Technology will not transform an inexperienced or unprepared trial lawyer into a seasoned and successful trial lawyer. All good trial lawyers must still be thoroughly prepared, focused, organized, articulate, and capable of thinking and reacting on their feet. Also, technology will not replace the need to weave a solid case theme into the entire trial, which is harder than it seems.
What Technology is Designed to Do
Trial presentation technology is designed to provide jurors with evidence that is graphically appealing, organized, and easy to digest and understand. It provides the ability to highlight portions of key documents, compare documents side-by-side on the big screen, display photo blow ups and present video easily in short clips where appropriate in trial. The overall goal is to effectively use technology along with typical trial techniques to win trials.
When is technology used?
Technology is used in virtually all aspects of trial except voir dire.
How should technology be used?
It is universally accepted that jurors better retain almost 80% of information conveyed visually and audibly at the same time. However, overuse can be counterproductive and sometimes disastrous to your case. An appropriate balance is key. Each trial is unique and your approach should be tailored accordingly.
1. Opening Statement.
Along with Closing Argument, this is probably the most popular part of the trial for use of technology. A graphic opening statement can be created to provide structure, impact, organization, or to preview some key evidence. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on content. Understand local and other rules on use of demonstrative or actual evidence in opening statement. Be prepared to make in-court revisions instantly.
2. Witness Exam.
More frequently, expert witnesses are examined alongside a PowerPoint presentation of the examination outline. Important photos or charts can be authenticated by a witness, moved into evidence, put up on the screen and then highlighted, blown up, or compared side to side with other evidence on the screen. This can be some of the most devastating testimony in the trial.
This is where the most creativity is needed and impact can be achieved. The closing must not be all technology. The trial attorney must bond with the jurors with persuasive communication and eye contact. The closing should be a variety of visual presentation and evidentiary props to keep the jurors' attention focused on the attorney, not the screen. Most important at this stage is your demeanor and eye contact. Do not let the demonstrative visuals detract from this. You are telling a story still and telling the jury how the evidence filled in the pieces of your story.
What not to do with technology in the courtroom!
1. Do not run the technology yourself (meaning the lead trial attorney)
2. Do not go to trial without a back-up plan (technology can and will fail at times)
3. Do not assume that a set-up at the office will work in court (get there early and test it)
4. Do not arrive late to trial
There is a great deal of technology out there and the decisions can be overwhelming. The key is to investigate your needs and options early and begin implementation and preparation far in advance of trial.