Tech in Trial: Advancing Techniques Means Increased Preparation

November 11, 2015

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Is a Trial Tech Expert Worth $200 an Hour?

Originally published on: The Litigation Daily, November 10, 2015

By: Jenna Greene

 

Andrew Cox, who leads Thompson Hine’s product liability practice, is a Gen Xer, the kind of guy you might think would be all over using technology in the courtroom. He even has a goatee.

But the 43-year-old litigator is distinctly old-school when it comes to presentations in court.

He won a trial in May, a defense verdict in Ohio state court case involving a fatal plane crash.

The plaintiffs used fancy animation—a short video depicting their version of what went wrong.

Cox had a big aerial photo of the airport mounted on a magnetic board. And he had magnets showing where each eye witness was positioned, plus a magnetic airplane he could move across the photo.

“We used it in the opening, our experts used it, we used it in the closing,” he said. “And it was tangible—a Google Earth photo. People knew it was real.”

As for the animation, he said the plaintiffs lawyers were constantly starting, stopping and replaying it, dividing the jurors’ attention between the screen, the expert witness and the tech doing the rewinding.

“I’ve never seen a perfect animation,” Cox added. In this video, a small detail was off: the accident took place in Ohio in March, when the trees are still bare. In the animation, the trees were green and leafy.  It was a subtle reminder that the events depicted weren’t real, he said.

In the end, neither the video nor the magnet photo was probably the deciding factor for the jury. But it’s all part of the bigger task at trial: to tell your client’s story.

The question is, what visual aids will help accomplish that, and which might be glitzy distractions? Do you have the wisdom to tell the difference?

Robb Helt, director of trial technology for Suann Ingle Associates, makes a compelling case that the best reason to hire a tech consultant is not to get “someone sitting behind the scenes putting things on a screen and pushing buttons,” he said. “A monkey with enough bananas can push buttons.”

Rather, trial technology consultants offer experience—the best of them have seen more trials than most lawyers. Helt, for example, has racked up 513 trials, arbitrations and mediations since 1999. Among them: 16 months as Halliburton’s trial technology consultant in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation.

As a result, he said, he’s developed  “a really good feel for what’s worked here and not there.”

Lawyers often “have an idea of what they want, but not what they need” when it comes to using technology to present their cases, Helt continued.

For about $200 to $250 an hour, consultants can help figure that out, design the graphics and make sure it all works seamlessly in court. They can also make sure lawyers don’t “over-egg the pudding” with too many high tech elements, Helt added.

But it’s not the easiest time to be a trial technology consultant. For starters, fewer cases are going to trial. And the technology is getting easier to use—which means more lawyers are bypassing the consultants and doing it themselves.

In large part, credit the iPad and apps like TrialPad, which for about $130 can do nifty things like highlight text, create side-by-side document comparisons and edit and show video clips.

“An iPad not only increases an attorney’s mobility in the courtroom, but it also allows the attorney far greater control over the presentation of evidence to the judge and jury,” wrote Alexander Rusek of White Law in an article  last year for the American Bar Association’s trial evidence committee. “No longer must an assisting attorney attempt to coordinate the presentation of exhibits or highlight or enlarge the exact portion of an exhibit for the presenting attorney.”

Which is great, provided the attorney doing the presenting knows what he or she is doing.

Solo practitioner Carolyn Elefant, who writes the blog My Shingle, last month told of prepping for her first jury trial in more than a decade. She opted to use an iPad for photos, charts and presenting impeachment material to the witnesses. And she learned how to do it 10 days before the start of trial.

She won three six-figure verdicts for her clients.

“While ultimately, it was the strength of the prep, the evidence and fact and expert witnesses and not the iPad that produced the win, the iPad allowed me to present that evidence in a far more professional and seamless a manner than would have been possible at my last trial ten years ago,” she wrote.

Contact Jenna Greene at jgreene@alm.com or on Twitter @jgreenejenna.

Original Source: http://www.litigationdaily.com/id=1202742147525/If-a-Picture-is-Worth-a-Thousand-Words-Is-a-Trial-Tech-Expert-Worth-200-an-Hour?mcode=1202615798744

Filed under: Article,Expert Witnesses,Law.com,News,Testimony,Trial Strategy

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