Tag Archives: Document Management

5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with TrialDirector – Trial Presentation Software

Ipro Cloud

When you invest in software, do you ever wish it would do just a little more? On the other hand, have you ever found out something about the software you currently use that makes your job that much easier?

Attorney learning software
Sometimes you just need a few tips and tricks for the software you use.

Sometimes the tools you use every day do everything you want them to do, but you may not know it. It’s a simple matter of learning a few tips and tricks to get to what you need.

Here are five things that you may not know that you can do with TrialDirector, the leading trial presentation software.

1 – Make a single PDF of some, or all, of your case items

Your case has hundreds of exhibits and thousands of pages. What if you need to review documents with a witness, expert, or colleague? It is much easier to review, share, and annotate documents as PDFs.

TrialDirector provides a really easy way to make PDFs of your documents.

Create a workbook and add items from your case. All you have to do is drag and drop. Then, right click on the workbook and choose “Send Workbook Contents To…” and select “PDF File.”

You can choose to export to a single PDF or multiple files and whether to apply markups.

The apply markups option will place any highlights, arrows, stamps, labels, etc…onto the PDF image. This is incredibly important and useful if you have redactions.

That’s it! Now you can save much more time as you review and prepare your case.

2 – Redact documents to keep private things private

Privileged information and private data are probably peppered throughout the evidence. You need to redact the information to protect you, your client, and your case.

Did you know TrialDirector lets you redact specific information from documents?

Not only that, but it lets you customize the redactions too. Choose white or black; with a border or without a border; labeled as “Redacted” or blank. Set your preferences in the Options area and they will apply to all redactions in your case.

To apply a redaction, open your annotation toolbar and select the Redact tool. Using your mouse, click, drag, and place the redaction on the desired areas. At this point, you’ll see the redaction is grayed over and you can still view the underlying image. This is helpful to you in the event you want to see the underlying text. However, when this image is printed or displayed in the presentation view, the redaction will display as white or black however you set it in your preferences.

There are times you will want to apply a redaction permanently. You can use TrialDirector for this too. Apply the redaction in the same manner as above. Next, make a PDF of the item(s) and apply the markups (see #1!) to the new file. Now you can send the redacted image(s) anywhere, and since the redaction was applied permanently to the new file, it cannot be removed.

3 – Use transcript search results in filings and other documents

You’re probably familiar with searching transcripts in TrialDirector. (In case you’re not: go to the Search tab in Transcript Manager, enter your word or phrase, choose any or all your transcripts, and click search…the results are displayed and you can expand them to see context! ßThat’s a bonus tip!).

“Great,” you might say, “but I want to include some of these in my motion. What good is it here?”

Use the Print function to create a PDF or “Print to File” to create a Word document. From there, you can copy and paste whatever you need into any document you like. You can then save your file so you can email, print, and share it with anyone you choose.

4 – Make pre-annotated presentations with Save Stage

Wait, what? Are we going the theater? Courtrooms may contain drama, but no, that’s not what we mean by “Save Stage”.

We think of the presentation display as a stage where you show your case. Often, you start with a blank or empty stage and present one item at a time. But there are times you want to show a detailed combination of a variety of types of evidence: perhaps zoom in on two sentences of a multi-page contract, play a video deposition clip, and show a picture all at the same time.

Presentation-Save-Stage
Use Save Stag to show a pre-built screen during your presentation.

TrialDirector can easily handle this number of actors on the screen, but you don’t want to set it up in front of the jury or on-the-fly. It would take precious seconds and the jury might get impatient.

Instead, impress the jury by creating the exact presentation display of your three items ahead of time. When you set up the presentation screen beforehand, choose Save Stage from the presentation tool bar. Like performers taking places before the curtain rises, the stage is saved exactly as you designed. When you are in court, just select the saved stage you created and begin.

The jury sees what you want, when you want with no muss and no fuss. It holds their attention without wasting anyone’s time during trial. Now that’s impressive!

5 – Use TrialDirector and TrialDirector for iPad together

It’s the best of both worlds: the power and storage of a laptop alongside the convenience of an iPad.

We love the freedom and comfort that the iPad provides, so we created TrialDirector for iPad. It’s a slimmed-down version of TrialDirector and gives you great functionality.

But what about the unexpected events at trial? What happens when you need to find that previously inadmissible document? How can you find and present it quickly and efficiently? This is one example where the strength of a PC or laptop comes in. All that processing power makes it easy to search for and present that now all-important document.

TrialDirector and TrialDirector for iPad
Use TrialDirector and TrialDirector for iPad together for all your needs in the courtroom.

Use TrialDirector and TrialDirector for iPad together. For scripted, no-deviation style presentation like an opening statement or closing argument, the iPad is a great fit. But for questioning witnesses, searching for items, and creating a dynamic and commanding visual, stick with the power of the full version of the software.

In TrialDirector, you can make a TrialDirector for iPad workbook, place your items inside and export. You can also import case items into the iPad app using Dropbox, iTunes, BoxSync, or OneDrive.

Here’s a bonus to using the software and app together: the iPad automatically sorts everything alpha-numerically. But, do you want to present things alphabetically or in the order you set? When you use the TrialDirector for iPad workbook, TrialDirector for iPad will retain the organization structure you set so items will present in the order you want.

Conclusion

It’s easy to get used to using something for one purpose and stay inside a comfort zone. With a little training and creativity, TrialDirector is more than presentation…it’s your trial preparation and presentation solution.

What tips have helped you be more efficient during case management or have helped you create your best trial presentations?

Let us know on social media! You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Learn more about TrialDirector and how it can help you by visiting our website. Already have TrialDirector? Consider participating in one of our training courses.

4 Tips to Hold the Audience’s Attention During Your Next Trial Presentation

With the internet at our fingertips, it seems like people, in general, can’t hold their attention as long as they used to. Most can’t go a few seconds without pulling out their phone to check the latest updates, pics, or videos. These same people are called on to decide fate in a courtroom as a jury where they’re expected to sit in a pew and listen to hours of presentation and testimony.

It’s rare for any of them to want to be there, let alone take the initiative to focus on the task at hand for an extended period.

Woman Using Phone
In this age of tech, people are easily distracted and have difficulty focusing their attention.

Any given case can be important to the people involved with it directly, but to the people coming in on the jury, it’s not really part of their world. Jurors have their own worries and life issues that don’t stop just because they were selected to be part of a case.

So how do you get and keep a jury’s or any audience’s attention?

There’s a lot of general presentation tips out there, but we want to talk about things that work particularly well when in the courtroom, especially when using trial presentation software.

1. Put Yourself in the Audience’s Shoes

Have you thought about where the people you’re presenting to are coming from? Sure, you may have been part of the jury selection process. But that was to determine what impressions a particular jury member would bring with them into the case.

Attempting to find and cater your presentation to your audience’s interests provides a clear direction for you as you prepare. Otherwise, your shooting in the dark and hoping something sticks.

If you don’t have a team of jury consultants to do it for you, here are some examples of questions you might ask yourself as you prepare your presentation and witness examinations:

  • Where do the members of the jury come from?
  • What about their origins influence their tastes?
  • What influences their decisions?
  • What are they more prone to listen to?

As very general examples, if your audience is mostly coming from a small town, perhaps they appreciate a more “personal” approach. Maybe they want to hear more about the story or character of the people involved in the case. Or, perhaps they would be more likely to listen if you just presented yourself while limiting any other visual aids you might bring in.

On the other hand, if members of the jury are from a large, modern city, maybe they would be more interested in hearing the direct facts and would appreciate you just getting to the point without tip-toeing around.

In either situation, maybe your think it would be better to surprise the jury and get their attention by doing something they are not used to.

The point is to think about where your audience is coming from and mold the tools and content you use to fit their compulsions and interests.

No two presentations should be the same.

2. Repeat Repeat Repeat

In any presentation, if you want your audience to remember what you’re talking about, one of the best tools in your arsenal is to say and show the thing you want them to remember several times.

There’s quite a bit of science to back up the power of repetition. Basically, every time you let your audience see, hear and, best of all, feel what you want, you strengthen the synapses firing in their brain around that thing.

You should know what you want your audience to focus on well before trial starts. In fact, you should decide what that thing is very near to the case outset and then build your strategy around it. Doing this not only helps with knowing what you want your jury to focus on, but it can make you much more efficient in your case all the way to trial.

Don’t forget the tools that help you with repetition. With trial presentation software, you can quickly display items you want to keep fresh in the jury’s mind any time you want. No digging through folders and paper to try to find the right document or image. You can set it up to where all you have to do is type in a number on your computer and the document, image, or video you want will immediately appear on a big screen.

Then, remember that you can leave it up there. Think about how valuable it is having an image on a large screen for a long period of time. The jury won’t forget it. As you speak they can look and see exactly what you’re talking about. You can zoom in on the image, mark it to focus the jury’s eyes on where you want them to go, and even have the image show side by side with something else that you want to show.

Then, if you ever want to show it again, just type it in and it appears just like it did the first time. We cannot overstate how powerful using document management and trial presentation software to supplement your presentations.

3. Set the Tone

No matter what you’re presenting, you should decide how you want your audience to feel. Then, create an environment with your presentation to create that setting where they are most likely to feel what you want.

For example, if you want your audience to feel sad, you may want to use a softer voice as you tell a story and present accompanying images.

If you want your audience to feel excited, you could talk faster or create a rapid-fire presentation where your audience is shown pictures quickly one after the other.

In the end, just try to make sure that what you are doing in your presentation isn’t hindering the tone you need to get your point across.

4. Use Attention Getters

They call them attention getters for a reason. You don’t want to bore your audience by talking for a long time, so sprinkle some flavor throughout your time in front of them.

When working with a jury, litigators cannot interact with their audience like presenters in normal presentations can, but the attention and focus strategies for normal presentations can still apply. They just have to be tailored for trial.

Use the following presentation mechanisms to put a little variety and spice into your presentations and examinations.

  • Tell an engaging story
  • Use a rhetorical question that makes them think more critically about the case
  • State a shocking or interesting fact the audience may not be familiar with
  • Use a quote from a prominent figure or even something from your case that illustrates your point and sets the mood
  • Show an enthralling photo or video from the case
  • Use a prop or creative visual aid that you can hold or use to demonstrate what you’re talking about

Conclusion

Think about what you would want a presenter to do to keep you engaged with what they are presenting.

Try taping yourself as your present, then go back and watch how you work. Do you bore yourself? Do you talk in a monotone? Do you have good eye-contact? Are you talking too much without anything meaningful to supplement what you’re saying?

Television and movies these days are extremely engaging. Why do you think that is? One reason is that three seconds doesn’t usually go by before something exciting or unexpected happens in the scene. Directors and filmmakers are constantly developing strategies to hold the audience’s attention. It might be a good idea for you to take some notes on how they do it.

How do you keep your audience’s attention when performing a presentation? What strategies have worked for different types of audiences?

Let us know on social media! You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Learn more about TrialDirector and how it can help you by visiting our website. Already have TrialDirector? Consider participating in one of our training courses.

6 Simple Tips to Help You Prepare to Use Trial Presentation Software

Working in the law firm setting prior to becoming a Trainer/Trial Tech gave me a better sense of direction and understanding that, to be successful in this field, you must know how to manage your case before you even step foot in the courtroom. Training attorneys, paralegals, consultants, videographers, and court reporters every day has given me a sense that not everyone knows how to properly organize and manage their documents.

Trial presentation software training
Training on TrialDirector, trial presentation software.

Whether you are a solo practitioner or part of a large law firm, organization is key. The funny thing about it is, from the bottom, all the way to the top, the process is the exact same. It would be unusual for a firm to be drastically different and then in return be more effective during a presentation.

As an example, using trial presentation software, such as TrialDirector, will not only help manage your case documents but also present them as well. However, you need to know how to organize your case documents before you put them in the software for these tools to benefit you. Sure, document management systems offer a wide variety of tools to assist in any way possible, but without prior knowledge of how to use the tools appropriately, and set yourself up for success, there is no sense in even using them at all.

However, before we get to the tips, let’s get on the same page of what case management and organization is, or should be.

Case Management

Why is it that case management gets overlooked when preparing for trial? All the focus seems to be on the presentation.

There is a big difference between case management and presentation. The presentation is the body in motion, creating rhythmic moves to entertain the audience – the jury. Case management is the brain controlling and moving the body parts that, in the end, tell a story.

Presentation, of course, is needed to tell a true and complete story. But add the ability to access and call up documents faster than ever, and you reach a level of engagement with your audience never before possible. This is why case management is so important. It allows you to use modern technology to its full potential, creating a sense of clean, uniform structure.

However, to get to that point, proper and efficient case organization and management must be done to ensure your case will look clean and presentable when you put it into the software. Relying on presentation alone is not an avenue of approach when it comes to being successful in trial. The smaller things in trial indeed matter too. Not only do you need to think big picture, but every little proactive approach to processing a legal matter are in the end crucial to winning your case.

So, how do you get from Point A, the law firm, to point B, the courtroom? Consider these six tips in preparation for your next case or even the case you’re working on now.

1. Indexing

Indexing basically comes down to the who, what, where, when and how of your client, and/or third party documents. So, why should you even put in the time to index? Some law firms do not typically index their documents at all or until later during Discovery. Indexing is the process of gathering information or data that directly corresponds with documents being received by your client and or any third parties associated with your case.

Using programs such as Microsoft Excel can dramatically change your organization of your documents for the better and improve importing data into your document management and trial presentation software.

Recording document identifiers, dates received, whom it’s from, type of document, descriptions, production numbers…etc., will in fact significantly make things easier down the road. Below is an example of a typical spreadsheet you could easily create on your own.

Document indexing example
An example of how to set up a spreadsheet in Excel for indexing.

2. Identifying Document ID’s

Properly identifying your documents is one of the biggest issues we run into when it comes to firms and companies managing their case. Whether it’s training a law firm how to properly build a case or consulting for a law firm, your client review documents must be properly identified.

The law firms that we train and consult for typically have long superfluous descriptions as their document identifiers. Utilize smaller naming conventions, such as bates numbers or exhibit numbers and the descriptions of that document can then be used in a separate field. By doing so, it makes importing and case managing your documents much easier, as opposed to relying on long, unnecessary identifiers.

There are shortcuts that can be taken in your presentation software, as well as programs to download to help re-identify a batch of documents, but why not start early and avoid re-doing time-consuming work?

3. Specific File Formats

Specific types of file formats are necessary and easier to use. Let’s be honest here. The entire industry is transitioning over to Portable Document Formats, also known as PDFs. Maintaining the original file formats is important and relevant, but as soon as you can, convert all your documents to PDF’s.

Utilizing native files in presentation software has its pitfalls. Incorporating a native file that is not a PDF will not allow the user to annotate or edit a document while presenting. Converting to PDFs creates a consistent file format that in the end is easier to work with.

Not only is it easier, but it is a multipage document as well, to where programs by default organize in alphanumeric order and automatically paginate for you.

If you are not concerned with resolution or separation of your documents, then convert them to PDFs.

4. Rotating and De-Duplication

Rotating and de-duplicating your documents should be standard practice and not overlooked.

Rotating your documents to a landscape or portrait layout can dramatically change how those documents are to be presented in court. However, this does depend greatly on the image itself. Make sure to look at the document or image and make sure it is properly rotated so that presenting it would not bring up any delays or issues in court.

As you review your documents, you always want to make sure you get rid of any duplicates, to ensure your presentation is flawless.

5. Centralizing Your Case

Centralization of your documents within your file explorer is organizational gold. When document review starts, it’s essential to centralize your documents in organized folders. The organized folders should all be placed into one folder that could, for example, be your main case folder (e.g. Jones vs. Smith).

Knowing where your documents are all located, whether it’s in a network folder, local C: Drive, cloud or external drive creates a sense of security and organization. This only increases your chances of maintaining your centralization and organization upon creating your case in your presentation software program.

6. Game Plan

Finally, a game plan is key to putting everything together at the end. When it comes to a game plan, as a consultant and or paralegal at a law firm, you want to go in with an organized and detailed approach to how you will be managing your files.

Prepare a checklist beforehand to make sure you have covered all you want to accomplish before going to court. Knowing the smaller things that are directly associated with managing your case will directly impact how well you perform in the hot seat.

Final Words

Perhaps to you, these tips seem obvious, or quite easy, but in my experience, they’re not to the average person. It all begins with the firm’s general practice. Having a standard general practice will initiate the process by default for all team members to properly manage case documents.

If it’s not your firm’s general practice to properly case manage your documents in preparation for trial, then you are already setting your team behind. You need to convince yourself, and your firm that putting in the time and money beforehand, will then in return save you time and money getting ready for and going to trial.

So, with all your case organization and management skills being used before trial begins, why is this relevant or how does this correlate with the presentation? The steps you would use to prepare your documents for trial also directly apply or correlate within your software. It all comes together when creating, building, managing and presenting your case in court.

By taking the necessary steps before trial, you only increase your chances of being successful. Some of you might be thinking that this is unnecessary and takes away from other tasks at hand, but I guarantee it will make you better prepared in the end. As I instruct all my trainees, “Managing your case, is more important than presenting.” If you properly organize and prepare your exhibits, then the presentation portion is a piece of cake.

The smaller things in trial matter.

Discussion

What are some tips you have found successful when using document management and trial presentation software?

Let us know on social media! You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

You can contact Ethan, the author of this post, on LinkedIn or by email at ehirsch@trialdirectoruniversity.com. Ethan is the Lead Technical Trainer at inData Corporation.

Learn more about TrialDirector and how it can help you by visiting our website. Already have TrialDirector? Consider participating in one of our training courses.

5 File Naming Tips to Improve Organization in Document Management Software

In our experience, one of the main things many trial teams have trouble with is naming case files on the computer. The names they use for their files are too descriptive and long.

For example, many attorneys use either a short or long description, sometimes even full sentences, as a file name as seen below.

One descriptive file name
One descriptive file name. Not so bad, right?

A descriptive name may make sense at first since it tells exactly what the file is, but when you’re working with hundreds or thousands of documents as is common today, those descriptive names get cluttered and make things difficult to find. See for yourself.

Full list of descriptive file names
A full list of descriptive file names. Ew.

It’s like all the words are mashing together. There’s no standard here. Some files could get named incorrectly. You may forget what you named a certain file, and now it’s lost with everything else. And trying to find what you need here, especially when you’re trying to find it fast, would be needlessly time-consuming.

Case organization and trial preparation programs are great tools for streamlining document review and presentation workflows. However, if the files you’re putting into them are not identifiable in simple and manageable ways, using this technology only makes the process more frustrating.

Consider the following tips when receiving, scanning, or creating case files on your computer. They will help you make life easier for you as the case progresses.

1. Know what your documents are before you put them into your working case folder

This may seem like an obvious one, but many attorneys don’t really know what they are copying into a case folder until they go back to look at them later. For example, a lawyer or paralegal may receive several gigabytes worth of documents from the opposition and just dump all those directly into their computer’s hard drive without glancing at them first.

When you do this and start working on a case strategy, there’s not a frame of reference for where to begin.

It’s better to take some time to understand and review exactly what you’re working with at a general level. What file types are you working with? How are things currently organized and how can it be better?

One option is to create a bulk folder where you can dump all the case files. Then, go through and review each one, pulling the relevant documents you want into a different “working” case folder. Doing this separates the important items from the fluff, and now you know anything in the working case folder is at the very least semi-important to your strategy.

While you review and move the items as explained above, you can rename each file, which leads us to our next few suggestions.

2. Keep it simple

When it comes right down to it, you need to name your documents in a way that makes the most sense for you. However, think about how you can make it a little easier on your future self as you reference and search for the items you need.

You want to name your case items in a way that you can know what they are at a glance, and you also want to make it easy on yourself when you and the opposition are referencing each item during negotiations or trial.

A common file naming practice is using a descriptive phrase to help identify the item. We said before how long descriptions can be troublesome when working with several hundred files, but even short, two or three-word files names are troublesome, because all those words still get cluttered together.

Also, keep in mind that most any organization software will sort your files alphanumerically. So, when you try to organize your files according to descriptive phrases using technology, your files may end up out of order, or at least not sorted in the way you want.

When using software, there are usually other properties or fields where you can enter more descriptive identifiers. Save the file name for more orderly and systematic identification as described in the next tip.

3. Rename everything with a standard naming convention

Yes, you read that right. Rename everything, and use a standard, alphanumeric system.

Maybe this seems a little drastic at first, but if done correctly, it pays dividends down the road when you’re referencing these items with your own team and the other parties involved in the case.

We would suggest you simply number your case items using leading zeroes as shown below.

Leading zeroes.
An example of leading zeroes.

The reason you should use leading zeroes is that without them, your case items may get disorganized. Case organization tools for the most part use databases to reference your case items. Databases usually do not read whole numbers, which means that the database orders numbers by whatever digit comes first.

For example, if I have 10 exhibits in my case, and I named each exhibit by its corresponding number, it would appear in the database as follows.

Whole numbers
An example of what a database would look like with whole numbers.

Notice the “10” exhibit is out of order right below “1”.

The basic rule for using leading numbers is that you use the same number of digits as the total number of your documents. So, if your case only has 34 documents, use two digits in your numbering system (e.g “01”, “02”, “03”, etc.). You can then go up to a total of 99 documents before things get out of order.

If your case has 335 documents, use three digits in your numbering system (e.g. “001”, “002”, “003”, etc.). You can then go up to a total of 999 documents before things get out of order.

What if you have several images that are pages of the same document? While we do recommend you use PDFs so that you don’t have to worry so much about this, you can use another set of leading zeroes for each page of the document like this:

  • 001-001 <– Page 1 of document 001
  • 001-002 <– Page 2 of document 001
  • 001-003 <– Page 3 of document 001

And so on.

There are some situations where you may want to modify this system. For example, you may be really attached to that descriptive phrase for each file. In that case, enter the exhibit number before the phrase like this “001-False Claims”.

Though your files may still get cluttered, at least you can reference them easily with other because of the numbers preceding the phrase.

What if the opposition is using the same naming convention as you? That means you’ll probably run into two different files being named the same thing. In that case, enter the initials of the party responsible for the documents before the numbers like this, “DX001”. That way, it’s easier to distinguish between two documents with the same file number.

There are countless ways to use the suggestions above to fit your own needs. Whatever naming convention you decide to use, apply it to everything. That way, when you need to find something months or years down the road, there’s no surprises and you can quickly find what you’re looking for.

If you decide not to go with your own numbering system, you might want to follow the next tip.

4. Use exhibit numbers or bates numbers

This tip is much more self-explanatory. Name all your items after an exhibit number or bates number.

The benefit of naming your documents this way is that it makes the transition between discovery, review, preparation, and trial so much easier. By using either of these numbers, you don’t have to rename any files as you transition to each phase.

You can do this even if you don’t think you will go to trial and it will still benefit you.

Now, let’s just stop for a moment. We understand you might have some other concerns about our tips so far. Let’s look at the next tip first.

5. Use the other properties of a document for more familiar, long-form identifiers

You might be saying to yourself, “Now all I have are numbers. None of these numbers really help me know what’s inside of a document without opening it.”

Yes, that’s true. The tips we’ve covered so far are for easier organization and reference. For identifying what is inside a file, or getting a summary of the file’s contents, we suggest you use other identification properties that case organization tools provide.

For example, in TrialDirector, you can use the Common Name field to enter a descriptive phrase to any file you want. So, if you and your team usually refer to an important letter in the case as “The Manifesto” you can enter that as the Common Name and quickly find it that way.

The beauty of doing it this way is that though your team may refer to a document that way, that’s not the way the court refers to it. But since you followed the tips above, finding and providing the right document with the right trial exhibit number is no problem.

Compound that with all the other documents you’re working with on your case, and you’ve saved quite a bit of time.

Conclusion

Implementing these suggestions makes it that much easier to organize, reference, and even import your documents into an evidence and case management system.

Properly naming your case files is essential as you work through the entire case process. Some attorneys often don’t put the right time and attention into naming their files, thinking that they’ll remember where the important files are, or that it’ll be easy to find them later.

That’s all fine, up until they realize that the case documents keep stacking up and suddenly they can’t remember what they named that really important image and now it’s mixed in with all the other documents, images, and videos you added to the case over time.

Often, by neglecting to put time into naming files properly, you’re making it so much harder to save time and reduce headaches down the road.

Learn more about TrialDirector and how it can help you by visiting our website.

How do you name your case files? What strategy works best for you?

Let us know on social media! You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

 

The Top Three File Formats to Use with Case Management and Trial Presentation Software

Trial Director 360

Working with documents on the computer is usually much easier than working with physical paper, folders, notebooks and file cabinets. When you’re on the computer, you don’t have to get up out of your chair, maneuver around the stacks of paper cluttering your office, pull out the right file folder, and sift through everything until you finally find what you are looking for. All the while, precious minutes are floating by.

But as you’ve worked with digital documents, you’ve probably come across a lot of file types you are not familiar with or that you do not fully understand. Although we will not discuss every single file format option available to you, we will talk about some of the best options we’ve seen that make working through your case much more efficient and easy, especially when working with case management and trial presentation technology.

First, a word about a couple different file types you’ll come across:

Native File Types vs Image File Types

Native files are in formats that are understood by the original program a given file was created in. For example, an original document created in Word would have a “.doc” or “.docx” file extension. For WordPerfect, the native file extension is “.wpd”. These types of files can only be opened in the program they were created in unless another third-party program specifically creates functionality around opening those types of files.

Because of the information above, trying to always use native files like Word can result in a frustrating experience since the file cannot always be opened everywhere. Or, if it can, it can be slow, awkward, and can result in a frustrating experience.

That’s why it’s usually easier to work with image documents. Image documents are exactly what they sound like. They’re pictures. And pictures can usually be used most everywhere. While you do lose some ability to edit the text of a document, images are very responsive and can be easily managed and annotated.

Native file formats vs image file formats.

Plus, you probably shouldn’t be changing the text of documents anyway…

For our purposes here, we will mostly talk about common image file formats.

PDF

PDF stands for “portable document format”. PDFs are pictures that look like printed paper but appear on your computer.

While other image file formats only allow one page or picture per file, one of the main benefits of PDFs comes from their ability to house multiple pages into one file. For this reason, they are much easier to store and organize when dealing with multi-page documents, and they can be annotated just as easily as any other image file types.

Multi-page vs Single-page
A multi-page document vs a single-page document.

In some cases, you may want to use native files if you want to find the metadata of your documents, like the author and the date a document was created, to help you build the story of your case. Even in these cases, after you’re done pulling the information you need, it is still beneficial to convert native files to PDF when preparing your case for trial with presentation software.

However, PDF isn’t the only image file format you can use. There may be cases where the PDF option isn’t available, or it’s simply easier to use another format. In that case, we suggest you use PNGs.

PNG

The PNG file format provides a single image of a single picture or page of a document. While some programs may allow you to organize several pictures into a multipage document, PNG files do not provide such organization on their own like a PDF does.

PNG stands for “portable network graphics”. This file format was designed to make transferring high-quality images across the internet easier. As such, PNGs have become very popular.

If you’re not going to use a PDF, the PNG file format is great for storing high-quality photographs of evidence, especially if you plan on annotating those photographs and saving multiple versions of the photo.

With other file types like JPEG, TIFF, and GIF, you do not get as much quality out of your image, and at a relatively low file size, as you would with the PNG. Also, the quality of the image can degrade with each newly saved version using these other formats over PNG.

All in all, using a PNG is often a better option.

We suggest only using one of these other image file formats if you have a specific reason for doing so. For example, you may want to use the GIF format for an animation, since GIFs inherently support animated images, whereas with PNG you would have to muddle with image settings to do so.

MPEG 4

We have an entire white paper on the MPEG-4 video format. If you want more detailed information, we suggest you download the whitepaper. But, in general, MPEG-4 is the best file format option when working with video.

Using MPEG-4 for your video and audio files provides a better overall experience for you and everyone else you work with.

It retains a high-quality display and sound which is important for reviewing evidence and especially presenting the video to an audience.

It works with most every video-supported software today, making it much easier to transfer the files to clients or other parties in a case. It is also compatible with tablets and other mobile devices. With MPEG-4 you don’t have to worry about running it through a program to change it to another supported file type. It’ll just work.

It also produces a smaller file size, which saves on the cost of transfer as well as the cost of storage. When working with the number of hours that can add up in a single case, that saving is significant.

We’ve gone through some of the most convenient file formats, but you may be asking yourself how you can switch from one file format to the other. Let’s talk about it.

How Do I Change from One File Format to Another?

Changing a file format will be different for any type of file you are working with.

If you’re working with a native file, you can simply open the program the document was created in, and save it as one of the different file types mentioned above. For example, you can open your document in Word, click the File tab, click Save as, choose where you want the new file to go, then select the dropdown that shows all the different file types.

Word File Format Options
File format options in Word.

If you’re working with an image, you can use an image editor program to save the image as a different file type using most of the same steps as above. For example, if you want to change a JPEG image to a PNG, you can open the JPEG in Microsoft Paint (it comes free with Windows). Click the File tab, click Save As, and choose the file format you want.

When it comes to video and audio files, changing the file types isn’t quite so simple. It is usually easier to create the audio or video file in MPEG-4, to begin with. But if you didn’t do that, you’ll need to convert the file to MPEG-4. There is a litany of software options, many of which are free, that you can use to convert to MPEG-4. We suggest you search the internet for such options, talk to a trusted tech-friend, and choose the best option for yourself. Once you choose the option you want, converting your file to MPEG-4 should be quite easy.

Conclusion

Overall, when working through the documents of a case, there are only a few file formats you should worry about that will provide all the essential options you need:

  • PDF
  • PNG
  • MPEG-4

If you go outside these file formats, you should have specific reasons for doing so, like collecting metadata from native file formats or wanting to easily show an animation with a GIF.

What file formats do you use when reviewing documents for a case and why?

Let us know on any of our social media accounts! You can connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

How You Can Go Digital for Easier Case and Document Management

Case management and presentation technology like TrialDirector offer a way to review and manage case documents more efficiently on a computer. But, to take advantage of this efficiency, your documents must be in the computer. You need to go digital.

There are several other benefits to going digital besides faster document review.

Stacks of documents on lawyer's desk.
Scanning your documents can get rid of the mess in your office.

You can drastically reduce clutter. All the piles of documents around your desk could be gone, and you could walk in and out of your office without having to worry about toppling the paper city you’ve constructed over time.

With less clutter comes better organization. Using a computer makes it much easier to find documents and less likely you’ll lose them. Not much is worse than finding out a document was misfiled somewhere in the canyons of filing cabinets. When your documents are on a computer, they’re much easier to find if someone puts them in the wrong location.

Also, when you use technology to manage your case documents, there are countless tools available to make managing those documents much easier. You can quickly review, annotate, and eventually present much more professional-looking items in much less time.

But how do you go digital, exactly? What does it take, and what do you need to do?

In very general terms, you pretty much have two options for getting your documents into the computer:

  1. Ask for digital documents from the start of a case
  2. Scan each document manually

Let’s dig into both options.

Doing it from the Start

This option is by far the easiest and most cost-effective since you wouldn’t even have to waste time dealing with physical documents at all.

Usually, when a case starts, you are in control of how you receive documents from clients and the opposition. Instead of paper, simply request the documents be delivered on a disc or portable hard drive.

Even if the organizations delivering the documents only have physical copies, requesting digital copies puts the burden on them to scan them into a computer.

You might want to specify the file formats you prefer. You can request “native” file formats, if available, or “image” formats.

Native Files

Native file formats are files that can be opened and edited directly in whatever program they were created with, like Word (.doc) or WordPerfect (.wpd). While it might not always be feasible for people to deliver native file formats to you, these formats are beneficial because they contain “metadata” by default.

Metadata basically provides information about the file in question. For example, it can give you the author of the document and the day it was created, making it easier for you to set up a chronology of where the document fits in each case’s story.

Image Files

Image file formats are just pictures of documents. These may be much easier to come by than native files. The most common image types are JPG, PNG, and PDF. Note, while one JPG or PNG file is just one picture of one page of a document, PDFs can contain many pages of a document in one PDF file, making it much easier to store and keep track of multi-page letters or other court documents common in any case.

TrialDirector does provide options to organize image files like JPGs and PNGs into multipage documents, but having it done for you in a PDF is much more effective.

But, what’s that you say? Your case already started? You’re doing the research yourself, and all you have to work with are books and paper? There must be a transition somewhere. Here’s what you can do:

From Paper to Digital

To get all the information contained on all that paper into a computer, you need a scanner. There are all kinds, and the one you want depends completely on how much you’re willing to pay and how fast you want to go. You can get a cheap scanner that lets you do one document at a time, or you can get a scanner that lets you feed multiple pages into it at once and it will cycle through each page for you. Considering how many documents you’re probably working with; the latter may be the best option.

Lawyer scanning case documents.
Scan your documents for better case organization.

You might want to check the printer you’re currently using in your office. Chances are, it has the scanning features you need.

“But, scanning each of these documents, it sounds like a lot of work, and I don’t have the time.”

We hear you. We understand. Going paperless is a big undertaking, but in our opinion, it’s absolutely worth it. The initial time investment is minuscule compared to the amount of time you save down the road, especially if you commit to working with all your cases digitally.

But if you really can’t spare the time, you might consider hiring some temporary help to get you started.

Again, the initial investment will be worth it long term.

Also, as you scan your pages, you’ll want to think about the quality settings of each scanned image, especially resolution settings.

Every computer screen has a certain resolution and resolution is determined by pixels. Pixels are all the little boxes that make up the picture on the screen. So, the higher a resolution, or the more pixels, the clearer the picture will be.

However, some people mistakenly think setting the resolution of a scanned image to its absolute maximum is the way to go since they assume they’ll get the best, clearest image, especially if they want to expand that image to a larger screen, like in trial presentation on a projector. It’s not necessarily true, and there are other things you need to consider as well.

For one thing, images don’t need the highest resolution to be clear, especially on large screens. They only need what is sufficient, and a picture’s resolution can be pretty low to be sufficient even by today’s standards.

The reason you want to think about reducing resolution is the space each scanned image takes up on a computer. Each file you scan takes up space. The higher the resolution, the more amount of space.

Consider too, if the file is so big, it might not show up very fast when you’re trying to present it at trial, making long pauses and sometimes uncertainty or awkward situations. You don’t want that in front of a jury.

Another space consideration is if you also want to set a document up for Optical Character Recognition (OCR). When you OCR a document, you make the text searchable and selectable, making it easier to find what you’re looking for as you review documents. But OCR also makes the file size for the document bigger. Ask yourself if you really need this document to be searchable or if it is just a filler in the pile. If you don’t need the search and selection features, you may want to save the space.

So, there’s a quick overview of what it would take to go digital. But we understand there may be a nagging feeling still in the back of your mind…

Is It Worth It?

In short, yes. But let us flip a question back to you. Is the initial time investment worth the future peace of mind of having a clean office? Is it worth the monumental amount of time you save by not having to dig through physical paper to find what you need? Is it worth feeling confident as you want into trial with a simplified setup and more effective strategy?

We say it is, and we want those things for you. Don’t print another piece of paper again. Go paperless!

Once you go paperless, consider using TrialDirector, the leading software in trial technology, for your case management and trial presentation needs. Check out our website to learn more and connect with us on social media!

What file formats do you prefer when working with case items on the computer and why?

What scanners have you used that are especially useful?

Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

What Is the Best Trial Presentation Software?

ediscovery in criminal investigations

Let’s reframe the question. What does the best presentation software do? More importantly, what do you want it to do?

The best trial presentation software needs to have instant document and deposition retrieval, and instant video playback. It should allow side-by-side document presentation and multiple display options as well as a variety of highlight and annotation tools that you can customize.

The best trial presentation program does all these things and more. It organizes. It helps you prepare. It makes your presentation engage the audience.

From the beginning of the case, you gathered and analyzed data: documents, video, depositions, photographs. Maybe you also developed animations, re-creations, or flash files. Now add the Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints you created that explain key aspects or your opening statement. How do you manage such a multitude of items?

You use an all-in-one tool that lets you do all the things described above. You use TrialDirector.

TrialDirector is designed for and excels at trial presentation, but does much, much more. Let me show you how.

Organize

One of the main keys to success for any case, even before a trial date is set, is organization.

First, set up your case files on your computer or network drive in a way that is secure and easily accessible for you. Then, put those files and data into TrialDirector which will guide you through the case creation and import processes. It’s that simple.

TrialDirector helps you manage and organize documents.

Once inside, your files are automatically sorted by document, transcript, and multimedia. Looking for a PDF? Go to Documents. Want to search transcripts for a keyword? Go to Transcript Manager. Forgot where you put the surveillance video? Go to Multimedia.

With all your data now in one location, getting started is easy. Create a witness workbook and drag case items into the folder where you assign exhibit numbers and apply exhibit labels with a few clicks of the mouse. Next, export the workbook contents to a single PDF that you can email or print then generate an exhibit outline of the workbook to use in court.

And still, there is more. Create exhibit lists in Word, apply redactions, search, print, and add identifiable names to all your files for fast recall.

Now, let’s tackle transcripts…

Use robust search features and a full word index to quickly and easily find specific words and phrases. As you review transcripts, highlight testimony that relates to specific areas of your case with issue codes. As issues are applied, the transcript is color-coded drawing your eye to areas of importance. But what if you need to submit excerpts to the judge? TrialDirector provides several print and report features so you can share only the information you want.

Prepare

Case preparation, without utilizing the right tools, can be tedious, especially when working with physical files. Coupled with the fact that teams often assume their case will settle and won’t even go to trial, they find themselves in trouble when it does. Unprepared, they have to scramble to get a presentation together, putting in extra hours and adding to the stress and cost of the whole situation.

TrialDirector cuts out the mundane, time-consuming aspects of case preparation, and allows you the freedom to focus on what’s most important – preparation and strategy.

Here’s how.

After searching, issue coding, and organizing your transcripts, you’ve decided what portions you’ll show in court. No need for a DVD player and definitely no need to fast forward or rewind to find the parts you want to play. Use TrialDirector to make clips of the excerpts you wish to present. With several options, making clips is as easy as a highlight, right click, select… and voila! Your clip is made.

Now let’s talk about one of the biggest time-saving features: the visual clip editor. It’s a wave file to fine-tune the start and end points of a clip down to the millisecond. In just a few minutes, you can distil hours of deposition testimony to only the clips you need. And, like issue codes, print a report of your clips which gives you the total run time – so if the judge gave a strict 30-minute time limit to play clips, you can use every second you’re allotted and know exactly how long your video will take.

Getting back to your documents, let’s start prepping them for court. Keep in mind, you want annotation tools that you can use ahead of trial as well as at trial. We refer to this as ‘pre-treat’ vs ‘on-the-fly’ annotation. Either way, annotations focus the jury’s attention on a specific part of the document or photograph. Remember, a jury member may get distracted or sneeze or glance around the courtroom. When they look back, they’ve lost track of the three pertinent sentences you were discussing. However, if those sentences are highlighted, the jury will know exactly where you are.

With the ability to pre-treat, you can apply exhibit labels, stamps, arrows, circles, squares, redactions, highlights and more ahead of trial. Save the annotated documents as page revisions, retaining a ‘clean’ original image as well as your marked-up copy.

A word on the iPad…

Do you want to use an iPad in court? Use our free TrialDirector for iPad app! This is a standalone application so you don’t need TrialDirector software for it to work, but use them together and you have the best of both worlds. Make a TrialDirector for iPad workbook in your TrialDirector case (it’s as easy as a right mouse click), drag and drop the material you will use, and export. TrialDirector will create a folder that you can load into TrialDirector for iPad.

Present

You made it. It’s your first day in court and you are organized and prepared. Launch your TrialDirector Presentation, take a deep breath, and begin…

Remember those witness notebooks? They’re in your presentation toolbar. Press the green (or the spacebar on your keyboard) and the first item in the workbook is displayed. Press the arrow again and the next item in the workbook replaces the image on the screen, press it again and the third item replaces the image, and so on…

When you reach the long letter that you knew was coming and the jury is squinting at the screen, you’re ready. You select a zoom tool, grab the paragraph you want the jury to focus on with your mouse, and it is projected full screen so they see exactly what you are referring to. Even better, the letter remains in the background and you scroll through it while zoomed, moving line by line through the page. Once you finish with the letter, press the green arrow and continue through your witness workbook.

There are so many display options (there are nine different display zones!) and tools (and you can change the colors) in TrialDirector Presentation that it’s impossible to cover them here. The most common and popular display options are full screen (one image, centered) and two images, side-by-side. And if you only learn two annotation tools for on-the-fly presenting, stick to zoom and highlight.

So, if you’re nervous or think presenting with TrialDirector is hard, just remember, even the most seasoned TrialDirector professionals stick to two display zones and two annotation tools.

So, What Is the Best Trial Presentation Software?

The best presentation software helps you organize, prepare, and present. It files your documents and transcripts. It creates exhibit lists and reports. It helps you create a presentation plan of attack. It does more. It’s TrialDirector.

Three Concerns Keeping You from Embracing Electronic Document Management Software

Look around your office. What do you see? Perhaps there are towers of stacked paper, or piles of boxes, each gushing with case documents, or maybe walls of shelves holding large notebooks with documents stuffed inside.

Are these things obstructing your way around the office? Do you have to climb over or shimmy around piles of notebooks and paper just to get to your desk?

If you recognize any of the descriptions above, and you think that’s a problem, keep reading.

We want to help you along the first steps of getting your law office organized and saving time with technology.

There are options available today that let you fit all those documents into a device, like a USB flash drive, that only takes up a few inches on your desk. So, that mess you’re looking at right now? Gone.

Not only that, but you can use that device and other tools to organize all those thousands of documents and search through them in seconds rather than minutes or hours.

The benefits of such tools are priceless, yet many law firms and organizations still don’t use them. Why? We ask ourselves this question a lot, and we’d like to take this opportunity to address some of your possible concerns we found to be the most common.

Let’s start with an easy one.

1. Time – I Don’t Have It

Ah, yes. Time. As an attorney, every single minute of your life is accounted for, and there’s none to spare to learn about new tech. Every minute you spend trying to figure out how to use this stuff is a minute you haven’t spent on your case. You may think it’s better to play it safe and do things the “tried and true” way. Just get it done the way you know how right?

Respectfully, we think that’s wrong.

You do have time. In fact, you may be hemorrhaging time, your most valuable resource, by holding onto old methods of doing things. As we already said before, working with documents on a computer turns the hours you would spend working with paper into minutes and seconds.

Here’s an example of how: Let’s take a simple task, such as finding a document you want to present at trial.

Currently, you get up from your desk, go to wherever you store your case documents, find the right box, shelf, or drawer, open the box, and proceed to finger through all the folder and files in the box. Once you find the right folder and eventually the right file, you pull it out and take it back to your desk.

Or you might have a paralegal or assistant do all of that for you. In any case, that simple process absorbed valuable time. Now, compound the time for all the other hundreds to thousands of documents circulating in each case.

It adds up. You’re spending hours, days, and weeks just on one simple task.

Suppose you could do all of it with technology without even leaving your chair, right from a computer? You can! In fact, some programs will find documents for you. All you do is enter a few search terms and it filters through everything for you in milliseconds.

Then, once you have the document, you can review and even annotate it right then and there. No need to print. No need to make copies. It’s all done for you.

And we didn’t even talk about the significant loss of time when something is misplaced or misfiled. You know that’s bad.

With computers and programs these days, if something is misplaced on the file system, there are countless fast and efficient ways to help you find lost items much more quickly than sifting through the mountains of paper yourself.

Sure, it may take an initial investment of time to learn how to use the technology and implement it, but that is nothing compared to the amount of time and resources you save later.

Receiving the documents, printing the documents, transporting the documents – all the monetary, time, and mental costs of handling physical documents are dramatically reduced by going digital.

You just need to get over that first hill, and then you coast with a nice refreshing breeze as you go.

Technology gets you away from wasting time on mundane tasks and lets you get back to what matters – strategizing and winning your case.

But your time, or the lack thereof, isn’t even the real issue in our opinion.

2. Fear of Change – The Real Issue

Everyone can get set in a routine. They set up a comfort zone, where everything they do is part of the norm, and they resist anything outside of that zone or even slightly unfamiliar. Breaking away from a routine is usually difficult.

Herein lies the real problem. You may be afraid to change. You are so used to doing things the way you currently do them you perceive your current process for preparing for and presenting at trial is faster when it demonstrably is holding you back.

William Pollard, a physicist, said, “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”

Whether it was in law school or when you first started out as a professional, you spent a substantial amount of time, even sleepless nights, teaching yourself to do things the way you currently do them. Now you’re comfortable with those methods. In fact, you’re very good at what you do.

But times change. Things that worked well in the past don’t work as well anymore. With increasing amounts of case data and less time to prepare, it’s time to adapt to the progressing world around you or you risk getting bogged down in inefficiencies. It happens in every industry, and it is happening in the legal industry.

We strongly suggest you put in the time needed and get up to speed with the current technology today and provide your clients with the state of the art representation they deserve.

Which leads us to the final concern we want to bring up.

3. Cost of Entry – The Hidden Cost of Denial

You may feel it’s too expensive to get up to speed.

While there are very expensive systems out there with impressive functions and features, there are just as many or more options that are much less expensive or even free. You can easily use the internet to find options to help you simplify and organize your case.

Also, think about the hidden costs of refusing technology. We’re not just talking about time and money. Your ability to rationalize and think clearly is severely influenced by your surroundings. Minds function in parallel with their environment, even down to how you are dressed.

How are the messy piles of documents in your office affecting you? Gaining some clarity and peace of mind is worth at least entertaining the idea of implementing technological advances in your practice. You’ll be able to make better strategies and be more prepared to confront unexpected challenges.

Using technology to become more efficient not only eases your mental strain and saves time and money for you, but it also saves the same for your clients. Any tool that improves the firm improves the client’s experience, providing the quality help they need faster.

Plus, the longer you wait to implement these tools, the more expensive it will be later on, whether or not you ever implement them. The younger generation of lawyers and paralegals are learning these technologies in school. In many cases, they grew up with this stuff. It’s basically part of their DNA.

Invest now to save later. Stay up to date with the rising generation.

You can start out small if you have to, one improvement at a time.

Get Started Now – Let Us Help

If any of the concerns we discussed above apply to you, you could greatly benefit from an application like TrialDirector. We can help you every step of the way.

TrialDirector is cutting edge trial preparation and presentation software.

With TrialDirector, you can review exhibits. It uses a couple document browsing tools to let you find exactly what you’re looking for. Then you can open the document in a larger viewer, browse through the document if it has multiple pages, and even draw markups to focus the jury’s attention in preparation for trial. You can review video and deposition transcripts as well.

If you have a hard time browsing through all the documents you are preparing for trial, you can organize individual items in your case into different folders called workbooks. There are different types of workbooks that make other tasks, like presenting at trial, much easier.

Finally, you can take the case you worked on in TrialDirector with you to trial for presentation. You can present a set of exhibits in order, or you can call up exhibits on-the-fly as the trial develops. There are several things you can do to capture the jury’s attention too. You can make callouts, mark annotations, and show exhibits next to each other to compare and contrast. You can even link an exhibit to a deposition video and have it appear seamlessly at the right moment while the video plays.

Look at what we have to offer at TrialDirector.com.

We also offer in-depth training services through TrialDirector University to help jump-start your experience with taking your cases to the next level with technology. Learn more at TrialDirectorUniversity.com.

There are countless hours you can save using technology throughout the life of any case. Make the decision and take steps to use it now!