questions about what specific hardware or software to purchase, please feel free to contact me. Also, you can contact me to make arrangements for a seminar presentation on the use of technology in all phases of litigation that has been approved for one CLE credit.
BAY Mediation & Arbitration Services, LLC