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At Trial, Prepare for the Best But Expect the Worst

Tony Klapper
By: Tony Klapper

Trial Technicians, Trial Consultants, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Consulting, Trial Technology, Trial Preparation, PowerPoint, Trial Boards

trial-technology-failure-crisis-hotseat.jpgby Tony Klapper
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

We spend a lot of time in this blog describing the best practices to use in persuading a jury or judge, explaining why they work, and encouraging lawyers to use them. But what if your best-laid plans go astray? Even the most exhaustive set of trial preparations can go unexpectedly wrong. Hardware can fail, judges can issue unpredictable rulings, courtroom technology can prove incompatible.

Our advice is to always double check everything and always have a backup plan. Do you have a PowerPoint that you need to use at trial? Make sure that the video screen you’re going to use is sized correctly for your presentation. Did you bring the right cables? We once had a client who brought the wrong cables and, as the trial began, found that she couldn’t use her PowerPoint. Thankfully, she had a hard copy of her slides and the presentation went just fine.

Is there enough RAM in the computer you’ll be using in court to show your exhibits? This may not be the same computer that you have used to prepare the exhibits. At the very least, have those exhibits printed out in case of disaster. And always keep the finalized slides on a flash drive with you. Also, make sure the PowerPoint version is the same or newer on the machine you are going to show it on, since conflicting versions of PowerPoint can sometimes cause issues with your slides.

You might instead have planned to use foam core boards for your trial presentation in lieu of PowerPoint slides. What if someone on the team forgets to bring the boards? What if they’re damaged in transit or lost in the mail? You’re typically not working in your “home court”; you could be trying a case 3,000 miles away from your office. A lot of solutions these days are Web-based and are relatively easy to execute, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes physical objects can be stubborn things. Maybe pre-connect with a printing company that is local to the court for these “just in case” emergencies.

Your problems could be unrelated to technology. You may know in advance that some of your slides are aggressively worded and might be objected to by opposing counsel as prejudicial or inflammatory. What if the other side objects and the judge upholds the objection? Plan for that problem in advance by preparing substitute slides that make the same point in a way that’s not going to be objectionable. Or, at a minimum, ensure that the slides can easily be adjusted on the fly by someone in-house or by a graphic designer that you have with you at trial.

We have emphasized in earlier blog posts how important it is to research your judge and know his or her predilections in advance. But not everything is predictable. Suppose you expect the judge to allow each side 10 questions to ask prospective jurors in voir dire, but as the day begins, she allows only two per side. Which two of the 10 do you ask? You don’t want to figure that out on the spot. Plan for that in advance. Which questions can you absolutely not do without? Prepare for the best but expect the worst.

Other A2L Consulting articles about trial preparation, planning trial technology, and ensuring your trial presentation goes flawlessly:

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