Judge gavel and tablet computer on table

Basics of Presentation Technology for Legal Advocacy

Lawyers use presentation technology to advocate for their clients more effectively and efficiently. Low-cost electronics have brought technology within reach of practically any budget. Technology may now be deployed in every manner of matter and setting, from lengthy jury trials to short arbitrations.

No one should be intimidated by presentation technology. However, it isn’t simply a matter of bringing your computer to court either. Like every aspect of legal work, using presentation technology has best practices and potential pitfalls. Planning and preparation are the keys to avoiding common mistakes and presenting your best case.

Technology and Paper: Not an Either/Or

Presentation technology is equipment and software for the electronic presentation of evidence and demonstratives in a legal proceeding.

This table summarizes traditional presentation means and the corresponding technology means:

TRADITIONAL TRIAL TECHNOLOGY
EXHIBITS Paper Screen display
DEPOSITIONS Read into record Video playback
DEMONSTRATIVES Trial boards PowerPoint

In talking to lawyers about presentation technology, I often encounter two misconceptions. First, presentation technology is not “the paperless courtroom.”

When technology is used, electronic presentation is the primary means of display – but not the sole means. A strategic approach to presentation selects the best tool available for each exhibit, deposition and demonstrative. For example, you might use a PowerPoint in conjunction with a trial board or hand the witness a paper copy of an exhibit while everyone else views it on a screen.

Presentation Technology: Not Just for Trials

The second misconception is that presentation technology is only for trials.

Electronic evidence presentation became associated early on with high-value jury trials where the amount at stake justified the expense of equipment rental. However, it’s been many years since the federal courts spurred greater technology use by equipping courtrooms with monitor display systems.

State courts on the whole trail their federal counterparts in this respect, but they’re catching up fast. The situation also varies tremendously from courthouse to courthouse. While hardly the norm, some state courts have installed state-of-the-art technology that outdoes the federal court next door.

In addition, the cost of electronic equipment has dropped dramatically. If there is no or inadequate technology on-site in a courtroom or other venue, parties may be able to procure a basic equipment set-up for a very modest cost.

These trends combine to make presentation technology a feasible option in a wide range of matters beyond trials. For example, preliminary injunction hearings, administrative proceedings and arbitrations.

Deploying Technology Requires Software, Equipment and People

Deploying presentation technology requires the right software, equipment and people:

  • Software – Software programs to display each content type.
  • Equipment – Computers to run the software and a display system.
  • People – Trained staff to use the software and manage the equipment.

Neglecting any of these will inevitably lower the quality of your presentation.

Put positively, with careful planning and preparation you can deploy the software, equipment and people you need for a high quality, efficient and cost-effective presentation.

Part 2 of this three-part series will cover presentation software, equipment and staffing in greater depth. Part 3 will review three common mistakes in using presentation technology and how to avoid them. The good news for legal professionals is presentation technology is more about good case management than advanced computer literacy.

About the Author

Helen Geib on Email
Helen Geib
Helen Geib is Of Counsel for Hoover Hull Turner LLP. Her deep knowledge of eDiscovery law and practice was gained over many years of experience as a litigator and eDiscovery consultant. Helen has published numerous articles on topics in eDiscovery and legal technology for a wide variety of publications including Legaltech News, The Indiana Lawyer, ACEDS and Corporate Counsel Business Journal. In 2019, she was recognized as eDiscovery Professional of the Year by the Indianapolis Bar Association. Helen obtained her JD, summa cum laude, from The John Marshall Law School and is a member of the bar of the State of Indiana and the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She serves on the board of the Women in eDiscovery Indianapolis chapter, which she launched in 2017.