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.

After shooting over 1,000 depositions , I look back and reflect on what helped me improve as a legal videographer. Seminars, conferences, technical upgrades and compacting my kit have helped bolster my development and expand my skill set. But the one thing I truly believe made a difference, Trial Presentation. Every videographer knows (or should know) the final deliverable of a deposition can come in a synchronized version. But how many videographers actually know what a sync can do? How many videographers have actually navigated their way through a ‘sync?’ Sure, explaining and understanding the concept of a sync is important, but not as important (in my humble opinion) as seeing it in action. It’s critically important that a videographer understand the full function and limitations of any product they deliver or recommend to a client.

In my view, if a videographer has learned the sync interface and actually played back video clips in trial, it improves their sense of awareness during the original recording of the deposition. Things like microphone and backdrop placement become more important after hearing and seeing some poorly mic’d and framed witnesses played back before a judge and/or jury. Sure, you might be able to hear the deponent when you mic’d them up, but when played back it a large room, the audio might not be as clear as it could have. That one clip could be the turning point to a case and if not properly amplified and heard, it might not resonate with the judge or jury.

I’m not saying videographers can’t be great without going to trial. Anyone that takes pride in his or her work should perform the proper prep to ensure the best quality. But imagine a videographer that has seen the product from beginning to end. They were present for the depo and then present for the playback. They know their product inside and out so that the final deliverable will be flawless. Even if they aren’t the ones who will be showing it at trial, they can relate to the trial tech or consultant that will and would not want to put that person or persons in a difficult position.

A quick story to end on – When I was presenting at trial in St. Louis several years ago, I made clips of a medical experts testimony. The video was from early 2009, when the older BlackBerry phones were still prevalent in depositions. Anyone who remembers them will also remember the annoying buzzing they would create on video when ringing or receiving notifications. In this instance, the buzzing was coming through OVER the answers of the doctor. Of course, as the trial tech I was…scolded (to use a nice term) for letting that happen. Now, though the videographer should have notified counsel that the he was picking up interference, he continued without doing so. Imagine if that videographer knew what could happen at trial if he heard the answers weren’t coming through clearly and how that would affect the video testimony.