|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, www.indatacorp.com) 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
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
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
NEW FEATURES IN VERSION 4
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.
COMPARISON WITH COMPETITIVE
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.
Respond to this TechnoFeature: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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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