PowerPoint on Trial, by Ted Brooks reprinted from Yahoo Litigation Support Manager's Group

View more info and updated article PowerPoint in Trial on Court and Trial Technology Blog

Question: Has anyone had experience (good or bad) with using PowerPoint at trial? I have looked into it and it seems like with the way things change at the 11th hour, PP would not be the best way to go. Can anyone share their thoughts on this?
Answer: I have read all of the replies listed before mine, and am compelled to add my thoughts as well. The purpose, function, and product of technology in the courtroom are maximized by using the right tools for the task. There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution, and legal professionals should never attempt to operate in that fashion. It is amazing to find how many free or low-cost "solutions" are used (or attempted) within this industry- the same industry with a reputation of charging exorbitant rates for its services. That said, I offer a few possible solutions:

PowerPoint www.microsoft.com

Trial Director www.indatacorp.com

Sanction www.verdictsystems.com

Trial Pro www.trialpro.com

Visionary www.visionaryinfo.com

Snag-It www.techsmith.com

Ted Brooks (info@litigationtech.com)
Litigation - Tech LLC
415-291-9900 / 415-291-9930

PowerPoint offers many features and possibilities to the power-user. If you are not a power-user and experienced visual communicator, and you are preparing a trial presentation for your client, you should consider utilizing in-house litigation support services, hiring someone, or contracting with a vendor, in order that you may clearly communicate, in a visual format, to a jury having little or no knowledge of your issues. PowerPoint is often the tool of choice for creating and presenting demonstratives, including timelines, charts, and the like. It is not designed as a trial presentation package. Although often used from within or together with a trial document presentation database, it does not have the fortitude or functionality necessary to offer a complete trial presentation alone.
PowerPoint power-user tip #1: You may produce a graphics file, such as a jpeg, from a PowerPoint presentation by using the "Save As" option, and then selecting a graphics file format. For a higher quality image, consider using a tool like "Snag-It".

These are the tools you will need in court. Each has its own merits and faults, and your selection should be based upon your familiarity with databases, software experience, graphics/presentation experience, and organizational skills (with respect to large quantities of several different file types). I will not offer comparisons- you will have to run the demos yourself. These tools will enable you to go far beyond the slide-show presentation (or worse yet, the dreaded "paper and exhibit-binders trial"), offering a very efficient method of storing, organizing, and presenting documents and videotaped depositions. They will also enable you to quickly perform electronic highlighting, zooming, and several other operations, which can be then displayed, or even saved as a graphics file, which could then be produced as a poster blow-up. Referring back to organizational capabilities, these applications can create barcodes, which can be set up in the likely order of presentation, but can easily be randomly accessed, breaking away from the linear structure of PowerPoint.
PowerPoint power-user tip #2: You may select any PowerPoint slide randomly, during a presentation, by simply typing in the number of the slide, then hitting the "Enter" key.

Once again, if the level of expertise, or extra time for development is not available, look to others for assistance.
Nothing is more embarrassing than to be in court, frantically trying to locate the right document to display on the screens. Preparation and rehearsal are key factors, no matter which method you choose for evidentiary display. Last-minute changes must always be the exception, and not the rule, or expectation. Often, a cross-examination is prepared along two separate paths- one for witness answer "A," the other for answer "B." Having the "right tools for the job" will help make these "exceptions" manageable.

Notes: Up to 85% of visual evidence is retained by a juror. No other format comes close. It has been said, that to offer the client anything less than the highest level of technology available, is to risk being accused of malpractice.