Jury Attention and Retention is the Goal
Today’s trial judges are not only encouraging courtroom technology but they’re expecting it. It’s become quite infrequent to find lawyers who are prosecuting or defending actions without the use of some sort of visual or audio technology to keep a jury’s attention and retention of information.
Why Do Jurors “Expect Some Sort of Technology” in a Courtroom?
Because this is how we live. Technology has changed the way we live in such fundamental ways that we are influenced and transformed by it every day. Think about it this way—over two million smartphones are sold every day! The amount of information being shared by email, text message or social media is absolutely phenomenal. We live in a world where people can transfer messages in nanoseconds to loved ones around the world. We can pay bills, transfer funds, watch any type of television or sporting event from around the world, and send pictures with the touch of a screen. We live in a world of digital media, cloud computing, video conferencing and personal fitness evaluation on our wrists. Do we really expect juries to sit in a courtroom for days on end and listen to over-utilized complex verbal communication without some sort demonstrative evidence by technology? If so, be prepared for your tech-savvy jury members to nod off. In today’s world, juries expect to be entertained. Keeping the attention of the finders of fact is absolutely paramount.
Different Types of Courtroom Technology
Depending on your technology comfort level, there are many tools available for lawyers to use in a courtroom, from simple software video presenters to trial presentation software.
PowerPoint is a great option and can be extremely effective during your opening and closing statements. By now, even the most digitally unsophisticated lawyer knows how to use PowerPoint, or has someone nearby that can help. A simple presentation of medical terms, or of photos and documents admitted to evidence could be easily used to magnify and highlight the important points of your case that you intend to present. Try to not overuse PowerPoint and overload the jury with too much information, do not dilute your message with too many bullet points or let your slideshow water-down your oral persuasion.
The Elmo is Not Dead
The Elmo document camera has been used by trial lawyers for over 20 years. Despite most of our files and documents being paperless, it’s still handy (and necessary!) to have a good visual presenter like an Elmo at trial. For lawyers that are not overly confident in using trial presentation software, having an Elmo is still an extremely effective presentation tool to place documents and exhibits up on a screen in front of a jury while questioning witnesses.
Trial Presentation Software
In today’s day and age, trial presentation software is quite limitless. When focusing on trial presentation software, it’s important to understand the basics of cloud computing. In 1996, Compaq computers started the buzz about cloud computing and how it was predicted that people would increasingly access software and files over the web. Today, this is becoming the basis of all digital usage. Cloud computing can be basically understood as the storage or hosting of your documents and files either on your servers or on servers belonging to a paid service’s network such as Dropbox or Microsoft SharePoint. Storage contents can then be synchronized to computers and/or mobile devices that are part of that particular cloud service.
With trial work, lawyers can quickly assemble documents, exhibits, transcripts, graphics, demonstrative evidence, etc. and upload the information directly into Dropbox or SharePoint, to then reproduce onto a screen via a projector or directly into the courtroom’s video input (if that exists in your area).
Trial presentation software, such as Sanction, Trialpad or Trial Director are well known for the storage, management, retrieval and display of documents, photos, images, etc. Trial Director is possibly the most well-recognized trial software program on the market—although very expensive and you will likely need a second body in the courtroom to simply to run the program unless you are using the iPad version, which has an intuitive interface. I have used trial director for iPad during examinations of individual witnesses instead of using an Elmo – although always remember – courtroom technology can be terribly unpredictable. Trials are akin to being in a pressure cooker and the last thing you need is for your technology to fail during vital and critical moments. I would highly recommend to always keep the exhibits that you plan to use in paper copy, along with your Elmo handy in case your devices and software backfire. Always have a backup plan.
Courtroom Technology: Plan Ahead
Speaking of courtrooms, if you’re attending a trial out of town, always remember that some courtrooms have been properly renovated to meet the demands of demonstrative presentation (such as video displays mounted directly in the jury box that could display exhibits, demonstrative evidence, graphics video, etc) while some have not. Some courtrooms have pulldown screens available to use via projector, while other courtrooms are simply not equipped with anything. It’s important to find out ahead of time whether or not the local jurisdiction you’re attending has technology enhanced courtrooms. Find out whether or not the courtroom has video displays, monitors, projector screens, a witness monitor, laptop connections, digital input connections, plugs in the right place, and wireless internet.
Attention and Retention
In the end, the most important thing is using the technology that you’re comfortable with. There are limitless possibilities, but remember, the goal is to keep the jury’s attention and keep them motivated. Don’t get overwhelmed with the boundless options of software available to you as a trial lawyer. Use technology to not overemphasize or overwhelm a jury, but rather, use it to supplement and enhance your skilled presentation of evidence. Use it a little, use it a lot—but if you use it, and the other side is not, you are already at a major advantage. Technology won’t make you a better lawyer, but it will help you increase your jury’s attention and retention from start to the end.