Cell Phone Use While Driving

In a recent discussion, several lawyers thought that a jury would react more harshly to a driver talking on a cell phone while getting into an accident than a drunk driver. It’s a conscious choice to talk on the phone in a traffic situation and I think that most people can relate to that.

Thomas Creech gave an excellent list of articles to research on cell phone use and the increased risk of collisions.

  1. Association Between Cellular Telephone Calls and Motor Vehicle Collision. D.A. Redelmier and R.J. Tibshrani. NEJM February 14, 1997 pp 453-8
  2. Cautions about Car Telephones and Collision. Editorial M. Maclure and M.A. Mittleman NEJM February 14, 1997 pp 506-7
  3. Cellular Telephones and Traffic Accidents Correspondence NEJM July 16, 1997, pp 127-9
  4. Study Analyzes Cell Phone Use in Fatal Collision. Highway and Vehicle/Safety Report August 3, 1998 p. 4
  5. Cellular Telephone Use and Fatal Traffic Collision: A commentary, D.J. Cher, R.J. Mrad and M. Kelsh. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 31(5) 1999, p. 599
  6. Driver Distraction with Wireless Telecommunication and Route Guidance Systems. L Tijerina, NHTSA, July 2000, 94p
  7. In-vehicle cell phones: fatal distraction? D. Curry. Professional Safety, Vol. 47, No.3, March 2002, pp 28-33
  8. Cell Phones and driving: how risky? D Ropeik. Consumers Research Magazine, Vol 86, No.1 January 2003, pp 14-16.

I have switched to a hands-free system and don’t use the phone in heavy traffic. Thanks for the references Tom, those will be great to look up.

Posted inMedical Info, Resources, Trial Technology |Comments (4) |Permalink

Using Multi-Media at Trial

Here is a guest post from Brian Ford.

As a Multimedia Trial Site Specialist, the general rule of thumb has always been that a "seamless" presentation plays best in front of a Jury. This means, in part, avoiding the use of on-screen toolbars and minimizing vocal communication between the presenting attorney and the tech specialist.

My experiences have proven otherwise, though: Jurors are (and should be) focused on the evidence, more than how seamlessly it is presented. While it is true that a well-oiled presentation certainly can't hurt, these factors are nowhere near as important as the overall quality of the evidence, and the care that has gone into designing demonstratives.

Assuming the latter, a slight lag or visual hiccup isn't going to mean much to a Jury dedicated to a contemplation of the facts and a fair interpretation of the available evidence.

Continue Reading Posted inTechnology, Trial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Programs to Help Lawyers be More Productive

Yesterday I gave a presentation on blogging for a law firm that I really respect in Columbia. They told me what programs they were using and I was asked what they could do to increase the productivity or effectiveness of their lawyers. They do trial work, but have a number of practice areas. This is my response to them.


  • Speak-Write – It used to be CyberSecretaries and then YouDictate, but is now known by Speak-Write. They will transcribe anything you have. You can dictate over the phone, you can send them transcription files, mp3 files, wma files, or you can even fax it to them and get the information typed up for 1 1/2 cents a word. The responses tend to come back in 15–30 minutes depending on the size of the file. I like to dictate my To Do’s for the day while I’m on the way to the office and then they’re in an e-mail all typed up by the time I get there. Neat stuff and easy to use.
  • TimeMap – This is a great, great program for creating timelines. It can do a timeline over a period of years, or a second by second timelilne that might cover only a few minutes. The program will automatically scale the timeline for your period of coverage. It’s really as easy as hitting insert, typing in the date and a description of the text for the box. And of course, you can drag your events above or below the timeline. One of my favorite things to do is to put the defendant’s version of the facts above the timeline and put the actual facts below the timeline. It’s so simple that you can use timelines for motion hearings to clarify dates and events, or to show the efforts you put in to get information from the defense counsel and what their responses have been. You can also add phone or document icons to spiff up your timeline. This is easy to use because it’s a standalone product, you can use it no matter what other software you are using. Continue Reading Posted inOffice Technology, Technology, Trial Technology |Comments (6) |Permalink

New Release of Trial Director - Trial Presentation Software

Last week Indata came out with a new release of TrialDirector (version 5).  The outgoing version 4.5 became a standard for trial presentation and constantly goes head-to-head with Sanction for the "Best Trial Presentation Software" title.
The new version boasts an entirely new interface and breaks away from the old Deposition Director/Document Director combo by integrating the programs together.  Additionally the program adds extended coding features, improved integration with other programs and several new video editing capabilities. 
Rosen LTC will be testing the new version over the next few weeks to determine if it is stable, consistent and easy enough to use in the courtroom. They’ll be turning in a full featured review in the coming months. I’m a big fan of Sanction, but Alex Rosen is a big fan of Trial Director. I’ll be interested to see what he has to say about the new version.
Posted inTechnology, Trial Technology |Comments (4) |Permalink

Digitizing X-Rays

Showing jurors x-rays can be a powerful tool. Especially if your client has a prothesis or hardware. The hardware is a vivid way to make real the pain and difficulties your client has gone through. Assuming you have a laptop and a projector, you can easily get the x-rays into your computer.

  1. Take a Picture with a Digital Camera – Put the x-ray in a lightbox and use a good digital camera to take a pic of the illuminated x-ray.
  2. Have Your Local Camera Shop Digitize it – An x-ray is a film negative. Granted it’s a large negative, but its’ still just a negative. Your local camera shop should be able to put it on disk for you for a nominal fee.
  3. Send it to a Service Bureau – You can send the x-rays to MedQuest and they will put them on disk and ship it back to you for about $10 to $15 an x-ray depending on the volume you do. I know a number of other local/statewide litigation support firms also do this work.

I’ve used all three of these methods and they have all worked well.

Posted inExhibits, Trial Technology |Comments (5) |Permalink

Stupid Lawsuit Against KISS' Gene Simmons Hurts Lawyers Image

Trial lawyers hate seeing headlines like this. Judge Allows Lawsuit Against KISS' Simmons. Let’s check out the details. During a ‘rockumentary’ retrospective of 30 years of KISS, we learned the following:

[Gene] Simmons says during the show, "There wasn't a girl that was off limits, and I enjoyed every one of them," Ward's court papers say.

At another point Simmons says, "I was a 24-hour whore. All I ever thought about was sex." This, court papers say, was shown and followed by a photo of Ward with Simmons.

Ward's papers say that because a photo of her with Simmons — though her name is never mentioned — was shown during remarks about his sexual adventures, she was in effect portrayed as "wild" and "unchaste."

Hmmm…..let’s see. In the 70’s, she was dating Gene Simmons the lead singer for KISS. Check. VH-1 shows a vintage picture of her from the 70’s when her and the lead singer of KISS  were dating. Check. Gene Simmons says he was a wild child and a very bad boy. Check. Check. That doesn’t seem to be lawsuit material, that seems to me to be a very big Duh. I would have sent the plaintiff packing and wouldn’t have even spent five minutes talking to her.

When cases like this come around, trial lawyers wince. It hurts the legal profession. It makes it harder for people that were hurt and have actual injuries to recover. A lot of these cases are filed by the litigants themselves or by public interest lawyers and not trial lawyers. So, I did a little bit of searching on the lawyer and I’m surprised by the results.

While Martha is not a member of ATLA, she’s a graduate of Yale and Georgetown Law School.and works for Morelli Ratner, which appears to be a solid plaintiff’s firm with 12 attorneys and the founding partner Benedict Morelli looks like he has quite a background as a trial lawyer.

Hmmm…. It sounds more like a shakedown than a lawsuit to me. (However, it is possible that the article has the facts wrong and there’s somehow more to the story than they’re telling).

Posted inCorporate Welfare, Trial Technology |Comments (2) |Permalink

Great Interview on E-Discovery

Dennis Kennedy, Tom Mighell and Evan Schaeffer have a group interview on e-discovery. In the personal injury field, it has been slower to reach us than the commercial litigation field. Evan lays out the basics:

Basic electronic discovery-e.g., a set of written discovery and a deposition to discover the scope of an opposing party's electronic information-should be done in almost every case in which the opposing party creates and stores relevant information electronically. These days, wouldn't that describe most litigated cases?

I think that Evan’s right. It’ getting to the point where we can’t ignore it any longer. More and more files are being kept digitally. If you’re not doing e-discovery, what are you missing out on?

Posted inTechnology, Trial Technology |Comments (1) |Permalink

Smart Boards Replacing Chalk Boards

While we lawyers have been slow to adopt smart boards, smart boards have been replacing chalk boards in the classroom:

Wired News reports on the rapid growth of interactive, computer-driven whiteboards in classrooms…smart boards are being used in more than 150,000 classrooms in the U.S, with even more being put to use in 75 other countries. The boards let teachers and students share assignments, surf the web and even edit video using their fingers as pens. And, by all indications, the market for the devices is booming, with more than a dozen manufacturers in the field, although one company, Smart Technologies, has a 60-percent market share.

It looks like we need to start catching up to the schools. I’ve had been using a projector and multi-media for 5 years, but don’t have a smart board yet. It looks like that just jumped up my tech priority.

Posted inPowerPoint / Presentation, Presentation, Technology, Trial Techniques, Trial Technology |Comments (2) |Permalink

Defusing a Powerful Animation: Using Your Opponents Exhibit Against Them

I found this Law Technology News article on Defusing Powerful Animation (free registration required) from  Monica Bay’s blog, The Common Scold. It talks about a pedestrian / car case in California where the pedestrian suffered brain damage and the plaintiff’s attorney did a video animation / simulation.

King used PC Crash software, which helps users create 3-D collision simulations and reconstructions. His animation was used as the cornerstone of the plaintiff's case, Skrzypek explained, and was based almost completely on defendant Dillon's deposition answers.

It was clear that the plaintiff's side thought the recreation would be very damaging to her credibility, he said.

But the defense team managed to defuse the impact of the animation. Langley played the animation in slow motion throughout his cross of the reconstructionist. He also played it during his closing argument, stopping it at key points to question the assumptions the plaintiff used creating it.

"His ability to replay the animation and put our side's spin on it undercut the plaintiff's representation that the animation represented how the accident truly happened," said Skrzypek.

Use your opponent’s evidence against him. That’s the what they teach in jujitsu. It works in the law, too.

Posted inTechnology, Trial Techniques, Trial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Tips from the Courtroom Geek: Trial Presentation DON'Ts from Alex Rosen

Another guest post from Alex Rosen of Rosen Litigation Technology. This time Alex is talking about the things NOT to do. Don’t forget to check out the last item after the jump. 


  • Don’t try to be Hollywood: The application of courtroom technology is intended to keep attorneys organized and efficient.  Some attorneys will attempt to apply the technology in a fashion that brings “smoke & mirrors” concerns in jurors.  Use the technology to give you quick access to evidence and clearly highlight your key points.  Don’t use technology to embellish your case. 
  • Don’t underestimate courthouse security:  1 year after 9/11 I worked a trial in a Federal Courthouse where security required non-counsel to show a court order every day of trial to bring in our equipment.  Without the court order, we would not have been permitted to bring in laptops or other presentation equipment.  Be sure to clear equipment requests with the judge’s staff and make every effort to inform security of your intentions to bring in equipment. 
  • Don’t overextend your software:  Programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Corel Presentations are great for linear presentations such as opening/closing arguments or mediation/arbitration arguments.  However, for complex litigation and witness examination – the ability to display documents quickly and in any order illustrates to the jury that you are making an effort to be organized and efficient with their time.  Courtroom specific annotation tools such as TrialDirector, TrialPro, Sanction and others offer simple document annotation tools, video manipulation, and nonlinear exhibit access in one streamlined package.  Continue Reading Posted inTrial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Tips from the Courtroom Geek: Trial Presentation Do's by Alex Rosen

We have a special treat today. A guest post from Alex Rosen of Rosen Litigation Technology.  Alex assists lawyers with the technology needed for trial presentations. He also has networking people and is a certified Amicus Attorney consultant. On with Alex’s post:

  • Drive the system yourself:The best courtroom technology consultant remains completely invisible to the jury.Constantly turning to a tech-person to say “Please bring up exhibit XX” or “Please take that down” can be seen as inefficient when contrasted with an attorney that is in control of the presentation. I use a system with my clients that keeps me completely in the background; only present to help out when issues arise. Exhibits, images, video clips, and documents are all assigned barcodes, and the attorney is armed with a wireless barcode gun to enable free roaming around the courtroom. This system is becoming a new standard in courtrooms around the country because it is the simplest method to grow from the traditional publishing of documents to a nonlinear digital presentation. While it requires a fair amount of preparation when compared to other options, it appears seamless in the courtroom – the only time the jury sees it.
  • If you intend to use video deposition testimony at trial, have your video depositions synchronized to their transcripts. This creates a tool which allows you to quickly and easily create deposition clips, search depositions for pertinent words, and impeach a witness with alarming results.The power of impeachment via video far surpasses that of traditional methods. In addition, the closed captioning that comes along with the video presentation at trial ensures that the jury understands clearly the witness’ statements. Typical Video Synchronization ranges from $200-$400 per finished hour of video.
  • Use a variety of graphic communication methods: The best trial lawyers I have seen keep the jury interested by using the projector, foam core boards, Elmo and easel & marker in constant variety to keep the jury wondering “what’s he/she going to use next? Continue Reading Posted inTrial Technology |Comments (2) |Permalink

What's the Biggest Mistake that Small Firms Make When Using Trial Technology?

Monica Bay over at The Common Scold points to an article she wrote in the latest issue of Small Firm Business, where a number of lawyers were asked "What's the biggest mistake that small firms make when using trial technology?". Some of the answers are below: 

J.R. Phelps Florida Bar Tallahassee

Too often, lawyers feel that just signing the check for the product is the answer. They fail to obtain buy-in, conduct training, and get a commitment from everyone to update the database, ultimately dooming the project.    … 

Ellen Freedman Pennsylvania Bar Association  Ambler, Pa.

Lack of training ... and due diligence. Too often, decisions are based almost entirely on what a peer uses. Look to colleagues, but also examine the software's capabilities. Compare alternatives to understand the nuances. Conduct a thorough needs analysis -- don't make a decision based on one glaring need.

The entire article is worth a read, there’s a lot of good advice on mistakes to avoid.

Posted inTrial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Why Trial Lawyers Need to Know About Mind Mapping Software

Mind mapping software. Hmmm…. is that like a Vulcan Mind Meld? Nope. It’s actually quite simple. Think of an outline, only less structured. Picture this. You have a new case with a lot of possibilities. You sit on the floor and write down ideas on 3 x 5 cards. One idea to a card and spread the cards around you. Writing as fast as you can, you fill up as many cards as you can. Okay, this part is called brainstorming. Then, when you’ve finished and are surrounded by cards, you start sorting. This card generally covers the same material as that card. That card can be put over here, and you start grouping things. I’m sure we’ve all done something similar at one point or another. Now do this electronically with software and you have mind mapping software.

Mind mapping software allows for a graphic representation to visually express complex relationships in an easy to understand manner. Sounds like a good trial exhibit to me. The New York Times recently had a good article on mind mapping software:

"For me, there is a big difference between laying out ideas in this kind of map" and just writing them in a list, says Michael Jetter, Mindjet's co-founder. "It's like when you look at ads. The white space can be as important as the words. I find when I am able to space out the ideas in a certain way, somehow I can move around them easily rather than starting from the top. It's the same information, but you look at it differently."

Continue Reading Posted inOffice Technology, Technology, Trial Technology |Comments (3) |Permalink

Twelve Ways Technology Can Make You a Better Trial Lawyer, Continued

Wow. What a response to my guest post on Evan Schaeffer’s Notes from the (Legal) Underground. There’s been a good discussion in the comments section, plus a host of weblogs linked to it:

Matt Homann and Matt Buchanan noticed that 5 of the 12 ways to use technology to be a better trial lawyer were in the use of weblogs. I hadn’t noticed that, but I guess they’re right.

Continue Reading Posted inOffice Technology, Technology, Trial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Guest Post on Using Technology to be a better Trial Lawyer

I have a guest post on Evan Schaeffer’s Notes from the (Legal) Underground today. The post details Twelve Ways Technology Can Make You a Better Trial Lawyer

If you're not familiar with Notes from the (Legal) Underground, it's a great read. It’s worth adding to your reader. Check it out.

Posted inOffice Technology, Trial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Having Your Laptop Display to a Projector or External Monitor

When using a laptop with a projector or an external monitor, some laptops will automatically display to the external port. Other laptops, you need to change the settings. Most laptops have a [FN] key in blue and under the function keys (F1, F2, F3…) there is a separate function that will show a laptop monitor and another monitor, or sometimes says LCD/MONITOR or something to that effect. On my laptop it’s [FN] [F3], the specific key might be different on your laptop. By pressing these hotkeys you can cycle through from laptop only, both monitors, external  monitors only. Keep on pressing the hotkeys until you get the desired monitors.

If you want the laptop monitor and the external monitor/projector to be different, check out this tip.

Posted inPowerPoint / Presentation, Trial Technology |Comments (1) |Permalink

Tiny Mitsubishi PocketProjector to be Released in July

Engadget points out the press release for Mitsubishi’s PocketProjector. A DLP projector that can fit in the palm of your hand and only weighs 14 ounces. It has SVGA resolution (800 x 600). For those of you unfamiliar with DLP technology, it has a much higher contrast rate than LCD and can achieve the same brightness as an LCD projector at a much lower lumens. This means that a DLP projector doesn’t have to run as hot as an LCD projector and the bulb will last longer. With the bulbs costing $300–400 a piece, that can add up.

I wouldn’t take this little projector into a courtroom, but it will probably be fine for doing seminars and speeches. The technology is getting better every day.


Posted inTrial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Presenter's View in PowerPoint

Michael Hyatt of Working Smart has a fabulous post on Using Presenter's View in PowerPoint. This allows your audience to see your presentation, but allows you to see the slide, the next few slides along the left, your notes, the amount of time you've been talking and many other things.

This can be accomplished by changing one setting in PowerPoint and another on your desktop. Pretty slick. Michael explains how to do this in detail and with pictures.

Posted inPowerPoint / Presentation, Trial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink

Using Technology to be a Better Trial Lawyer

The tagline of this blog is "Using Technology to be a Better Trial Lawyer". Technology is changing the way we try cases, from projectors and ELMO's, more efficient ways to generate documents and exhibits to new research on learning, how people process information and how they make decisions.

But one of the biggest differences is the extraordinary availability of information available on the internet. Using technology can be as simple as finding a new way of communicating ideas and presenting information to a jury.

I'm a gadget freak, but I don't think gadgets are a better way to practice law. Matthew Buchanan of Promote the Progress has an excellent post about how gadgets are not the answer.

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Effective Use of Courtroom Technology - Guidebook for Judges

Thanks to Joel Kohm for this tip. The Federal Judicial Center and NITA have put together an exhaustive (350+ pp) manual on technology in the courtroom titled Effective Use of Courtroom Technology: A Judge's Guide to Pretrial and Trial.

Although not too legally technical, it gives lots of practical direction to judges on the admissibility of computer generated exhibits and aids, avoiding risk of alteration, use in opening and closing... etc. NITA is selling a hardcopy of the book for $60, but here's the great part, the electronic .pdf of the book is FREE.

Posted inTrial Technology |Comments (0) |Permalink