A large part of my practice is helping people in trial present their cases with technology. Whether it’s just using a trial presentation program such as inData’s TrialDirector, or developing case themes and graphics to tell the story, it can get pretty pricey sometimes.
Last year in Las Vegas, Richard Suen won a little over $100 million in a jury trial, and the judge gave him back his $593,000 that he spent on his trial presentation.
But, that’s not a lot of help to those who can’t spend six figures on trial presentation to begin with. Naturally, one of the questions I get asked the most is whether you can do awesome trials for cheap. Of course you can….
Using Photoshop to Create 3D Models of Bones
Photoshop costs $10 a month and it can do some pretty neat things. One of the coolest things it can do for trials is to make 3D models from CT scans. CT scans show slices as the scanner goes across whatever it is scanning. So, when you review them, you just see one slice at a time. Here’s what the slices look like in the scan of a foot:
Photoshop takes those slices and aggregates them into a 3D model that you can rotate, zoom, view from whichever angle you choose. Here’s a video of how it looks in 3D:
If you have your CT scans on a disc, you can just open them in Photoshop and it puts the slices together almost automatically. You might have to watch a five-minute YouTube video on how to do it, but it’s pretty easy.
Use Leap Motion a Controller to Control Your Computer in the Air Like Tom Cruise in Minority Report
You have to be careful with the Leap Motion. It’s so cool that it might be a little too flashy for trial. It’s a motion sensor like the Kinect. You plug it into your USB port and then wave your hand over it and it recognizes your hand position and translates that into input to move things on your screen. It can be a little tricky to get used to, but after a little bit of practice, it becomes second nature. There’s a free app you can get in the Leap Motion app store for interacting with a skull. Basically, you “grab” the skull as if it’s floating above your keyboard, and you can rotate it and pull it closer to you and take it apart with your fingers:
This guy just posted an article about how he is using Leap Motion to create some 3D anatomical models for school. The code is a little complicated if you want to create your own, but I don’t think you have to. I bought my Leap Motion controller a few months ago and there were just a handful of apps. There are probably five times more apps now, and the app store seems to be growing pretty fast.
Make Any Surface a Touchscreen with Ipevo
Ipevo is great. I own almost everything Ipevo makes, which means I’ve spent about $300 on their site. The company targets teachers, who are broke and have to fight every day to keep kids’ attention, so naturally their products are good for cheap trial lawyers too.
When I first heard about SmartBoards touchscreens, I wanted to get one really bad. The problem is that they are big and heavy and difficult to transport. They also cost about $10,000 for a decent-sized one. Next, I looked into interactive short throw projectors. They cost only about $800 for a decent one, but they have some quirks too. For example, they only work if you can put the projector about four feet from the screen. Any closer and it will be too small. Any further away and it will be way too big.
The Ipevo Whiteboard system has a camera that you point at any flat surface (including a projection screen in court or even a flat-screen TV or a wall) and connect to your computer via USB. It has a stylus that you use on the surface you are aiming your camera at and just like that, any flat surface can become a touchscreen.
Use it in conjunction with TrialDirector or Adobe Reader in trial to zoom in by drawing a zoom box over the part you want to enlarge, or use the stylus to highlight exhibits on the screen or annotate them.
The only thing worse than a boring trial is a trial that is memorable because you tried to do something fancy and it didn’t work. Before you go into the courtroom with your new equipment, make sure you’ve practiced it a lot outside of the courtroom. When little things go wrong in the courtroom, and 40 eyes are on you and you click on something and a black screen comes up instead of Exhibit 1, troubleshooting is hard. Make sure you work all the kinks out and feel comfortable with whatever you are doing.
Jeff Bennion is a solo practitioner from San Diego. When not handling his own cases, he’s consulting lawyers on how to use technology to not be boring in trial or managing e-discovery projects in mass torts/complex litigation cases. If you want to be disappointed in a lack of posts, you can follow him on twitter or on Facebook. If you have any ideas of things you want him to cover, email Jeff at email@example.com.