Whether in the courtroom, the board room, or (ugh) the college committee room, it’s important to impress. Tech is not a substitute for knowledge and preparation, but tech can help you appear knowledgeable and competent to peers and decision makers.
Just arriving armed with gadgets isn’t enough to impress. Nowadays it’s common for folks to come to meetings with laptops or tablets. Instead, it’s how you use your tech.
Most people prefer a visual to reading a document. To illustrate, I had a trial a few years ago involving the installation of radiant panels in the ceiling of rooms at a high school. There were numerous mechanical drawings and submittals of the plan to install the panels, and photographs of the panels as actually installed.
The drawings had a lot of small print and equally small detail. Using my Surface Pro (then version 2) with a large TV as a projection screen, I was able to zoom in on the pertinent parts of the drawings. Using my pen, I also was able to virtually mark up the drawings with arrows and circles, without disturbing the integrity of the exhibit.
This was much more effective than asking the Judge to squint at drawings. Yes, I could have used exhibit boards. But given the dynamic nature of trials, you can’t always anticipate in advance which portions of which exhibits may become important.
And there’s more … with my Surface Pro and the TV projection screen, I was able to display, as a split screen, a drawing of how the panel was supposed to be installed with a photo of how the panel actually was installed.
Our Judge was not a 20 something member of the visual generation. Actually he was on the North side of 80. But he commented several times how much he liked the visual display.
All this is not particularly high tech. Indeed, before trial, I emailed Ted Brooks of Litigation-Tech LLC regarding trial support. Ted considerately told me that my relatively small case (about $600,000 was involved) may not need the expense of his trial support, and pointed me to a lower tech, but still very effective, alternative, which I used. (Side note: A professional who puts the needs of his clients (or in my case a prospective client) above making money deserves recognition).
A recent trial involved hundreds of exhibits and a number of large exhibit binders. One challenge was being able to quickly view an exhibit which has just been referenced.
While my adversaries were playing musical exhibit books, I was able to view the exhibit (which I had previously digitized) on my iPad Pro. Since the screen size is 12.9″, I was viewing the exhibit in essentially its 8.5″ x 11″ size. So far, no wow … the Judge wouldn’t know, except I was the one not fumbling with exhibit books.
Of course, you have to locate an exhibit file before you can open it. Computers shine in searching for file names. Using a naming convention of TE (for trial exhibit) followed by the exhibit number, I could find and open a file almost as quickly as I typed. This was possible even on an iOS device which does not expose a file system. I used Documents, though I’m sure there are other solutions.
Additionally, during trial, the Court or counsel were trying to hunt for the one exhibit among the hundreds that represented, for example, an older appraisal. Since my exhibits were OCR’d as well as digitized, I did a text search, another task which a computer does very well, and quickly located the exhibit. For another exhibit, I did a text search on the very long exhibit list. It was nice when the Judge started asking me if I knew the number of an exhibit everyone was searching for, and I was able to consistently answer accurately. This alone won’t win a trial, but it builds the Judge’s impression of your competence, and that helps.
Further, as those of you who have tried cases know all too well, events seem to move very quickly at trial. Being able to be quicker using tech helps you keep the pace.
Tech is a tool, and a useful tool at that. It is not a substitute for knowledge … and preparation. But it helps you impress peers and decision makers. And that does help.