So you think you don’t need tech?

Editor’s Note: Penny Marshall is currently in private practice, focusing on Law and Technology.  Previously she was the Federal Defender for the Federal Public Defender Office for the District of Delaware.  Her practice has also included the federal and local level in the District of Columbia and a year and a half stint in the state of Georgia.  She has served as President of the Association of Federal Defenders and Chair of the Third Circuit Lawyers Advisory Committee.  In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member at Widener Law School and has served as guest faculty at both Harvard Law School and Benjamin Cardoza School of Law. 

Imagine that the government has provided you with 50 DVD’s, a stack of paper amounting to more than a 100,000 documents, an ample number of CD’s and a list several hundred witnesses.  If you instinctively start to prepare by hiring enough paralegals to print out all of documents on the DVD’s, put them all in manila folders, and then hope that you or your smart energetic personnel will remember, in the middle of cross-examination, exactly where a particular impeaching statement is located, then this blog is certainly for you.

Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer

Even in the less complex cases, there is increasing reliance by prosecutors on digital discovery rather than forwarding a stack of reports and pictures.  And certainly the video and audio of our clients providing visual and audio support for the government case will be represented in a digital fashion.

In the new technological age more and more the government is able to “over paper” a case by putting any and all documents on electronic media and challenge YOU to find what is truly relevant.  More and more the government is following the way of our civil counterparts, who have long used technology as a way to organize and present their case.  We, as defense lawyers are prime to catch up.

At different stages of litigation there are several advantages to the use of technology:

  • Generally, the first advantage is that technology allows all of your information to be stored and organized in a compact easy to find location.  Almost gone are the days of moving numerous boxes from one location to the other to be copied and filed.
  • The next advantage is that the digital approach allows for your documents to be searched, either by looking in the digital file or by a program that blitzes through numerous documents to find one name or one crucial word.  Tiny print, upside down lettering and even handwriting can be deciphered.
  • A third advantage is that technology is a less costly way of presenting evidence.  For example: compare for example a FBI model versus using a computer program to reconstruct a crime scene.  Also think of the flexibility!
  • Fourth, technology organization requires you to focus on your case in advance. Rather than place the paper in an accordion file and bringing it out close to trial, electronics says you must consider the parts of the case in advance.

The fact that we are in a visual age cannot be understated.  TV, Text, Laptops, PCs, Phones, Tablets all require us to stare at electronic screens.  Each of these compete for our attention by making more and more exciting bells and whistles.  Check out the lines in front of an Apple store once a new “iDevice” is revealed.

Lining up for new technology

Even though jury duty is a diversion from the normal life for our citizenry, many jurors are regular consumers who expect theatrics in the courtroom. I must admit that, at first, I went kicking and screaming that I was not fully comfortable with tech in the courtroom, but having tried complex cases where it was an absolute necessity and experienced the impact of it in even the more modest case, I am an absolute convert. Think about it, even if you are one of the great lawyers of the day, jurors may tire of your voice in a long case with significant documents, especially if you are asking the Court’s indulgence to find your trial evidence!!