I have been in the Litigation Support career field for the past 21 years and I have seen just about every type of technology issue and glitch possible with new ones occasionally popping up to test my abilities. Litigation Technology has changed during this time and the problems I encounter change with the technology. In this blog, I have come up with a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way:
“How do I play this?”
This is the most asked question I get now from the legal staff in regards to audio/video they receive. When I first started, you had tapes. With tapes, you knew what they were and how to play them. Today, you get a disc or flash drive with audio and video files on them. Usually, these files are not in a standard format so I have to figure out how to use third-party players to play them or download the correct (and approved) CODECs for the staff to review the media. One of my constant “sermons” to the attorneys is to bring their attention to thinking of how they expect a jury to review the audio/video. Many times they don’t think of this until the jury is deliberating and have to play the files.
This is a painful but necessary process for us now. We have to be cautious of sending data out and safeguards to protect the information from accidentally getting in the wrong hands. I have to tell folks not to include the password ON the media they send it because that kinda defeats the whole purpose in securing the data. It is also a challenge when our encryption software doesn’t work for opposing counsel when they have McIntosh systems or some other issues which block their access to the data due to the encryption software we use. We have to navigate around this very carefully.
Sound Problems In The Courtroom
Routinely I have paralegals reporting that they are experiencing feedback or other sound issues in the courtroom when connecting their laptops. Court reporters will be the first ones to fuss about this problem and rightly so. Any audio feedback inhibits their ability to do their jobs in capturing every word said in court. Two things usually resolve this problem. First, simply plug in the audio cable into the headphone jack of the laptop even if you aren’t using sound. Leaving the audio cable loose or hanging free will cause some interference. Second, plug an AC adapter to the power cord on the laptop. In most cases, the power is too close to the audio ports and using the adapter adjusts the power so that it muffles the interference.
It’s always good to be on the front end when attorneys request data. Doing so can save time and complications by ensuring you get the data in the correct format or simply know what’s coming so you can be prepared. I have had people hand me SATA hard drives and ask me to review it. Seriously? A SATA hard drive? I might as well be the Great Carnac. It is essential that we enforce our Electronic Discovery policy so that we can avoid receiving a data dump. E-Discovery is no longer something new and foreign anymore. I am quite strict on people following our E-Discovery specs. When I receive something, if it doesn’t meet our specs I return it. You can only do this if you have a policy in place and communicate this to the staff.
“I have a hearing in 15-minutes….”
Yeah, this is something I don’t think we will ever avoid. We have courtrooms that have absolutely no presentation technology so at times I will get this phone call from an attorney needing to play audio or video at a hearing. I always wonder how these hearings pop up at the last minute but, as we all know, it does no good to complain about it. We have to act and get it done. It is very important to anticipate these situations and have equipment ready to roll. In fact, I have a “mobility cart” nearby that is wired with a short-throw project and speakers that can be rolled to any courtroom at a moment’s notice. Every office has those “last-minute” people so it’s good to know that when the time comes, you can respond.
Be open to new technology
If you are like me, you support people who can be resist to new technology. We can’t be like that. We must be willing to try new things that will make the work of our legal staff more efficient. When we find something that works, we must sell it and be excited about it. Recently, I was able to get an iPAD with TrialDirector and introduced it to the staff. People have been resistant but once one or two paralegals have used it in court, they always want to use it now.
Okay, this isn’t an exhaustive list but a few things that are common and some things I have learned to deal with them. Litigation Technology is constantly changing. Advancements continue to be made so we have to stay on the leading edge of the technology to ensure our attorneys and legal support staff have the tools that will make them successful. That’s also a huge thing to keep in mind. I have met others who want to create some kind of competition with other offices or agencies. A good litigation support or litigation technology specialist will keep their focus on the people they support and not get involved in some sort of technology arms race with other litigation support professionals. We have to get the job done for the people who are in the front lines in our office.
One saying that I think is a good one to live by as a litigation support professional is: “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”