Embrace the Numbers: Resisting the Magical Docs

Posted on March 23, 2011 | by Eric

"Do you see there on page three of exhibit twenty-seven, third paragraph...?"

You prepare with your tech for weeks, and into the wee hours the night before court.

It looks super slick because you’re not even saying anything out loud to make highlighted pages appear in front of the witness like magic.  Exhibits are pre-admitted and the judge doesn’t care if they just pop on screen as long as no one objects.

Having your exhibits appear on screen without prompting looks very cool.

What’s not cool about magically appearing docs as you tear the expert apart?  Maybe a month later, no one reading the transcript has a clue what you were showing the witness.

Say your exhibit numbers, specify the page.  You do it in depositions, doing it in trials isn’t exactly fun, but neither is having to avoid eye contact with the nuveau-bald associate who has ripped his hair out trying to determine which exhibits were shown so he can write the post trial brief.

There’s no need to be clunky about it.  Phrasing like “now let’s take a look at the fifth page of exhibit 20, do you see that middle paragraph beginning with” retains both specificity and a relaxed confidence.  Everyone has their own style, and the courts seem to make up rules just to conflict with the rules in other courts, but planning to be specific about your document and page before going into court is never a bad idea.

If this all sounds too obvious, that’s because it is.  It’s certainly obvious once someone brings it up anyway.  But that hasn’t stopped it from happening right in front of us many times.

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Improvise with an iPhone? DIY X-Ray Imaging

Posted on January 24, 2011 | by Kim

Need to see a cavity? There's an app for that (it's called Flashlight)

You sent a bunch of x-ray films to a local scanning vendor recommended by a colleague at your firm. Now you’re in Tuscaloosa prepping the treating physician who will describe an injury using the x-rays on screen.  That’s when you realize the electronic images you’d planned on projecting in court may as well be a Rorschach test that ran through a fax machine. The detail is just gone.

Contrast is key to reading x-rays, and there are vendors out there – some actually specialize in radiographic imaging – who provide good enough electronic output. But if you haven’t found a reliable shop with someone who understands your needs, or if you’re on the road with limited resources, you may end up with muddy images that just don’t cut it. Original x-rays are hard enough for Julie Juror to understand, even while a doctor interprets the various shading, but pop up a second or third generation scan in a bright courtroom with lights above the screen, and your expert ends up testifying to a barely discernible problem.

Here’s an idea: improvise with a makeshift light table and digital camera. You’ll be surprised by the quality of the contrast, and the best part is – it’s free! Here are three techniques that anyone can pull off.

  • Use an LCD monitor with a white background (a blank Word doc or PPT Slide) and tape the film to the screen. Get as close as you can with the camera, but beware that getting too close causes the camera to pick up pixels that will give the image a dotted pattern
  • For smaller images, like tiny intraoral dental films we all love having done to check for cavities, the Retina Display of an iPhone with a flashlight app (at full brightness) works remarkably well. Since the pixels are denser than an LCD monitor, they don’t show up even when the camera is in macro mode (usually represented by a little flower icon) just a few inches from the x-ray.
  • Turn a frosted glass desk into a light table by putting a lamp under it.  This is the hardest way, but it’s a good option for larger films. You’ll likely need to diffuse the light further with an additional translucent layer over the glass (something thinner than paper like static dry erase sheets).
  • So there you go, a few simple tricks that work with minimal hassle and expense.

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    “Jump.” “How high?” “Not sure yet, but use a zig-zag pattern and ankle weights.”

    Posted on January 2, 2011 | by Eric

    “But please speak up if you have a better way.”

    Guess which way is cheaper?

    As an attorney, if you can manage to say that last part, you’ll get better, faster work out of most techies who haven’t yet evolved to the “grizzled and surley” phase of their career.

    It seems obvious, but remember, you’re their client, you’re a Big City Lawyer, and you can be intimidating when you’re under pressure.  Yes, even if everyone else at the firm refers to you as “Junior” and you have to make your own binders and fetch your own coffee.

    It’s worth the effort because if you initiate a simple conversation ceding expertise of the means, any tech consultant worth their salt should have a quicker way of getting to the ends.  In other words, tell your techie what you want, not how you want it.

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    Could This Work In Our Industry?

    Posted on November 4, 2010 | by Alex

    Anyone who lives in the DC Metro area or has visited and has ridden our subway (known as the Metro) knows about the lack of cell service underground. It used to be that if you had any provider other than Verizon Wireless, you were SOL. But Metro officials have been allowing other carriers to lay wire underground to get their signals in the tunnels. Progress has been slow moving.

    Interestingly, the Washington Post has asked its readers to rate the service in and around the stations using an interactive Google Map open to everyone.

    It got me wondering  … Read the rest

    2:47am on a Tuesday

    Posted on October 11, 2010 | by Derek

    It’s late, the team is exhausted and adding more people as the night moves toward morning.  Four overworked paralegals will see another unwelcome Wednesday sunrise wearing Tuesday’s clothes. There’s a moment when someone briefly falls asleep mid-sentence while telling me how tired she is.

    And I have absolutely no idea what they’re doing.  All I know is that “The Project” is a Big Deal.  It’s a big enough deal that they’ve now added two associates, a project assistant, the firm’s IT expert, a junior partner and two off-site paralegals to their ranks.

    Despite several offers to help, all I’m asked to do is make  … Read the rest

    Big Talkers, Know-It-Alls and Other Jerks Not Suited for Trial

    Posted on August 5, 2010 | by Eric

    Have you hired someone who has no business in this business?  A trial technology consultant who’s better suited for government work of some sort?

    Maybe you’ll get lucky.   You might be treated to remarkably slow responsiveness, he might not show up for meetings or even hand you astonishingly incorrect video edits before you let him drive your presentation off the cliff at the end of the bumpy, embarrassing road in court.  Maybe he’ll even show up at your office literally waving a red flag.  That’ll give you time to fix things before trial.

    It’s doubtful you’ll be so lucky,  … Read the rest

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