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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?

OPtimizing Web-based video conferencingIn a previous blog, I outlined some steps to take in order to optimize you web-based video conference (Click here for previous article). Since then, I thought it best to add a few more so all your bases are covered.

6.) Make sure your laptop has anti-virus software. The other day while conducting a test, I saw a little notification pop up reminding me to check my anti-virus software. This isn’t like ignoring an oil change or an overdue library book. No, this is serious! Without the proper anti-virus protection, well, in a word – VIRUSES! Yeah, probably not a good idea to conduct a deposition with privileged information being exchanged when the possibility of cyber hackers exist.

7.) Use external speakers. Laptops come in all shapes and sizes and so do the specifications. One might have a superior camera but limited gain when it comes to volume. Pick up a set of desktop speakers in case you have a soft-spoken speaker or in case the acoustics of the room interfere with the sound.

8.) Disable face-tracking on your webcam. The face tracking does what the title implies, tracks your face. That means every time you move, it will follow your face wherever it goes. So if you’re conducting a deposition and you keep looking down at your notes, the camera will follow your face as you look down. This can make the other participant frustrated and even dizzy with all the movement.

9.) Check your Power Save settings. In order to save power consumption and avoid screen burnout, most computers will either go dark or go into Screen Saver mode. This is common when there is no activity for a predetermined time. Unfortunately, only having a browser window open doesn’t count as activity. In order to avoid having your screen go dark or show pictures of your family vacation while conducting a deposition, consult with your IT professional about changing your Power Save settings during your session.

About the Author: Mike Tisa is the Director of Litigation Technology for Aptus Court Reporting. He is a Certified Legal Video Specialist and a Trial Presentation Professional through the National Court Reporters Association. Mike has been in the legal field since 2007 and is continuously researching advancements in the legal technology industry. For more on Mike’s background, visit his LinkedIn profile. http://www.linkedin.com/in/miketisa/

As litigators turn to more cost effective ways to conduct out of town depositions, web-based video conferencing is becoming increasingly popular. As an alternative to traditional video conferencing, web-based video conferencing allows more flexibility requiring only a high speed internet connection and a computer equipped with a webcam and microphone. This eliminates the somewhat difficult task of locating two locations that are equipped with traditional video conferencing systems. So if all you need is a computer, internet, webcam and microphone, everything should be set to go, right? Think again…

While having all those items are paramount in order to proceed with your deposition, there are some preliminary steps to consider and take. Here are my top tips for conducting a smoother web-based video conference:

 

1.) Verify that both locations have high speed internet, not just internet. A hardwired connection is usually the best source for the fastest bandwidth. Since this is an increasingly popular way to conduct depositions, some law firms have dedicated WIFI networks designed specifically for this type of service. This is a luxury and not common, especially at hotels. Make sure your scheduling coordinator asks for a high speed, hardwired internet connection.

 

2.) Make sure your computer monitor is big enough or at least has multiple outputs. You probably wouldn’t want both the deponent and opposing counsel to have to huddle around a tiny laptop screen. Make sure the monitor is big enough to allow both parties to comfortably participate or use one of your outputs to connect to a larger monitor or TV.

 

3.) Be prepared by having an audio backup through the phone. As we all know, the internet has a mind of its own. Even with traditional video conferencing systems, freezing and audio dropouts can AND DO occur. Nothing is more frustrating to all parties, especially the court reporter, to be in mid-answer and lose the rest due to poor connectivity. If you are unsure of the internet connection, try setting up an audio backup that integrates the phone with the video. This allows you to see the witness and hear them through the phone while the audio and video sync up with virtually no latency.

 

4.) Test, test and test again. There is no such thing as over testing when it comes to technology. Have both parties sit at different angles and talk to see where it might be best to place the deponent to ensure they are both seen and heard. Also, try to test using the equipment you will actually be using for the deposition. One computer might work great and the other might require a little tweaking. DO NOT put yourself in the position of having to troubleshoot on the day of the deposition, especially when it could have been avoided.

 

5.) Make sure the deponent is a good candidate for conducting a deposition this way. While this can be a great and cost effective way to conduct a deposition, it might not be the best way. If the deponent is hard of hearing or soft spoken, it could make for a potentially long day. Constantly asking a deponent to repeat his answer and having them constantly ask counsel to repeat his question can become extremely tedious. It also might sacrifice the quality of the record because more than likely if you are having trouble hearing the witness, the court reporter is also having trouble.

About the Author: Mike Tisa is the Director of Litigation Technology for Aptus Court Reporting. He is a Certified Legal Video Specialist and a Trial Presentation Professional through the National Court Reporters Association. Mike has been in the legal field since 2007 and is continuously researching advancements in the legal technology industry. For more on Mike’s background, visit his LinkedIn profile. http://www.linkedin.com/in/miketisa/

We are definitely in the electronic age of technology. Paper files can be hard to keep track of and keep secure. Aptus provides a solution: electronic copies for clients with a private link to a secure repository where clients can view and download a full PDF, a mini PDF, or a .PTX (e-trans file).

Exhibits can be viewed and downloaded digitally, and files are available at your fingertips whenever you need them.

Benefits of electronic copies:

  • hyper-linked exhibits in PDF transcripts

  • electronically-signed transcripts

  • all exhibits included in one secure link

  • can be easily emailed to multiple counsel

Out with the old and in with the new! Technology is an ever-changing force in the legal industry and we are here to make sure your firm is kept up-to-date with the latest advancements.

Contact your sales rep to make sure you’re accessing all the features your electronic deliverables have to offer.