We’ve all seen the headlines of breach after breach of big corporations, such as Target and Yahoo. Perhaps the most alarming was the Equifax breach in late 2017 affecting 145M customers, the full impact of which is still yet to be determined. Rightfully so, cyber attacks like this keep our personal and professional security top of mind.
As legal industry professionals, the security of sensitive data is critical. We all know the confidentiality of document review for eDiscovery. A breach of information could potentially cause irreparable damage. Imagine hundreds of privileged documents for a high-profile client suddenly becoming public fodder (think, Sony’s epic email breach). Or the juicy details of a divorce proceeding, ahem, Tiger Woods, or even the strategy email exchanges between you and your client. Needless to say, these scenarios would produce a devastating outcome.
So, what can we do to protect data in this age of cyber hackers? One major consideration is to move to the Cloud. Cloud-based technology offers a variety of defenses against electronic breaches of information primarily by utilizing robust auditing and encryption for sensitive data. In the eDiscovery world, using a cloud-based review tool not only gives you flexibility and contributes to a more efficient review, but it provides the necessary security to ensure the data in your care is safe.
Now that 2018 is under way and the looming compliance deadline of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) approaches, the responsibility to ensure adequate privacy and security has never been more critical than now, especially if your needs require data-sharing with large corporations at risk for security breaches.
On a personal level, consider storing important and sensitive documents in the Cloud. Avoid the hacker hangout of public WiFi. Use complex password conventions. Be leery of unsolicited emails asking for private information or links to click. Use two-factor authentication whenever available. Keep your computer systems updated. Finally, monitor, monitor, monitor- your bank accounts, credit accounts, and credit reports. Vigilance, both personally and professionally, is the best defense against a cyber attack.
For more information about Ipro’s cloud-based technology, click here.
Dan, a young and ambitious attorney, strides confidently into the courtroom. Sure, he’s a little nervous, but he has practiced this presentation several times, and he knows he can convince the jury in his favor. Plus, he’s using powerful trial presentation software to help him out. What could go wrong?
The opposition, judge and jurors arrive, and it’s finally time for Dan to begin. He brings up the first image of his presentation on the big screen and starts to talk. He starts out strong. He already feels a rhythm. The jury is hanging on his every word, but then disaster occurs. He clicks to the next image in his presentation, but instead of the picture he’s expecting, a different image with the words “No Image Available” dominates the screen.
Dan fumbles for a precious second or two, but then he gets back on track. He’s embarrassed, but he breezes over it. He makes a quick joke, sees some of the jury chuckle, and clicks to the next image. Thankfully, the next image is there and he quickly gets back to his rhythm. It was just a hiccup, he’s not ruined.
He continues clicking through his images, building up steam for the big reveal at the end, but it happens again.
“No Image Available”
Dan is devastated, his face is flushed red. He can see members of the jury rolling their eyes. The judge is glaring at him. Dan quickly finishes up his remarks and sits down, fuming over what just happened.
Where did the images go? They were all there when he practiced yesterday, how did they just magically disappear?
What went wrong?
Dan fell victim to a misunderstanding of how the technology he was using worked. But before we get into what exactly happened to Dan, let’s go over some basics of that technology. Specifically, databases.
Understanding Database Basics
Whether Dan knew it or not, he was using a database to reach and work with his case documents.
In the most basic terms, a database is an organized collection of metadata, or in other words information, that describes items within the database. As it applies to Dan and other attorneys using trial presentation software, a database is a sort of metadata repository of all the images and other documents that Dan puts into it.
However, it is important to note and reiterate that the database doesn’t hold the actual images themselves, but the metadata or information about those images: Where the images are located, what they are named, when he entered them into the database, and any other information Dan decides to enter.
Aside from just being trial presentation software, trial preparation and presentation applications also serve as minor document management systems which often use a database. That’s what you’re actually working with when you import files into a case, organize them, and mark them up.
Working with a database is a little different than you might think because even though you’re working with the actual files, those files are not housed within the application itself.
If it helps, think of using a database like using an Elmo document projector or some other projection machine. The image that is being projected onto the screen or wall is not the real, original image. It is a reference to the real image being projected on the Elmo.
In a database, the files are only referenced. Therefore, if the referenced files are ever moved, it breaks the application’s connection.
See where we’re going with this?
When Dan opens an image in his application, the application is using the information in the database to find the image and show it to him in the document viewer.
That is one of the many things that are misunderstood about databases. When you import a file into these systems, you’re basically just telling the program where to look to find the image. If that image is ever moved, then the application won’t know where to find it.
So, why do these software tools use databases? Why not just house the files right in the application so that you never have the “No Image Available” problem?
We’ll approach this question conceptually. A given case has the potential to have several thousand documents, even tens of thousands, in various states of progress. Not to mention the many many hours of deposition and evidence video. While we don’t recommend you importall your case documents into your trial presentation tool, you’re going to want to at least import several hundred that might be relevant to your presentation at trial.
Any one image file can have a large file size on its own. One video, like a deposition, can be several hours long, making the file size much much larger than an image. These large sizes present several problems.
First, it would take a large amount of time to actually get the files into the software. Then, once they are there, you need a system to keep track of all the information being processed along with each document. Having to manually look for each file as if you were looking through the Windows file explorer for each of the thousands of documents in your case would eat up a lot of precious time.
We are extremely aware of the precious time of attorneys.
Instead of all that noise, we can use a database. A database puts all the information you need about a document right in front of you in an easy-to-read manner, letting you get back to what matters: strategizing, developing arguments, and winning your case.
A database makes everything much faster, more efficient and gets you what you need. Since it only references the files that are already on your computer, the file size when importing documents becomes much smaller and much faster to import. It also makes tracking all the information related to each file much easier and provides the possibility of adding information as a document goes through the case process.
In short, databases make working with loads of case documents much more streamlined and efficient, speedily getting you the information you need. All it takes on your part is a little more basic knowledge of what a database is and how to approach using one.
What about Dan?
To sum up, after a file is imported into a trial presentation tool, if somebody moves that file, it breaks the path the database uses to find it and the application can’t find the file anymore, resulting in “No Image Available”.
So what happened to Dan? Remember him? Turns out, even though he had practiced and made sure his presentation was ready to go, his paralegal, Rachel, was still working well into the night on the case. While she worked, she had to move some files around on the computer. Some of those files she moved were referenced in Dan’s presentation software.
See the problem?
Yep. You guessed it. Moving the files broke the reference his application needed to find them, so when Dan tried to call them up in his presentation, he got the dreaded screen.
There are a couple solutions we recommend you use to help avoid experiences like these, but hopefully, this article gives you a better idea of how managing documents works in most trial preparation and presentation applications.
Have you seen the “No Image Available” picture come up during a presentation? What did you do to get through it?
TrialDirector isn’t just a trial presentation tool. It also serves as a sort of document management system that helps you keep track of relevant case items and information throughout the whole trial process. We want to help you know how to use this and other tools to their full potential.
One of the first steps when using TrialDirector or any other trial presentation and evidence management software is to import relevant case items into whatever tool you are using. However, the information you provide along with the evidence you are importing determines whether you will have an easy or hard time as the case progresses.
Most trial presentation software use a database reference files on your computer and help you keep track of the information related to each evidence item. Following are our suggestions to consider when importing documents into the software to make your life easier as the case progresses and as you prepare for trial.
Only Bring In What You Need
First, you want to think about scaling down the number of documents you want to import. Any given case potentially has thousands, even tens of thousands, of documents. You’re not going to use every single piece of that evidence even before or during trial.
We recommend you review and sift through your case documents and choose the documents you’ll actually be working with. Then, import those relevant documents into your trial preparation and presentation software.
If it helps to think in terms of numbers, If your case has 1000 documents, you should consider only importing about 100 documents. Roughly 10%. Much more than that, and you’ll have a difficult time working around all the documents you are not using.
Scaling down in this way makes for a much simpler experience when managing and prepping your files for trial.
As an example, think about what it would take to actually search for a needle in a haystack. How would you go about it? Would start picking through the hay one strand at a time? That is what many firms are forcing themselves to do by either working with physical documents or dumping all their case files haphazardly onto their computers. But if you break up and significantly reduce the amount of hay you would have to look through, it becomes much easier to find the needle (The file you’re looking for).
And don’t worry, you can always bring in more files later if needed.
Know What Your Documents Are Before You Import
This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s necessary. As we already mentioned, case loads get rather hefty. If you just dump a bunch files into your trial presentation software without really knowing what is going in there, it’s going to be that much harder to find things when you need them, especially when you’re working with limited time.
It pays to put in the work of knowing what your files are beforehand.
As you review, re-naming your documents can have just as much of an impact on your ability to find them as organizing them does.
For example, think of enthusiastic cat owners. However they got to have all those hundreds of cats, they’re here now, and the owners better have a good way of keeping track of them. That’s why the owners use simple, but creative names for each cat. That way, the owners and the cats don’t get confused when the owners call out for one of them to come.
We’ve seen some trial teams use long detailed descriptions for each of their documents. While it may feel that that will make it easier to find the documents in the future, it turns into a problem when you add 1000 other documents all with very descriptive names.
That’s like the cat owners naming each cat something like “the one with the frizzy fur, black spot, and gimp leg.” Not very efficient.
You are the cat owner. Your case documents are your cats.
We recommend you go through each document you plan to import into your trial prep tool and rename it something simple and easy to reference. The easiest thing to name each file is its exhibit number or bates number.
Team and Computer Organization
A common problem with many law firms is organizing all the files related to a case. When a firm receives images from a vendor, the firm might dump all the files they received into whatever folder they set up for the case on their computer without even looking through and organizing what they received. These folders are generally accessible to the entire firm which means all the files inside are subject to being moved around or even deleted by accident.
As mentioned before, TrialDirector uses a database to reference evidence files instead of actually housing the files in the program itself. There are several major advantages to using a database in this way, but one of the disadvantages is that if the file being referenced is moved or deleted, the database loses it and TrialDirector can’t find it.
As you’ve probably guessed or even experienced, this is a problem. Don’t get caught with your pants down in the middle of a trial.
Without the most basic organization rules, all the thousands of case files quickly become mixed up and hard to navigate. By rushing the process of getting files into a case, you are setting yourself up for a lot of headaches down the road and precious hours of wasted time.
Regardless of how well you think your firm is organized, consider the following suggestions:
Set some file organization rules in your firm. Even the simplest rules go a long way. Our general suggestion would be to set up your files so that you can easily know where to go to find what you’re looking for without having to dig through multiple folders just to get there.
Communicate the rules to everyone. Everyone involved in the case needs to know where each case is located and what is allowed to be moved around and what is not.
Create a separate, new case folder for each case, and only put the files related to that case into the folder.
Divide case files into two folders within the main case folder: Exhibits and Depositions. Dividing files into these folders makes it that much easier to find what you need quickly.
Copy the files to a new, separate case folder before sending them to TrialDirector or any other database or trial presentation program. Doing this will further mitigate any mistakes in moving or deleting files
This type of organization beforehand not only makes your life as a paralegal or attorney better in general, but it makes it easier when importing into trial presentation software.
Think of the PDF as a sort of universal language of all the other image file types out there.
Pretty much anyone can open a PDF file. So, if you have to give the file to the opposition or some other party in a case, you can avoid any back and forth that comes from that party not being able to open the file because you already gave them the PDF.
Sometimes courts require you to provide PDFs so you can get a head start there by converting all your files now.
PDFs are also generally easier to import and move around than other file types. They act as a sort of container. For example, one PDF file, even though it’s a single file, can hold many pages at once. So instead of having to move around or send a bunch of single page files, such as Tiffs or other image files, you can send one PDF file with all the pages contained inside.
Working with single page files carries its own set of headaches that we won’t get into detail here, but there is a little more involved when trying to get them into trial presentation software.
As an added bonus for PDFs, you have the option to reduce the file size with PDFs, making file transfers that much easier and quicker.
Do yourself a favor and simplify the way you work with documents by following these principles and using trial preparation and document management software.
What has helped you when using trial preparation and presentation software?
When you started law school you probably had some sort of plan. At the very least you planned to attend class, study, and graduate. Then came the bar exam which required another plan to study, prepare, and learn even more.
Have you made other plans? Run a marathon, lose weight, learn a new language, go on a safari?
Whatever the objective, whether personal or professional, it requires a plan. Some things take little planning and some take a lot.
Can you run a marathon without training first? Maybe, but it’s probably painful and there may be lasting (and negative) effects.
Can you lose 20 pounds overnight? If so, tell me how!
Is it possible to become fluent in a new language in a week? Well, this teenager did, but it isn’t the safest way.
And if you can go on a safari at this very moment, I’d like to switch places with you. But chances are you need to plan time off from work, renew your passport, find someone to watch the kids, book a flight, pack, and find a good safari guide.
It’s the same thing when you go to trial. Do you have a plan for that?
Do You Plan for Trial?
So, maybe it’s a little early and a trial is still a few months away. A few motions are pending and there’s a chance the case will settle. You don’t need to prepare for trial, right?
Benjamin Franklin said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Everything you do on your case is preparation for something: you prepare pleadings and interrogatories; you prepare for depositions and hearings; you prepare for settlement negotiations. What about trial?
Start using trial presentation software like TrialDirector for more than presentation – use it to prepare and you’ll be ready to present.
With a tool like TrialDirector, you can load your case data and start organizing with workbooks, searching documents, and creating exhibit lists in Microsoft Word. Then generate reports in PDF that can be emailed or copied into court filings. These tools will help when you ultimately go to trial but can also be leveraged early for settlement talks, analysis, and strategy.
Wait, TrialDirector Is for More Than Presentation?
Yes! The best trial presentation software does more than present. When you start using TrialDirector before trial you help yourself and your case. Let me tell you how:
First, today the pressure is off, so you are learning TrialDirector while you work and prepare. When you take things in stages, they are much easier to understand and absorb.
Second, while you’re learning TrialDirector, you’re reviewing the evidence. Better yet, while you’re reviewing the evidence, you are learning TrialDirector. Here’s a quick example:
Do you need all documents regarding ethylene glycol in once place? Make a workbook, call it Ethylene Glycol, and file any documents in it.
Want to give these to an ethylene glycol expert? No problem, simply export the workbook to a PDF that you can print or email.
These are pretty simple things to do, but when you’re under the gun, the easiest things can seem overwhelming. When you start using TrialDirector for more than just presentation, you’ll be able to put it to use early and to your advantage.
Third, all the organization you do in TrialDirector today will help you prepare tomorrow: your Ethylene Glycol workbook also functions as a presentation folder so you don’t need to recreate it for trial purposes.
(A quick note: Workbooks are one of the easiest and most useful TrialDirector functions. Make as many as you need and name them anything you want. Also, the same document can be filed in multiple workbooks!)
TrialDirector is a three-birds-with-one-stone program. Actually, it’s a stone for many, many birds, but we want to keep this brief. And please note, we do not advocate violence against birds or any other creature. Only idioms.
What Should I Do?
Like vacation planning, living healthfully, and learning a new skill, using trial technology needs planning too.
Get TrialDirector now, before trial. Make your life easier and use it to plan and prepare for trial. Start loading your data. If you aren’t sure how, the time to learn is before the trial time-crunch. Right now, you have the luxury of time. Maybe not an abundance of time but, probably more now than when trial is one week or one month away. The urgency and stress of an impending trial date aren’t looming over you.
Also, consider attending a TrialDirector University training course. Extra time will be something you don’t have when the calendar flips to trial month.
What tools do you use to prepare for trial or other events in a case?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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:
Ask for digital documents from the start of a case
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 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 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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!