What’s in your toolbox?

On Day One at the ABA Techshow, Canadian provincial prosecutor Nils Jensen and Phoenix-based consultant Tim Piganelli presented their versions of “The Trial Tech Toolkit,” cautioning the several dozen people attending the morning session that while technology can strengthen a case, relying too heavily on computers and software and the like can just as easily sink a case.

Piganelli, owner and founder of Legal Technology Consulting Inc., has been working with litigators and law firms for 16 years. From his perspective, trial lawyers should come to court equipped with fast machines and software designed specifically for litigation.

On the other side of the aisle, at least metaphorically, Jensen is the Canadian equivalent of a state prosecutor; his title is Crown Counsel with the British Columbia Prosecution Service in Victoria, B.C. He took the decidedly more economical approach in his recommendations, but not without sacrificing the demonstrative effect that computer-based presentations can have.

“It’s cheap and it’s very easy to use,” Jensen said of PowerPoint, Microsoft’s long-standing presentation software. PowerPoint does have limitations, such as a limited ability to incorporate documents, but the software has a collection of animation effects that can emphasize key points and help jurors better understand the exhibits and the connections between them and the litigants, Jenson said.

If PowerPoint shines during opening statements and direct examination, it can be an anchor that weighs down cross-examination. Jensen warned that because PowerPoint requires advance preparation, expecting to have any useful slides on hand for cross-examination can weaken a lawyer on cross-examination if he fumbles through his computer files instead of focusing on questioning.

Piganelli said he recommends litigation-specific software to his clients. He demonstrated Trial Director, showing how the suite can be used to manage thousands of pages of documents and a multitude of images. With comprehensive indexing, the software allows litigators to call up a document, jump to a page and zoom in on a particular paragraph in just a few clicks.

Where PowerPoint lacks flexibility, Trial Director is nimble enough for use during cross-examination, Piganelli said. That said, he cautioned that litigators need a fair amount of coordination to handle questioning and a computer mouse at the same time. He suggested that it can be worthwhile to have someone else assigned as mouse jockey.

Stay tuned for more posts from the 2009 ABA Techshow in the Chicago Hilton.

— pcz

~ by CDLB on April 2, 2009.

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