Litigation Support Resolutions For 2018

newyearHere we are…the holidays are over and my office is slowly rolling into the new year. I have caught myself saying that it is a different year but the same circus. Yes, I have done this a long time. I won’t say I’m the best at my job but I know what I’m doing on most days. So as people make their New Year’s Resolutions of losing weight or to stop smoking, here are some of my resolutions for litigation support this year:

  1. Be more flexible. I don’t know why it often hits me wrong when emergencies happen or someone needs something at the last minute. It will happen. You know that saying “Failure to plan on your part does not make it an emergency on my part”?   Yeah, that doesn’t apply in this job.   It doesn’t matter how many policies are in place or what you do, things will happen and the stressful parts of the job will happen. A judge won’t be happy with the technology or a paralegal will forget how to rotate an image in TrialDirector during court. Although I need to expect the unexpected I just need to handle it better.
  2. Conduct more training. Instead of limping through the year and putting out fires when people have issues with litigation technology, I need arrange more training to help the staff increase their knowledge. Training people will only make my job easier.  Some people like to protect their knowledge like we are a magician or something.  Although we ARE magicians, there is nothing wrong with sharing what we know.  We can’t do it all although we try to do it all.
  3. Upgrade old technology. Sometimes we just settle in our comfort zone with our technology.  Doing things because we’ve always done them isn’t a good motto to have in this job.  We must constantly seek out new and improved ways to get things done.  The old technology is – well – old.  It needs to be replaced.  Believe me, people will fight change but sometimes you have to give them a gentle nudge.  We have two pieces of equipment in our office, one is a newer model than the other; however, people use the older one because “it’s the machine everyone uses.”   Nope.  We’ve got to move past that mentality.
  4. Use the word “NO” more often.  I’m sure we are all guilty of this.  We don’t like to say “no” to the people we support.  I have learned to say it more over the past several years but I look back and see that I still need to do better about it.  That doesn’t mean I won’t help people out but if people want quality work, we have to say “no” to other things especially if it isn’t our job.  Now, I know we hate to say “it’s not my job” but I think it’s time we make people do their jobs instead of enabling people to assume we are going to do it if the slackers won’t.  Saying “no” to things isn’t being mean, it’s being smarter in managing our workload.
  5. Be open to new opportunities. If you have done this job for as long as I have, you have to realize that you won’t be doing it forever.  It’s probably good to start preparing for your exit to another career or whatever you are going to do after this chapter of your life is over.  How will our current skills transition to something else?  Do we need to take classes?  It’s a good time to look at the new opportunities ahead and prepare for them.   If you are just starting out in this job, you should set your goals and work your way to achieving them.  It may not be this year but you need to put yourself in position for when that opportunity comes.

So here we go charging into another year.  We are facing new data to process, trials to prepare for and other challenges in litigation technology.  I will say that this is a unique career field and it can take you wherever you want to go but you also need to make time to have a life.  A former colleague of mine once said that you weren’t doing your job if you weren’t working at least 50 hours a week.  Sad to say that he passed away several years ago.  Now what?  Not to be negative but the reality is that when we are gone, they will just hire someone to replace us.  This job shouldn’t be your life.  It’s rewarding and sometimes exciting but it’s not the main thing.  Make 2018 a good one!

Litigation Support Specialists (probably) Save The World

I have spent a majority of my career in the litigation technology career field.  There have been a lot of changes since I started in this very unique area of technology.  There are so many aspects to this job.  One day it is trial presentation technology.  Another day it is correcting problems with load files and getting them to work in a document management system.  It is a constantly changing world for us.

One of the things I have learned about this line of work is that there will always be people who will have more knowledge than me.  In the beginning, I have to be honest and say that I wanted to be a “star” among my colleagues.  I became the go-to person that others could call on.  I volunteered to teach classes and spent time on committees and planning conferences.   There was an early pioneer of the field who once said if you weren’t working 55-60 hours a week then you weren’t doing your job.  I tried that and found that all I got was more work.  It was a trap door of “what have you done for me lately” life of going from one thing to another.

My personal life at the time only added to that need for stardom.  The breaking point came when I was in a committee meeting and another member on the committee totally destroyed any ideas I brought to the table.  That person was a new rising star in litigation support and it was clear my own star was burning out.  I have to evaluate my life and see what was really important to me.

In recent years I have learned to only do what I can do and leave work at work.  That 55-60 hour work week is dumb.  Get a life outside the office.  In fact, the pioneer who said that passed away a few years ago.  I often wonder if that mentality was the cause.  I hate to break this to you but if you work those hours, when you die they will just hire someone else.  That’s just how it is.  There will always be someone else they can step in that can do the job better than you.

You and I might be called on to save a trial but it isn’t saving the world.  We are good at what we do but we also need to share the knowledge.  This isn’t magic where we can’t share our secrets.  It’s actually to our benefit to share what we know.  While there will always be those who know more, it benefits the whole litigation support community when we exchange our knowledge.  I have had people to ask me how did I learn some things and I tell them it has usually been due to my experience.  Getting in a jam and having to figure out a solution or being yelled at by a judge in the courtroom.  In our field, there is no degree from a college or technical school.  We have learned by doing and networking with others in our community.

In my opinion, there is no room for arrogance.  Unfortunately, I see this trend increasing within our own ranks.  We all need help with something so it’s good not to burn those bridges.  I have called people only because I valued their knowledge only to be looked down upon because I either didn’t know the information or I wasn’t in their secret group.  There is no need for this kind of behavior.   I have learned invaluable advice from my colleagues in this field over the years.  I wouldn’t have gotten this far without that help.

Here’s some advice I would offer from my own perspective:

  • Those who want to be stars will eventually flame out
  • Someone will always know more than you
  • Do what you can do and do it well
  • Share the knowledge
  • Get a life outside of the office

We are all good at what we do or we wouldn’t be doing it.  We all are strong in some areas and weak in others.  Our job is to assist the legal staff with using technology.  We aren’t competing against each other.  If a colleague calls upon you for advice, don’t be condescending but feel good that they have confidence in you.  Contribute to the community and your fellow litigation support colleagues.  Help others in their quests to save their world.

Name That CODEC

It happens pretty frequently that someone in the legal staff will encounter issues when attempting to play an audio or video file.  They will come to me asking why the file won’t play.  If they are trying to use Windows Media Player, the error message will usually be:


I will try to attempt an explanation on what a CODEC is and why they need it but their eyes quickly gloss over.  They don’t really care what it is, they just know that it isn’t playing and they want you to fix it.

So what exactly is a CODEC?

A CODEC is a file that codes or decodes audio and video files such as MP3, WMA, WAV, etc.  In other words, the file format needs this CODEC file to translate the transmission of audio or video.  Yeah, I know, I can’t say for sure that I still understand it or can dummy it down to explain it to my attorney.

So how to you know what CODECs are needed?

I usually try to play the file on different computers.  When I am able to get the file to play, I then compare the CODECs.  For Windows Media Player, you can do this by going to the “About Windows Media Player” and click on the link for Technical Support Information:


Then you will scroll down to the list of audio and video CODECs on the file:


So now you can print this out and take it with you to the computer that does not have the CODEC.

Another nifty thing you can do to identify the CODEC if you have TrialDirector is to run a command at your command prompt:

“C:\Program Files (x86)\inData Corporation\TrialDirector 6\TrialDirector6.exe” graphedit

This command will open up a window then you drag your file into the window:


So what if you can’t play the file to compare the CODECS?  How can you identify the missing CODEC?

If you can’t play the file anywhere in your office then you will need to download a third party software to find out what’s missing.  There is a freeware called GSpot that can help with this.   GSpot is a Windows-based freeware program designed to identify the codecs.  Of course, as always, be careful when you download any freeware programs.

Another alternative to using Windows Media Player is using a program called VLC which is a media player that is a free and open-source, portable and cross-platform media player.  Many times VLC will play files that Windows Media Player will not.

If you have worked in litigation support any length of time, you already know that sometimes you need to find more than one software or solution to programs we encounter in the legal world.  Many times it isn’t a quick and easy solution and in a world of digital audio and video files, it can be challenging.  Networking with other litigation support professionals is important as well.  If you have any solutions that work for you, please share in the comments.



Common Litigation Support Issues

Digital-Age-1024x710I 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.
  • Encrypting Discovery
    • 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.
  • Processing Data
    • 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.”

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.


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.


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.

20 Minutes


“Hey, I need to play a video in a hearing today.  The hearing is in 20 minutes.”

Yeah, I’ve gotten that one a lot.

When you are a Litigation Support Specialist in any law office, you are going to have these moments.  I have done this for over 20 years and I certainly understand the pain we must endure.   My problem has always been when these “last-minute” notices come from the same people every time.  My argument has always been, that you are enabling these people by responding to the lack of notice they give.  If you do it, they will do it all the time.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I know emergencies are part of the job.  It isn’t an emergency when people always fail to plan.  Most of these hearings don’t just pop up out of thin air and, usually, a hearing doesn’t just materialize in 20 minutes.

It takes a lot of patience to manage these situations.  The most important thing is to never take it personally.  We are here to perform a job and when they ask we are supposed to jump in and get it done.  It’s not always an easy thing to manage.  To be fair, issues do come up in cases that even the attorney doesn’t know ahead of time.  The problem is with the repeat offenders.  The best we can do is to keep communication open and continue to express the need for notice.

If something doesn’t work guess who gets the blame?   Yes, you guessed it.  Welcome to our world.

It always goes back to that saying:  “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

So why do we have repeat offenders who fail to plan?

  • Planning is not a priority.
  • Lack of knowing how to plan.
  • Apathy
  • Planning is more work.
  • Resistance to change.

So, how can a Litigation Support Specialist manage these moments?

  1. Talk to the repeat offender’s supervisor.   When you do this, don’t go into the conversation aggressive or offensive.  Just calmly explain the issue and how important it is to have adequate time to properly prepare presentations with the equipment needed to be used in court.  Don’t case a blanket over everyone.  Give them the names of the offenders.  Even if the supervisor does nothing about it or blows off your concern, at least you have brought it to their attention.
  2. Have a quick-response plan.  If audiovisual support is needed, have a cart or equipment ready that can be rolled into a courtroom at a moment’s notice.  Have all cables and connectors on the cart.  Be the professional and do the job.  Never agree that this behavior is okay.  Sometimes people will apologize for the notice and it’s easy to just say “It’s okay” when it’s really not.
  3. Talk to the repeat offender directly.  Explain to them calmly how better it would flow if they did a better job at giving you more notice.  I try to explain the process of setting up equipment and making sure everything is working.
  4. Say “No”.  Yes I know this is a hard one because I’m sure you’re like me and you want to respond.  Sometimes you need to let them learn the hard way why it is important to give you more notice.   If you do this, be prepared to take some flak for it.

You want you and your firm to look good in court.  Planning for contingencies is an important part of doing that.  Obviously, you can’t anticipate every possible scenario.  Many times I have been asked endless “what if” questions.  My answer always is that we will just deal with it as it happens.  Our co-workers have to understand the importance of giving adequate notice in order to have quality work.  If they fail to understand that, it will eventually come back to bite them.  The key for us is to just do our best in responding and confronting the issue in the appropriate way.





Litigation Support On Call


One thing you can count on with litigation support is that you don’t always know how your day is going to flow.  There are some days that you can simply throw your schedule in the trash can.

To be sure, the one thing you can’t control is the lack of someone else to plan ahead.

I was reminded of that lesson this week.

Yes, this week.  The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day which is usually supposed to be the “slow” week.

I came in one morning and was working on a few projects when I got an urgent call that an attorney who needed to play a video in a court hearing.   It was 10 a.m. and the hearing was set for 10:30 a.m.   The courtroom, of course, had no presentation equipment so I got my cart that I keep ready for these situations and wheeled it down the hallway along with a projection screen.

I also pulled out my emergency necktie and sport coat and raced off to court.  It’s a good thing I keep those nearby.  I can’t say that everything matched but I was presentable and met the dress code for being in the courtroom with the attorney.

I quickly set up the projector and screen.  The attorney brought in the laptop and I had everything ready to go within 10 minutes.

Although I get annoyed with the lack of planning by others in situations like this, I know this is part of the job will never change.  The best thing you can do is be prepared for this to happen.  I was glad that I had the equipment on a cart and was ready for these contingencies.  After over 20 years doing this, you have to be ready.

Here’s what’s on my cart:

  • Projector with adjustable lenses (because you just don’t know what the projection angles will be)
  • Remote Control for projector
  • VGA cables with audio
  • Extension Cord
  • Cord covers/gaffer’s tape
  • Laptop power adapter (attorneys usually forget them)
  • Portable projection screen

In addition to the equipment items, I usually keep a few sport coats hanging on the back of my door and a neck tie in my bag that match my clothes I’m wearing that day.

As far as the court hearing goes, the video played without a hitch and no one knew the anxious moments leading up to the video being played.





Most Memorable Moments in Lit Support


Officially, I have been doing this line of work since 1996 and over the past 20 years I have been involved in hundreds of trials.  This experience has given me some memorable moments that I will not forget.   Here are just a few:

  • While awaiting a verdict from the jury, I was packing up some equipment that we used in the trial.  The defense attorney said, “Mr. Hooper, good job.  That was some good technology the government used.”   His client sitting next to him added, “Yeah man, that was pretty cool.”    He was later convicted of conspiracy, making false statement and wire fraud.
  • During a break in the trial, the main defendant in a prescription drug trial walked over to me and asked how much the equipment costs that I was using.  He said, “I would like to buy one of those to use to teach my Sunday School class if I am not in jail.”    He didn’t have to buy one since he was convicted on 32 counts of wrongfully distributing prescription drugs.
  • Sitting at the table during a huge conspiracy trial, one of the attorneys whispered to me:  “Get the tape ready.”   Puzzled, I asked:  “What tape?”   They apparently had not informed me that they were going to play a videotape of a fire for the next witness.  I grabbed the tape and rushed down to the post office and found a VCR where I cued up the tape then rushed back into the courtroom in time for playing the tape.
  • A defendant representing themselves is always quite entertaining.  In one of these trials, the defendant started referring to me as “media man” until he learned my name.  It was the same as his.  He spent a few minutes on that until the judge told him just to refer to me as the Government’s Technical Expert instead of my name.
  • In a very sensitive case, I had to set up separate monitors for the jury so that the gallery could not see the evidence that we were going to present.  As the trial started, the defense attorney complained that the monitors were in his way of seeing all the jury members.   The judge rejected his statement and said “I have instructed Mr. Hooper to set up these monitors and if they are in the way then you need to move.”
  • In a death penalty case, I had spent all morning setting up the equipment and was having trouble with the monitor in the witness stand when the judge decided to come in early.  I had to stop and return to the table not sure if the monitor would work then when it came time, I pressed the button on my control panel and it worked.  Whew!
  • In preparation for closing arguments in one of the longest trials I had ever been involved in, I set up the PowerPoint presentation that the attorney was going to use.  After setting it up, I had to go to another courtroom to set up some equipment.   As I was leaving, one of the observing attorneys asked:  “Aren’t you going to stay?”   I answered:  “No, I have another courtroom to go to right now.”   He asked:  “What is something goes awry?”   I responded:  “Then it goes awry”
  • In the middle of another prescription drug trial, I got a message that our attorney was having problems with the document camera.  I walked in, pushed the on button and left.   I heard several jurors snicker as I passed on the way out.
  • In the boring stretch of a trial of a cult leader, I switched my computer and killed the display to the monitors and started playing solitaire.   The judge was smiling at me and then I realized that I hadn’t killed his monitor.

Yes, there has been several entertaining moments in this job.  I assume that I can handle stress pretty well since there have been many moments that challenged me.  There are many more moments I’m sure that I will think of later that I forgot to include in this list.  Many times they refer to the time in the courtroom in this job as being in the “hot seat” and it is clear why.   It doesn’t matter how much you prepare, there is always something new that is going to blindside you sooner or later.

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.






Audio/Video Formats:  Thinking Ahead to the Jury

In the old days of VHS tapes and audio cassette tapes we knew what we had and we knew how to play them.  It’s not so easy today with the current digital technology.  For me, it has been an ongoing battle to stress the importance of obtaining audio and video evidence in a standard format but not everyone seems to think it’s important. 

Technology has changed in the way audio and video recordings are captured.  In today’s digital world, audio/video recordings are captured and require various ways to play them back for review.  Receiving audio or video for litigation purposes must be reviewed carefully to ensure that not only we can review it and providing it in discovery to opposing counsel, but also that at some point in the future, we will need a jury to review it in the jury room.  

We need to remind our legal staff about this and ask the question: “How will the jury review this in the jury room when they are deliberating?  Are we going to depend on a juror to know how to play the audio/video recording on a laptop?”

When we had tapes, there wasn’t much thought about this.  If the jurors had a VCR or tape player they could just pop in the tape and press the play button.  It doesn’t always work that easy with formats we get today.  The local police department may provide something in one format while security video footage from a convenience store might be in a different format dictated by the vendor of the security camera.  

Our ability as litigation technology specialists has been made significantly more difficult, if not impossible, when we receive audio or video recordings in a non-standard format that either cannot be played, requires installation of third-party software or executable players on the disc.  Unfortunately we don’t all have the luxury of having a professional recording studio in our office.  That’s why it is vitally important that we have the format for all stages of the litigation process.

We may be tech savvy and can click around to make a third-party software work but what if we are missing an important feature?

When receiving audio or video recordings, there are three things you can do:

  1. Require that the audio or video recording is provided to you in a standard format along with the original recording.  Standard formats would be:  Audio (.wav, .mp3 or .wma) Video (.avi, .mpg, .wmv)
  2. If a standard copy cannot be provided, have the party include instructions or a manual on how to install/operate third-party or proprietary media players.
  3. Ask that non-standard or third-party media players be in a self-contained (i.e. Able to run from a disc or USB drive) without having to download or install software on your computer.

We must be careful with how we handle digital audio and video evidence in litigation.  Unlike the days of tapes, digital formats can be edited with the right software.  We want to be sure that we preserve the quality but we also want to make our attorney staff aware of the issues that could arise later when these formats end up in the hands of the jury.