The Paperless Podium: Hardware, Software and Techniques for Modern Advocacy.

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This dialogue is intended to address the needs of anyone who finds a need to persuasively present complex facts. In addition to lawyers, it may be useful to sales professionals, business people, politicians or public relations professionals.
I have a strong interest in and motivation to use changing technology to improve upon my ability to organize information and utilize it in the courtroom and throughout the litigation process. I had an idea back in 2003 that maybe that maybe there was a reason why programs other than Word, Powerpoint and Excel were included in the Microsoft Office suite. I opened up Access and after a few hours of frustration, began to see value in the creation of relational databases for the purpose of case management and preparation. I like the following definition of such databases because it emphasizes the function and benefits to lawyers and other persuasive presenters:

A method of structuring data in the form of records so that relations between different entities and attributes can be used for data access and transformation. – Burroughs, 1986

 

Eventually, other programs caught my interest but I still use Access for certain types of cases. I hope to review and outline some of the many tools that I have come across and hope to uncover new ideas along the way.
It is no secret that modern criminal litigation has resulted in an increased number of cases where evidence is generated in huge quantities. Most cases still involve two to four material witnesses in my guess-timation, but many cases involve upwards of twenty witnesses, business records, phone records, hard drive data, and audio-video recordings. The DVD and even the hard drive have replaced photocopied and stapled documents as the storage medium for case information.


There can be a temptation to open a 1000 page PDF document and click ‘print’ to get a significant portion of the information out into a physical binder. Not only is this environmentally unfriendly, but it is going to become increasingly difficult. Information is increasingly being created and stored in a dynamic form that loses some of its worth when printed in a ‘flat’, 2 dimensional way. Relationships between pieces of information are immediately lost, so we resort to ‘sticky’ notes, highlighters and other bookmarking/notekeeping systems to help us find the information again once it is on paper. When we do this we are in fact creating a form of database, but it is largely not relational, static and limited.
It is my view that eventually, trial lawyers will be expected to be able to work with technology in a way that fluidly organizes, synthesizes, compares and ultimately persuasively presents electronic information. Many are doing it now, and in my opinion we will help our profession, clients, the administration of justice and ourselves if we take steps to develop that ability before it is forced upon us.
If anyone has any recommended software or approach to case preparation I would love to hear about it. Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing (not necessarily in this order):

 

NB: Some of this software is open source (read, free) and some of it costs money. Some of the range of my review will be limited to what I am willing and able to obtain, but if anyone wants to send me evaluation copies of software I would be happy to try and review it and give my unbiased opinion of its use in the world of litigation and persuasive presentation generally.

Gerry

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