Tag: courtroom presentation

Tech Fixes In The Courtroom

One of my biggest fears is having something to go wrong in the courtroom.  I have learned that it doesn’t matter how much you practice in the office or conference that something is bound to go wrong when you set up in the courtroom.  Some times there is simply nothing you can do but here are a few fixes to keep in mind whih could help you in these situations:

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LAPTOP DISPLAY IS NOT SHOWING ON SCREEN

Once you have connected your laptop to the court’s presentation system, you see the display on your laptop but not on the courtroom screen(s).

Possible solutions:

  • Reboot the laptop.
  • Check the cable.  On more than one occasion I have discovered that one of the pins were bent or missing in the VGA cable.
  • Adjust the resolution.  Ask the Court IT staff what the resolution is on their projector/flat screen.
  • Toggle your display by pressing Windows Key + P.  This will show you the settings to duplicate or extend your display.
  • Make sure the Court’s equipment is set on the correct input for your laptop.

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FEEDBACK WHEN CONNECTING AUDIO CABLE

“What’s that noise?”

Court Reporters are very sensitive to sounds and understandably so since they have to transcribe what they hear during court.

Possible solutions:

  • Change cables
  • Use 2-prong adapter on power cord

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POWERPOINT SLIDES WON’T FIT ON COURT DISPLAYS

Everything else is working fine but then someone tries to do a PowerPoint presentation for closing and they discover that the photos they put in their slides are not fitting on the screen.

Possible solutions:

  • Check the resolution.  Make sure it matches the Court’s projector or flat screen.
  • Check the cable.  Once again it could be a problem with a pin that is missing or bent on the VGA cable.
  • Make sure the user is in slide show mode

volume

CAN’T HEAR AUDIO BEING PLAYED ON LAPTOP

You have a recording to play and you can’t hear the audio.  No need to panic, try these first:

  • Check the volume on your laptop.
  • Make sure the audio cable is plugged into the correct jack.  In most cases it will be the headphone jack on your laptop.
  • Check the volume on the Court’s system

vga-techmehub

LAPTOP DISPLAY ON COURT’S SCREEN CONSTANTLY GOES OUT

You’ve got your laptop connected to the Court’s projector or flat screen but you experience intermittent outages.  Most laptops today are eliminating the VGA connection in favor of HDMI or Display Port (don’t get me started on the Display Port) but some laptops still have the VGA option but have eliminated the ability to screw in the cable.

  • Check to see that the VGA is securely connected to your laptop.   I recently attached velcro to both the cable and under the laptop to ensure the VGA would stay connected.
  • If the above doesn’t work, check the other end of the connection as well as the path the cable is taking to/from the laptop.  Believe it or not, sometimes someone on the legal team will put a box or something on the cable that could interfere.

There are other unique things that come up but these are some of the common issues I have experienced.  I don’t have to tell you how nerve wrecking it can be to experience problems in the courtroom.  It’s always good practice to get into the courtroom the day before your trial to set up everything and test it.  There have been many times that I had in my mind how something was going to work but when I actually got into the courtroom to test it out I discovered issues that I had time to resolve before trial.   One thing you can never assume is the availability of electrical outlets.  Yes even in 2018 some courtrooms are limited on availability to plug in our electronic devices.  Once I had to go to Lowe’s and purchase some extension cords and plugged under the judge’s bench so that we could have power to our devices.

Always test your equipment but always be ready in case something goes wrong.  The best way to be ready is to have spare cables, connectors and equipment in case you need to switch out on the fly.

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Working With .VOB Files

In the various video file formats I have to work with in litigation, one of the most common are .VOB files.  A .VOB file is the container format in DVD-Video media files.  VOB (Video Object) files can contain digital video, digital audio, subtitles, DVD menus and navigation contents which are put together to stream the content of a DVD.

VOB
This is what a DVD-format video file looks like.

 

If you have a DVD and just want to play it, you will never need to know about .VOB files but when you have to convert it or capture clips from it you will need to find a way to do this.  Sometimes you can just simply play a .VOB file in Windows Media Player or Videolan (VLC) player separately.  There are times when you can simply change the file extension from .VOB to .MPG and it will work the same but it doesn’t always work depending on how the file is coded.  Although a VOB file is essentially an MPEG file, it could have additional data that might be needed.

Perhaps the safest way to convert a .VOB file is to use a video conversion program.  I sometimes use AnyVideoConverter.  Doing so will ensure you can keep it seamlessly and not risk losing any important information or any loss in quality.

If you need to convert a DVD to play in TrialDirector, there is a nifty program included which will make life easier.   It is called the inData Digital Video Disc (DVD) Extractor.  It is very easy to use and can export the output to MPEG-1 and MPEG-2.  This is a useful tool if your attorney hands you a DVD to put into TrialDirector.  This utility will extract the DVD format into a more user friendly form for TrialDirector.

DVDextractor
inData’s DVD Extractor utility helps convert DVD format to MPEG.

With an video conversion, you must always use caution that you aren’t altering the video file or degrading it in any way.  There have been some instances when I have converted a VOB file only to discover that the video and audio did not match up or the time code was missing or different than when the legal team reviewed the original DVD.  Also, you have to stress to the legal team to provide you with the video files with ample notice as sometimes conversion doesn’t always happen instantly.

What is Litigation Support?

 

When I was working in Tampa one of the younger attorneys came up to me and asked:  “What is it that you do here?”

There is a danger in trying to explain to someone what I do of the listener’s eye glazing over and zoning out if the explanation gets too technical.  One attorney once said that getting him coffee was a part of “litigation support” but I quickly educated him that it wasn’t.

When I started in this job is was described as “Automated Litigation Support” or “ALS” but over the years and with the increase of litigation specific technology, it has evolved into “Litigation Support” or “Litigation Technology”.

Basically, someone in this work is assisting their attorneys in using technology to help them identify, organize and present their cases in court.  I used to say that I was a hybrid of a paralegal/information technology specialist but it has gotten increasingly technical since the changes years ago in the rules of electronic discovery.

In most offices, litigation support/litigation technology is broken down into three main areas of expertise:

  1. Trial Graphics
  2. Data Management
  3. Courtroom Presentation

Trial Graphics is often the fun and creative part of the job when attorneys need help taking an idea or argument and making a graphical representation of it.  This is helpful when they have a complex issue to explain to a jury.  Many times this will involve the use of Microsoft PowerPoint.   In my opinion, PowerPoint is widely over used.   It works effectively at times but not as something that becomes a crutch for making a presentation.  Attorneys like to use a PowerPoint presentation for their closing arguments and I have seen it used successfully many times.  There are some who will use it in their opening statements but it can be very tricky to maneuver if you use evidence that you expect to come into trial.  I always caution attorneys that they need to be sure the evidence is coming in or they will have some consequences if it doesn’t.  Aside from that, I have seen the overkill in using a PowerPoint when it was routinely used for opening statements with no fewer than 100 slides.

Data Management is the management of data that we receive such as discs, flash drives or hard drives.  We analyze the data and determine the best way to process it and make it available for the attorney to use.  I used to call this area “document management” but the fact is that we don’t get as much paper anymore that requires us to scan and put into a database.  Perhaps the issue I deal with on a daily basis is helping the staff with various audio/video formats.  When I started, we only had tapes so we knew how to play those but today it could be in any kind of format.  We must also assist the staff in getting the discovery out to opposing counsel.

Courtroom presentation involves getting the software and equipment together for attorneys and paralegals to use in the courtroom.  When I started, I had to bring all the equipment such as projector, screen, cables, computers, etc.  Today we usually only need to bring a laptop to plug into the court’s presentation system.  We have software that allows us to show documents, photos, play audio and video from one software program for presentation to the jury during witness testimony.  The original is admitted into evidence and their review during deliberation but in using presentation software we are able to direct the attention of the jury especially since society now get most of their news from a screen.  It is a very effective way to communicate.

So as you can see, it is more than getting coffee.

As the practice of law gets more technical and digital, lawyers graduating from law school are becoming more tech savvy and independent on how they use it.   I would predict that in the next 10 years or so that offices will no longer need a person who specializes in litigation technology.   The software is getting more user-friendly and the technology is getting better.  Years ago I mocked people who said the law office would one day be a paperless office.  Although it isn’t totally without paper, I have to admit that it is paper-less.