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As a trial tech, backups for everything are a must and should be standard operating procedure when going to trial. Cables, adapters, switchers, amps and most importantly, laptops, all need to be duplicated in the event something fails. Having your case backed up and updated is like car insurance – you have it but hopefully never need it. While car insurance is a legal requirement, backup devices are not, unfortunately. I’ve been doing trials since 2009 and I will admit, I only needed my backup laptop a handful of times. Still, I find myself overly cautious and bring the backup system every time I go to trial. I should add that when I say backup laptop, I’m not talking about an “off the shelf computer.” No, a backup laptop should virtually mirror your main laptop, so it can still function alike.

Most recently, I went to trial in Orange County and while transferring the case during lunch, my backup laptop failed. With the limited time I had, I couldn’t trouble shoot in time for the afternoon session. Rather than roll into the courtroom without a backup, I looked in my bag and saw my iPad. As the bells start dinging in my head, I turned it on, hooked it up to my computer and started loading the exhibits. I have TrialPad, a popular app for trial presentation on an iPad. It’s a simple interface that has some of the same features as Trial Director and OnCue. Luckily, there was no video involved in this trial (TrialPad has limited video editing features), so it was a quick transfer.

Watch the TrialPad demo below.

We resumed trial at 1:30 pm and concluded at 4 pm. Smooth sailing and no need for the iPad, of course. However, since then, I’ve been putting everything on my iPad in addition to my backup laptop. I’m sure I speak for most trial techs when I say that you can never have too many backups or plan B’s. Well, I’m sure I speak for all the GOOD trial techs in that regard. I will also add, at this particular trial, I did not have an Apple TV but only the adapters to plug the iPad into the projector. One of the features of using an iPad is that you don’t have to be tethered to cables (presenting wirelessly would present potentially another challenge). At the very least, I was prepared to still present digitally instead of the using the ELMO.

Every trial tech has their bag of gadgets and their own method for backing up cases. As I write this, I know a lot of techs that hate iPads and the TrialPad app. I certainly understand. Depending on an app-based product to present your entire case can be risky as apps are prone to crashes and failures. However, in a technology driven world where there is an abundance of options, it certainly couldn’t hurt to bring something as a third option before going back to butcher paper. In the end, the jury will appreciate not being subjected to the low-tech ELMO. More than likely, your clients will appreciate it as well.

About the Author: Mike Tisa is the Director of Litigation Technology for Aptus Court Reporting. He is a Certified Legal Video Specialist through the National Court Reporters Association. Mike has been in the legal field since 2007 and is continually researching advancements in the legal technology industry. For more on Mike’s background, visit him on LinkedIn.

The Traditional Definition of Court Reporting

court-reporterCourt Reporter – noun

a stenographer employed to record and transcribe an official verbatim record of the legal proceedings of a court.

This is the definition of a court reporter (dictionary.com). Their job, as defined above, and understood by the courts is to capture everything that is being said in the room and then prepare a transcript. There is no official record without court reporters. While simply defined, the duties of a reporter in the modern day are expanding well beyond the “standard definition.”

Then vs. Now – A Court Reporter’s Arsenal of Technology

Let’s look at a few scenarios where technology is becoming more prevalent in depositions both in the actual room and remotely:

Real-time: This feature allows attorneys to instantly view the transcript in real-time, hence the name. This requires the reporter to set up the connection by setting up cloud-based streaming sessions and sometimes troubleshooting the connection to another attorney’s computer. Oh yeah, now you can stream to iPads and tablets as well, so make note of that.

eDepoze: Here’s a quick description of this product. It allows the attorneys to conduct a deposition with no paper exhibits. Using an iPad or laptop, eDepoze’s cloud-based server helps mark and store exhibits with the attorney marking everything. No need for the reporter to keep exhibit stickers. However, her role is still vital to the proceedings. The reporter must first go through a training session with an eDepoze rep. After that, they are a Certified eDepoze Reporter. Great, awesome, terrific. Now, the reporter will be responsible for helping all parties log in, including the witness. Should anything go wrong, since they are the Certified Reporter, are they responsible for troubleshooting as well?

Web-based Video Conferencing: This is a popular medium to conduct depositions. Often times, the reporter will be with the witness while counsel is remote. They may be asked to setup a laptop with a webcam. Sounds easy, right? Is it really, though? What happens if the connection fails? What happens if the webcam fails? What happens if the computer crashes?

When adding in all these technologies in addition to the normal duties of taking down what EVERYONE IN THE ROOM IS SAYING, court reporters end up going well beyond their “defined” role.

What do you think? Should the definition of a court reporter be expanded to include other duties?