I’ve watched clips of Johnny Depp's defamation trial with interest. The proceeding offers a fascinating view into the lives of the rich and famous and also is a prime example of how court will likely be conducted post-pandemic. This trial is notable not only because it is televised, but also because it includes testimony from many in-person witnesses and several others via videoconference. Of those participating remotely, some testified live and the testimony of others was pre-recorded.
As the Depp trial exemplifies, in-person court proceedings aren’t going away. Trials will occur in brick-and-mortar courtrooms moving forward, and technology will facilitate in-person proceedings just as it does virtual ones.
This “hybrid” trial is likely a sign of things to come as we head into the next phase of the pandemic, one where COVID-19 surges come and go. This continued unpredictability means that courts will need to embrace flexibility to remain operable no matter the circumstances. That’s why in my last two columns, I focused on deposition and court reporting software that enables the remote recording of testimony; these tools will be essential to the ability to administer justice in the weeks and months ahead.
After my most recent column covering court reporting tools was published, an email arrived from a reader of this column who wondered if I had any recommendations about tools to facilitate the in-person trial presentation of exhibits.
While this isn’t a topic I’ve yet covered in this column, there are many tools now available in this category of software. Most of the tools discussed below are cloud-based, although I’ll also briefly cover the tried-and-true—and often clunky-and-complex—premises-based trial presentation platforms as well.
But before I dive into the offerings, it’s important to note, as I always do, that the majority of software programs discussed below are cloud-based, which means data will be housed on servers owned by a third party. Because you’ll be entrusting your law firm’s data to a third party, you have an ethical duty to vet the technology provider hosting and storing your data thoroughly. This includes ensuring you understand how that company will handle the data; where the servers that will store the data are located; who will have access to the data; and how and when it will be backed up, among other things.
Make your case
Now I’ll review some of the options available, with a focus on the more modern, cloud-based tools discussed first.
Let’s start with four companion products from Lit Software that facilitate trial preparation and presentation: TrialPad, TranscriptPad, DocReviewPad and ExhibitsPad. These tools are designed for use on iPads only. Each app has its own trial function and offers unique ways to present your case to the finder of fact. A 7-day free trial is available for each app, and the pricing for the suite of all four apps is $399 per year. The apps cannot be purchased separately.
With DocReviewPad, you can annotate, review and produce documents. The companion app, ExhibitsPad, enables sharing trial exhibits with the fact finder so long as you provide jurors and/or the judge with an iPad for viewing and interacting with the exhibits.
TranscriptPad allows you to import deposition transcripts from a number of different sources, including many typical cloud providers and AirDrop. Once imported, you can read, annotate and search transcripts.
TrialPad is designed for trial presentation. You can organize, annotate and present trial evidence via an intuitive and easy-to-use interface using this app. Once files are imported from major cloud providers, AirDrop and more can be displayed using VGA or HDMI-compatible projectors. As is the case with most trial presentation software programs, you can call out certain sections of documents, zoom in and out and much more.
Next is ExhibitView Solutions. This company offers a number of trial preparation tools as well as both premises-based and cloud options. ExhibitView Trial Presenter is a premises-based trial presentation software tool that is compatible with PCs only. There is a 14-day trial available for ExhibitView, and the cost is $549 for two installations.
For lawyers seeking the ease and intuitiveness of an iPad interface, the company also offers a trial presentation iPad app, iTrial, which costs $99.99 and can be used as a standalone trial presentation tool. It also integrates with ExhibitView via Dropbox, which means you can prepare for trial using ExhibitView and then present at trial using iTrial.
TranscriptPro is another PC-compatible software tool that supports video deposition editing and facilitates digital transcript review. A 14-day trial is offered, and the cost is $249 for two installations.
Exhibit Presenter is another PC-based trial presentation tool. With this software, you can share and manipulate PDF exhibits in court as you present your case. This tool is an affordable one and costs $99 to download. There is a free demo version available as well.
Once it’s released, another option to consider for trial presentation is iLitigate, an iPad app. Right now, this software is available only to beta testers and pricing is not available. This software will provide tools to facilitate a legal team’s pre-trial case preparation and collaboration and includes document review functionality and trial presentation capabilities.
Finally, because I include premises-based software in this article, I would be remiss if I failed to mention TrialDirector and OnCue, two of the most well-known and robust trial presentation software suites. Both have been around for years and are popular choices, especially among larger law firm users, in part because those firms have the staff and resources needed for the implementation and training required to use these tools. The cost for TrialDirector is not available on the company’s website, and pricing for OnCue ranges from $80 per month to $780 per year for two activations per license.
The bottom line: If you’re in the market for trial presentation software, there is likely a tool that fits your needs. Your task will be to choose a program compatible with your firm’s operating systems and budget. Narrow your options accordingly, and take advantage of any free trials offered. Give the software a test run and determine if the interface is intuitive and robust enough for your needs. From there, you should be well on your way to effectively presenting your client’s case with ease.