Have you ever received one of those “crisis” phone calls? Your attorney or paralegal is having a “crisis” in the courtroom? Most of the time when this has happened to me, I have little or no information to prepare myself for whatever crisis I am walking into. Is it a software problem? Could there something be wrong with the equipment? Is it a cabling issue?
On my last “crisis” phone call, I was summoned into a hearing room. I waited until I was allowed to enter then walked in, plugged in the VGA cable to the laptop and all was well. Believe me, it’s not always that easy.
We sometimes go into the courtroom or location of the crisis blindly. Quite often, we have to do something quickly or with very little interruption of the court proceedings that are going on in the midst of the crisis. We have to work behind the scenes. It can be quite stressful but unfortunately this is part of the job.
So what are some basic troubleshooting steps to follow when you are going into a “crisis” blindly?
- Is the power on? Believe it or not this most common thing can be overlooked. Make sure that the power is on or plugged in. Sometimes the equipment is plugged into a power adapter or strip which has a separate power on/off button of its own.
- Check all cable connections. Sometimes either the cable is not seated properly or has come loose in the activity.
- Ensure user has proper resolution. This a common issue. The laptop has to match the resolution of the projector. You may have to play around with this. In some instances, I have had to adjust the refresh rate which is buried in the advanced settings. Also, it can be a issue to send the signal to the projector by toggling. For Windows computers, pressing the Windows key + P will get you there quickly for this adjustment.
- Reboot the computer. Yeah, I never like this to be the answer but sometimes it is necessary. Waiting on a computer to power up in the courtroom seems to take a lot longer than it usually does.
Don’t go in empty-handed. It is a good idea to have a small bag with items which can commonly resolve issues. The emergency kit should include items such as:
- Cables – depending on the type of equipment you use. For video, VGA, HDMI or Display Port cables. Audio cables for any audio issues including a stereo jack adapter.
- Gender changers – If you are working with VGA cables, it’s a good idea to have a couple of these in case you need to extend a connection or change cables.
- Power adapter – I’m referring to both the power adapter for the laptop and power strip where you can plug in other devices. Attorneys sometimes forget the laptop power adapter especially if they are used to working with docking stations.
- Speakers – A good portable set of speakers is a good idea to have in case your trial team is having issues with audio. Although most courts have their own sound systems that you can connect to, if it isn’t working or loud enough they will put it on you to fix it. The easiest thing most don’t think of is to simply bend down the table microphone to the laptop speakers in a pinch.
Of course it isn’t possible to be ready for everything. I was once asked the question: “What if things go awry?” My response was: “Then things go awry.” There is no way you can fix everything. Quite often I have had to wait until a break in court so I could resolve an issue. It’s also a good idea (if allowed) if the user can text message you from the courtroom. This has helped me on numerous occasions. I have either been able to respond with a fix for the problem or I have time to research the issue and respond with the appropriate fix for the problem.
One thing that helps you with these “crisis” situations is simply experience. I have been doing this for a long time so I have encountered many different problems and glitches that occur. During this time, I have learned what works and what doesn’t work. It is also helpful to be familiar with the setup of each courtroom because not all courtrooms are set up the same or wired the same. Recently, we encountered an issue with the display resolution in connecting with the court’s projector. The issue turned out to be that the court’s VGA cable did not have 15-pins. This really screwed up the display. So, you really have to become educated on the way each courtroom is designed for the technology. Even something as simple as playing a DVD in the court’s DVD player can throw the attorney for a loop. Believe me – it happens.
The important thing in every “crisis” situation is to remain calm and focus on fixing the problem. Yes, sometimes the attorney or the judge may express their impatience with you. It happens. You have to keep your cool during these crisis moments and keep your mind searching for the solution to the problem. During one time I was in the “hot seat” running the courtroom presentation, the judge was upset that it was taking too long for the computer to display color documents. I immediately directed the attorney to put the paper documents on the document camera until I would resolve the problem. You just have to make quick decisions to buy you some time.
Emergencies are going to happen. It’s just the nature of the job. Our people expect us to fix it. Use every situation as a learning experience and prepare for it that situation happens again. It is also a good idea to talk to the trial team after a trial to find out what worked and what didn’t work so that you can be proactive for the next trial.
In the end, you just do your best and do what you can do. If you can’t fix something, don’t take it personally. Just resolve to build on your experience with each crisis.