Trial technology and exhibit training highlight the power of communication in a courtroom. By leveraging innovative tools, messages can be maximized and emphasized to their greatest effect. Visual design in a courtroom is sometimes referred to as law graphics or litigation graphics. This kind of technology has been pioneered by attorneys, consultants and graphic/motion designers.
The incorporation of technology into the courtroom is not new. The legal field has often been on the cutting edge of new approaches. By assimilating applications into courtroom procedures, the law can be understood and enforced with fewer barriers.
There are many technologies that are now being assumed as standard practice in courtrooms nationwide. Some of these are litigation graphics, demonstrative evidence, virtual meetings and video displays.
This article will give you an understanding of how any and all of these technologies can be used to enhance the courtroom experience and support the legal process.
Read on to learn more about:
- Courtroom Graphics
- How to Make Trial Presentations
- 3D Courtroom
- How to Upgrade Courtroom Technology
- Digital Courtroom Platforms
- Digital Court Reporting Companies
Courtroom graphics date back to the earliest times of organized proceedings, with artist renderings and sketches playing a role in both evidence and news coverage. When a case relies on a jury, those jurors have benefited significantly from the role of an artist. Artistic depictions help jurors take “mental shortcuts” and better assimilate a complex sequence of events of proposed occurrences. This accelerates efficiency and, the court hopes, improves accuracy in rulings and judgments.
Jurors independently analyze and evaluate the information they are presented. There are several forms of information that can be depicted in a graphic form. These include things such as:
- Machinery and moving parts
- Changes over time, such as might arise in litigation over construction or failures
- Abstract concepts
- Historical events
- Microscopic or invisible objects
- Objects that cannot be brought into the courtroom
There are many ways in which courtroom graphics benefit a proceeding. These include:
- Illustrating a process
- Illustrating movement or change
- Showing different perspectives or views of the same environment or object
- Illustrating spatial relationships
- Accelerating or slowing downtime
- Focus on the most pertinent information
- Showing sequential events in order
- Creating a hierarchy of information
- Illustrating ideas with symbols
This was done well through sketches in decades past. Now, there are technologies that bring information to life in exponentially more effective ways.
But first, read this overview of how courtroom presentations are structured. This will provide a baseline understanding of what kind of material can improve with the use of trial technology and exhibits.
Oral & Visual Courtroom Presentation
Courtroom presentations have both oral and visual components. There is some theater to this. Let’s break these categories down further.
Oral Presentations in the Courtroom
Lawyers are skilled orators. Their ability to craft a defensible argument is a powerful tool that can ultimately determine a judgment. Arguments require careful preparation and delivery. The American Bar Association provides insight into presentation skills for attorneys, including that they must:
- Know the audience
- Craft a message with easy-to-understand points
- Use stories, statistics, quotes and statements
- Organize the message
- Create and use outlines
The preparation and review that goes into an oral presentation is important. Anymore, though, it may not be enough. The reality is, we live in a digital age where video is the primary medium by which people learn new information. With an overwhelming intake of video content, the average person’s ability to absorb information through hearing alone may be inadequate. The best lawyers recognize that there is more to the theatrics of a courtroom than spoken word alone.
Visual Presentations in the Courtroom
Most successful litigators organize cases into themes. They work through the motions practice and strategies for best-communicating themes and theories. It is essential that this is done in a memorable way. If juries are to remember, they often must be shown.
Connecting an oral and visual presentation is standard practice for highly skilled lawyers. There is distinct psychology to the practice of using visual presentations, or courtroom graphics. Some important concepts are that visual images affect:
For example, one prominent lawyer designed arguments using PowerPoint slides with either red or blue backgrounds. His method was to color slides with a defense theme in red and unlawful actions in blue. When surveying would-be jurors who received these presentations in test trials, it was evident that even if they forgot the details of a point, the colors triggered a memory of the overarching theme. Oftentimes, their memory was significantly strengthened by this visual depiction.
Just as things like color, font, size, speed and other elements of a graphic presentation are a huge part of advertising or marketing, courtroom graphics can be skilfully created by the defense and prosecution to drive home their points. It was one thing to do this well on PowerPoint. There is an entirely new generation of technologies that allow for highly sophisticated applications.
Twenty years ago, the Federal Judicial Center outlined tiers of pretrial and trial courtroom technologies. These included virtual reality displays, remote communication, large scale videos and digital displays of evidence. Some of this was predictive, as the technology had not been advanced to scale yet. Today, most of this technology is being implemented every day even in remote courtrooms nationwide.
Currently, courtroom technology used by the United States Court of Federal Claims extends to the use of:
- Video evidence presentation systems
- Screens, monitors and desktop monitors of varying resolutions
- Document cameras
- HDMI and VGA connections
- Audio integration
- Audio systems
- Listening and interpreting systems
- Wireless mics
- Audio conferencing
- Video conferencing
- Video conferencing with three cameras
There are numerous qualifications in place for the equipment that can be used in a courtroom. Some technology can be used to document or capture legal proceedings. There are a variety of permitted platforms that may vary based on the court or state in which that court is located. For example, on May 1, 2020, Judicial Information Services in Michigan provided resources for how to use Zoom and virtual courtrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this, most courts had disallowed consumer platforms for this use.
These technologies aren’t available in all courtrooms. The list above applies to federal courts, who likely have access to commensurate resources. There is both software and hardware that must be available to use video and audio technology in a courtroom.
While some installed equipment is available for this kind of use, there may or may not be staff who are trained to run it. The use of courtroom technology is admissible and even desirable, but not always achievable. In many states, third-party vendors or suppliers may be used to supply this kind of equipment or facilitate these services.
Virtual Meeting Rooms and Video
Virtual meeting rooms with video can create a connection unlimited by geographic barriers. Whether it is meeting with a person who is incarcerated or simply in another city or state, this feature is very simple to implement. Participants simply need an internet connection and an equipped device, which is often a tablet or smartphone. These have enough capacity to create a secure connection through which you can hold a recorded meeting about legal matters.
Video conferencing is an important way to level-set about the details of a case, perform interviews and ask important questions. This can be accomplished in numerous ways. Depending on the user’s need for audio quality or recording, traditional video conferencing or mobile video conferencing can be used.
Traditional Video Conferencing
Traditional video conferencing offers the highest quality and most reliable connection. This can be hardwired and has multiple attendees who must dial in from a specified location. By reducing the number of remote connections or mobile interfaces, this is a good choice for conferencing outside of office hours and having a solid conversation or interview.
Mobile Video Conferencing
In contrast to traditional video conferencing, mobile conferencing relies on the technical capabilities of the attendees, each of whom will dial in using their own device. This can be a less reliable option but is also more accessible. Mobile video conferencing includes things like screen sharing, individualized controls and chat functions.
Whichever technology is best for a specific case is subjective. All of these tools can create more efficient, cost-saving processes for litigators and participants in a case.
Courtroom videography is conducted by legal videographers. These are people who are certified specialists. They can record numerous events, including:
- Courtroom cases
- Signing of legal documents
They may also film evidence at a crime scene.
Courtroom videographers will provide a product that can illuminate court proceedings. Video has the unique ability to capture things such as:
- Facial expressions
- 360-degree perspectives
Most professional legal videographers work with court reporter agencies. Legal videographers may also be referred to as court videographers or forensic videographers. They undergo testing to achieve this certification. This is an overview of the full spectrum of services that a courtroom videographer will provide and how that product can enhance a legal case in court.
Capturing content is the first step. A legal videographer may come in after a court has commenced and can fill a variety of roles in the proceedings. There are several general skills and technologies that a courtroom videographer will use:
- Use professional video and audio equipment
- Work in court to record trials
- Record legal depositions
- Record evidence for trial
- Record meetings of transactions or document signings
Courtroom videographers must have a basic knowledge of video production and editing, forensics and criminal justice. Once video footage is captured, there are many different ways that footage can be used.
Legal videographers capture several different kinds of footage, all of which may require editing. They should be skilled enough to perform the following post-production services:
- Linear editing
- Nonlinear editing
- Media enhancement
Part of the way that video footage is incorporated into trial management is by synchronizing with text. The stenographer or court reporter text files can be lined up with time-coded video footage. This creates a useful tool, as the synchronized transcript can line up with real-time video footage. The process of creating this deliverable may be done by a trial technology supplier or courtroom videography company. Additional editing can be performed to:
- Highlight sections of text
- Redact objections
- Remove dead air
- Playback specific portions
Files of synched video and transcript data are usually importable into trial management software programs.
Trials can be enhanced and supported through multimedia productions. Similar to the synthesis between transcriptions and captured video footage, using multiple kinds of media can maximize the impact of a message. First, it provides clarity. When text is accompanied by video, the nuances of gestures and body cues can be highlighted. Second, using multimedia in a courtroom can enhance attention and memory. Jurors have different learning styles. Using as many methods as possible to communicate increases the accuracy of that communication.
How to Make Trial Presentations
Trial presentations are all about exhibit conceptualization. Leveraging the available trial technology to illustrate a point orally and visually can increase its impact. When persuasion is on the line, people who work in courtrooms see the power of a quality presentation. Multimedia productions are becoming more and more common in courtrooms. With the right tools, this is a fairly easy process that can change the course of a case.
According to experts at Columbia, a good trial presentation should include:
- Courtroom technology that the user is comfortable with, or access to a specialist who can assist
- Adequate monitors, projectors, speakers, wiring, networking and other elements in the courtroom itself
- Rehearsal in the War Room that matches all aspects of the courtroom itself
- The right presentation equipment, including adequate memory on a computer, dual monitors, backups
- A presentation technologist, if needed, to oversee and monitor the hardware and software
- Case data, evidence management software
- Software such as PowerPoint or TrialDirector
- Well-prepared exhibits, such that can be displayed on a screen
- Encoded and synchronized video depositions/transcriptions
They recommend that trial consultants be enlisted, if possible, to assist in numerous ways:
- Set-up and tear-down equipment
- Work with vendors
- Assist clients
- Database creation and maintenance
- Present electronic and demonstrative evidence
- Work with trial software
- Assist with exhibits
- Produce video and audio materials
- Edit video and audio materials
- Product professional quality presentation materials
Courtroom Visuals & Courtroom Graphics
Trial presentation can be a key component of a holistic strategy. The visuals and graphics that are used can create a backdrop for arguments. What once was relegated to multimedia boards or tactile demonstrations can now be telecast onto screens. This means new opportunities are available. The new technology of visuals and courtroom graphics include:
- Interactive presentations
Visual strategies are employed by the most successful lawyers. Computer-generated graphics can be rendered that recreate photo evidence on a different scale. The various platforms and processes available depict graphs, charts and images with vivid color and motion.
Courtroom Audio Visual Systems
Courtroom graphics are displayed on AV systems. Audio-visual systems are the method whereby multimedia presentations are brought to life in court. Evidence presentation systems can provide 3D objects, digital documents, digital photos and other items helpful to making a case. AV integration in a courtroom is paramount to pulling this off under a judge’s authority and within the confines of the law. The best courtroom AV systems have the following features:
- Easy install
- Simple, effective integration with existing tech
- Technology storage or sharing, as needed
- Established interface and platforms
Some courtrooms will want features that include things such as:
- Advanced zone control with judge override
- Personal viewing monitors
- Screen capture
- Witness annotation
- Video conference consulting
There may be software and hardware considerations unique to your facility.
Go here to learn more about these systems.
Court Reporter Videographer
Court reporters play a vital role in the legal process. Having exact records of spoken words is a crucial component to a successful verdict. Video augments recorded interactions and transactions. This is because capturing individual elements in a way that can be analyzed adds immense value and insight.
Court videographers, like all court reporters, are subject to strict requirements and must carry a certification. In addition to being certified or licensed, their technical proficiency must be superb. This is because they are single handedly responsible for important legal records. Attorneys, litigants and judges use the details of these visual records to make determinations in legal cases. The records must be accurate and accessible.
Court videographers may obtain the status of a Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS). This is the main kind of certification for court videographers. It can be obtained by:
- Attending a national seminar by the National Court Reporters Association
- Taking a written test
- Taking a production exam
Court videographers must learn about the CLVS Code of Ethics, CLVS Standards for Video Depositions and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Other areas in which they must have a baseline of knowledge are:
- Video recording
- Video production
- Legal procedures
- Judicial procedures
- Office procedures
- Operating procedures
There are also professional development elements on which courtroom videographers are tested.
All of this impressive technology is only as good as its operator. That said, practice is the only way to operate on a professional level. Even with a qualified trial consultant or trial techs, the presenters themselves have an irreplaceable role to play. The litigators who use technology like these will benefit from another piece of technology that allows for epic rehearsals: a 3D Courtroom.
3D scale models and virtual reality work together to create real-time, real-life scenarios in which to stage arguments and practice the use of technology. Presentations can be staged and rehearsed. These models are not difficult to create and work in. That is one way in which 3D and VR technologies can be used in court.
Another way is to use 3D models as evidence depictions or in multimedia presentations. Animations and graphics rendered in 3D can create a 360-degree view. This allows for perspective shifts and the uncovering of important information. When viewed differently, certain environments or interactions may become clear. This can cut through the noise of argument and create irrefutable evidence.
How to Upgrade Courtroom Technology
Basic courtroom technology is the norm. Courthouses and administrative agencies should be equipped with some standard features, including hardware and software items. From opening statements to closing arguments, all administrative, civil and criminal proceedings incorporate some aspect of technology. Now more than ever, remote access is part of that norm.
When a courtroom or administrative building is upgrading, these are the core features that will facilitate trial technology and exhibits:
Courtroom Video Displays
Technology-enhanced courtrooms must have some kind of video system. This can include configurations such as:
- Projectors and screens: these may be affordable but have the drawback of keystoning, where an image is distorted from certain angles.
- Large monitors: these may be costly but comparable with a high-intensity projector.
- Multiple monitors: these would need to be available for multiple parties, including the jury, judge and counsel.
- Annotation monitors: replacing a large poster board, electronically marking exhibits is part of the progress of a case. When digitized, this can be a time-saving process but will incur an initial expense to buy tablets or other devices.
- Witness monitor: this may be a handheld device and should have annotation capabilities.
- Evidence camera: to facilitate multimedia displays, a camera will be needed to enlarge physical items. This is a more common element that may exist even in older courtrooms.
Courtroom Digital Connections
Courtrooms need to have a variety of connection points to facilitate trial technology. Technology-enabled courtrooms need to have laptop connections and digital input ports. In order to have ready and accessible plugs, there will have to be some strategy around where USB, HDMI and other port connections are located.
These include places like the litigant’s table, courtroom clerk’s station, speaker’s lectern and judge’s bench. Some thought will need to go into audio and video input options. VGA and other forms of video signal may not even work with newer laptops and devices. While adapters may suffice for the short-term, a true upgrade will require higher quality signals.
How sound and images are controlled is an important point of consideration. Trial technology will include touch screens, audio signals, display signals and more. These systems should be controllable from a master location and device. Most likely, a courtroom clerk will have some knowledge of this. There also must be a master “off” switch in the event that an override is needed.
Digital Courtroom Platforms
The American Bar Association has a Legal Technology Resource Center designed to guide attorneys and administrative staff. They create regular content that informs leaders in the legal field about issues like cybersecurity and trial technology and exhibits. For actual platforms, however, there are third-party retailers and vendors that are used. These include internal and consumer apps and software programs. Each state and even city has unique regulatory standards and contractual obligations that determine the software and systems they allow in court. What most agree on is that real-time courtroom services are the next step in trial technology.
Real-Time Courtroom Services
Real-time courtroom services were historically at the mercy of the speed of a transcriber. Now, there are a wide scope of real-time services that can be livecast via wifi and accessible to the parties of interest. Here are some examples of what those services are and the value they add to the legal process.
Real-Time Court Reporting & Transcription
Real-time court reporting and transcription gives instant text for the words spoken in court. Computer-aided transcripts have made this process more efficient and error-proof. In real-time, inconsistencies can be flagged and clarification requested. The creation of official transcripts is streamlined with digital aids.
Streaming Depositions & Trial Testimony
Text streaming services are an advanced and efficient technology. Usually facilitated through an app, users can stream depositions and trial testimony in real-time. Remote counsel, participants in conference rooms and people simply in other locations can use live streaming to convey important information and hold important meetings.
Real-Time Video Streaming
Real-time video streaming has gotten a lot of press since it was tried in the U.S. Supreme Court. In point of fact, many courts nationwide use this kind of service. Oral arguments and hearings can be cast to various platforms by live streaming video signals.
Digital Court Reporting Companies
All of this rich history and new technology has immense potential to transform the way cases are heard and the law is carried out. Courtrooms nationwide recognize the value of improving their processes. Upgraded facilities and equipment are part of that. When court systems and lawyers want to use all of this technology, they will typically hire a digital court reporting company for trial technology and exhibit training.
Companies like these can provide training, implement new procedures, have available platforms and can offer consultation. Courtroom technology consultants will assess existing equipment and systems and provide the clearest path for incorporating new processes. They may be hired by a court, administrative body or legal practice. CiteDepos is an example of a company like this.
Cite LLC Trial Tech
Cite LLC was founded to provide professional trial technology anywhere in the world. They have the highest level of technological expertise and personal support. The services CiteDepos provides include:
- Court reporting
- Trial support services
Cite LLC supports a variety of clients:
- Legal assistants
- Court reporters
Here are some examples of our world-class services:
- We provide one-on-one customer service and demonstrations of Zoom features
- Detailed training on virtual exhibit sharing
- Our in-house Virtual Meeting Coordinator hosts all meetings and is always available for technical support
- Ability to assign break-out rooms during zoom meetings for private conversations
- No extra charge to host a virtual meeting