Alexandra Rudolph has written an informative article titled "Trial Techniques: What Lawyers Should (and Should Not) Worry About in the Courtroom."
Ms. Rudolph, the owner of a Chicago jury research firm, believes that "attorneys spend too much time worrying about things they can’t control, such as opinions expressed during jury selection, and too little time considering how their trial team appears to the court or what a judge might find most helpful."
The Number One thing lawyers should stop worrying about? "Graphics will make me look ‘too slick.’"
Jurors not only appreciate lawyers who use technology and graphics to explain their case; they expect it. Jurors are regular people too, after all, and are familiar with technology and use it in their everyday lives. Why should a courtroom be any different?
Lawyers who resist audio and video components, well-made charts and graphics and other uses of technology look outdated, especially if the other side is using them. Unless there were problems with the technology, such as poor audio or long pauses to pull up a document, the side that embraces advancements in courtroom presentations can come across as more polished and better prepared.
The Number One thing lawyers should worry about? "Technology misfires"
Technology can make an attorney seem savvy, unless they don’t know how to use it. Dead air time while someone fumbles with technology makes minutes feel like hours. Waiting for documents wastes court time, irritates judges and makes attorneys look like amateurs.
As Laura Dominiak, a professional trial technician from Legal Visual Services, explained, “When lawyers try to do it themselves and it doesn’t work, the attention turns to the person running the system and away from the evidence.”
Presentation should be a seamless part of the testimony, and appear so effortless that there isn’t a break whatsoever. That way, concentration remains on the exhibits, documents and testimony.
And beware of misused technology. Laser pointers, for example, should be banned from courtrooms. The light jumps around too much, it is hard to see and has all the personality of Styrofoam. Jurors should see a connection between the information and the lawyer. Using a laser pointer creates a separation between the graphic and attorney or witness. Laser pointers also can be a dead giveaway if the user is nervous. Jurors see that shaking red light and draw negative conclusions about why the person is nervous: “He must be hiding something. Is he being dishonest?”
Instead of using a laser pointer, walk directly up to the screen and point or use a pointer that can be held to allow greater interaction with the graphic.
Thanks to Evan Shaeffer for directing me to this article.
John Day represents personal injury victims and families of wrongful death victims. He is board-certified as a civil trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and, in fact, served as President of the organization. He is an elected member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. His book, "Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law," is used by judges and lawyers across Tennessee to further their understanding of personal injury and wrongful death law in Tennessee. In 2009, Best Lawyers named John "Best Personal Injury Lawyer" for Nashville; he was the first recipient of that award. Best Lawyers also named John as "Best Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Nashville" for 2010. John does not charge for an initial consultation and accepts personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingent fee basis. You can reach him by telephone at 615.742.4880 or by email by clicking here.