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Techno Feature
Practice management and technology articles written by experts.     February 11, 2004

Trial and Technology Consultant Ted Brooks has written an in-depth review of TrialDirector from a daily user's perspective. This timely article covers each component in the TrialDirector Suite, offers a comparison to similar products, and even shares some advanced "power tips." With the increasing demand for high-tech litigation by both Court and client, this is a must-read for trial lawyers and their support staff. This article contains 1347 words.

TechnoFeature: Review: InData TrialDirector Suite V 4.0
By Ted Brooks

TrialDirector 4.0 (inData Software LLC, is an integrated suite of applications designed for litigators desiring electronic evidence organization, exhibit enhancement, and courtroom presentation. Individual applications included in the suite are DepositionDirector, DocumentDirector, TimeCoder, and TrialDirector -- although they are all generally and collectively referred to as TrialDirector.

Electronic evidence materials supported include a wide variety of files, such as tiff documents, jpeg graphics, deposition video, animations, PowerPoint, ASCII transcripts, and a wide variety of "native" format file types (e.g., Word, PDF, Photoshop graphics, Flash animations, MPEG movies, HTML web pages, etc.). It should be noted that on-screen annotations and zooming are not supported with editable native files (including PDFs). Files such as TIFF and JPEG are normally used in trial presentations, thus making your choice of file types very important. It is not difficult to either convert (or scan) one of these native files into a suitable format.


As its name implies, this is the program used for storing, searching, printing and editing videotaped depositions and non-videotaped ASCII transcripts. Depositions which have been videotaped and synchronized to their ASCII transcript may be edited to instantly create "clips" consisting of Q&A pairs by simply selecting the desired text and saving as a clip. This is a very powerful tool when used for impeachment, allowing the jury to see inconsistent testimony as the witness watches himself on the big screen. It is also used to present testimony of absentee witnesses by joining clips together and playing in a long-play fashion.

While editing, DepositionDirector will automatically recognize periods of silence and objections, and will ask whether you would like to have them removed. Of course, the ultimate responsibility lies with the editor.
In addition to working with video, another potentially valuable function of DepositionDirector is to include non-videotaped ASCII transcripts. Although you may not be able to play it in court, you can run searches across all (or selected) transcripts at once. You can also export these ASCII transcripts as a new exhibit, enabling on-screen display of the text. Additionally, word-lists and several options for printing transcripts are available.


The main case database is contained in DocumentDirector. Here, you will find the documents, graphics, videotaped deposition excerpts, and all other case data. Documents may be pre-treated with highlights, redactions, electronic exhibit "stickers," and other annotations. Documents and other data may be imported by drag-and-dropping from Windows Explorer, by using the Import dialog, or by using a load file typically supplied by a service bureau. Database folders are used to gather materials in the database which will be used for witnesses. Each witness will have a folder, which is then used to generate a barcode outline. This outline may then be scanned with a barcode scanner, preventing typing errors when accessing a document. Everything in the database automatically gets a barcode according to its file name or document ID number. There is also a Coding feature, allowing document coding to be imported, or to be done directly in DocumentDirector. Two documents may be linked together programmatically for use in cases which have documents in multiple languages, bringing both versions to the screen with one keystroke. OCR (optical character recognition), which allows full-text searching of documents, is available as an option.


TimeCoder allows the user to synchronize an ASCII transcript file to a "digitized" (converted to MPEG format) deposition video. This is a manual process, performed by tapping the spacebar each time a line in the transcript is to be advanced, corresponding with the video playback. This process can be sped up to reduce the time spent to approximately half that of real-time, but it may be well worth the expense of outsourcing this time-consuming task.


The namesake of the entire suite, TrialDirector is actually the Presentation application. Here, you will find the "black-screen" and annotation tools designed to display documents and other evidence to the jury. This mode may be started directly, or more commonly, from within DocumentDirector.

During court trials, you will often find the need to zoom into crucial portions of documents and graphics, as often the jury simply cannot read it otherwise. It is much better to have the jury viewing exactly what (and when) you want them to, versus enabling them to view irrelevant portions of a document. Up to four documents may be displayed simultaneously for comparative purposes, using nine different "zones." Documents may easily be moved to various zones by dragging them or using keyboard shortcuts. In addition to displaying pre-treated (highlighted) documents, each item may be zoomed in, highlighted, and annotated (with underlining, arrows, circles, etc.) to emphasize and focus the juror's attention, using a customizable toolbar.


Version 4 includes the following new features:

-- Folder lists in Presentation Mode (enables selection of next exhibit).

-- Zone swapping - easily shift document positions in TrialDirector.

-- New Annotation Tools (including those used in winning Most Innovative Use of Technology in a Trial Award).

-- American Disabilities Act Approval.

-- Latest Version Update Feature.

-- Multiple CMS file (for video depositions) import.

-- "60 Minutes" tear-out zoom.


It should be noted that although many litigators use PowerPoint, it operates in a linear format. In other words, you must begin with slide 1, advance to slide 2, and so on. This is simply not how a trial proceeds, with unplanned changes in direction being the rule, rather than the exception. Although it is a great tool to assist with Opening and Closing Statements, it was designed for business presentations, not litigation.

Visionary, Sanction II
These, and other competitive products, will certainly get the job done, and are designed with the same goals as TrialDirector.

In this writer's opinion, TrialDirector has a more robust set of features, supports more file types, and has a better looking presentation display.

There is somewhat of a learning curve to really get into the advanced features, but perhaps that's why they call them "advanced." TrialDirector did have a reputation of being more difficult to use than other products, but recent version upgrades have greatly reduced the learning curve.

Regarding OCR, TrialDirector has such a feature, but it's not compatible with imaging vendor OCR (e.g, Summation or Concordance databases). It does work very well, but it costs extra for this module. It would be nice to see total compatibility here, and to see it included with the software.

I would also like to see the highlighter able to work with skewed (crooked) documents. Currently, you will have a tough time highlighting documents if they are not straight.

The bottom line is that choosing a trial presentation tool often boils down to a matter of personal preference.


-- Setup of Options: There are several optional settings which may (and should) be made. Some of these are found in the "View," "Options," and "View," "Presentation Options" dialogs. Another group is found by left-clicking at the very end of the toolbar in Presentation (TrialDirector) Mode.

-- Barcode Scanner: Although not required, a barcode scanner may be used with printed barcodes comprised of witness folders. It is generally much faster, and more accurate than typing in a document ID.

-- Document Numbering: A good rule of thumb if you have exhibit numbers assigned is to number the documents in a 4-3 format. Exhibit 12, page 4, would be represented as 0012-004.tif. This is in keeping with the format which TrialDirector uses when dragging and dropping files.


At a retail price of $595.00, one license permits installation on two computers. This is a great idea, considering one would normally want to have a full backup of the trial database anyway. Given that technology in the courts is becoming more prevalent, litigators should consider joining the trend soon. You will likely soon discover the efficient manner in which cases are being tried -- if not by you, by opposing counsel. The length of a paper-based trial is reduced by as much as 50%, while jury comprehension and retention is greatly enhanced.

Copyright 2004 Ted Brooks. All rights reserved.

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Ted Brooks is the President of Litigation-Tech LLC, a trial technology consulting firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Litigation-Tech provides trial prep and support to Abramson Smith Waldsmith, and helped them win their recent Law Technology News Award for Most Innovative Use of Technology in a Trial.
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