@TrialPad for the win!

TrialPad was my second-chair in a four-day jury trial last week. My brain is still in recovery mode, so if this essay seems a bit jumbled, that’s why.

My clients sued a fellow shareholder for misuse of corporate moneys, and he counter-sued for breach of fiduciary duty and more. In closing, we asked for $35,000 in damages, and he wanted $380,000. The jury gave us $37,000, but this was merely an offset against the Defendant’s damages. He ended up with $99,000 as a net figure, which was less than our last offer to settle the case. On all accounts, it was a win (even if we’d have preferred the Defendant get nothing in damages).

The facts helped our case, of course. But I really have to believe that it was my ability to present those facts and show the jury the documents that backed them up that made the difference. I used TrialPad in my examination of every key witness. Our courtroom had a nice large flat screen display that made it easy to show documents to the jury. I found that document call-outs were not as helpful as simply enlarging the document so it could be easily read (even if that meant occasionally having to slide the document across the screen). This issue was probably a function more of the courtroom set-up than anything else. The screen was simply too far away for all jurors to see a call-out clearly.

What stood out for me about TrialPad was its ability to redact items on an exhibit (that should have been redacted before the trial started) before the exhibit was shown to the jury. Being able to blow up a document so a portion could fill the screen (like a single canceled check on a page containing several) was great.

But what I probably loved most about TrialPad was simply not having to cart around two binders of exhibits during the trial as well as traveling to and from the courthouse. I had to have them for the judge and opposing counsel, for example, as well as a set of binders that would go back to the jury room during deliberations. But once those were distributed, I didn’t have to lug around the equivalent of reams of paper. (I had a backup set in case my iPad died or worse, but those just sat behind me throughout the trial.) All I needed was my iPad, my fingers, and a stylus for highlighting or redacting if my finger was a bit too imprecise.

The courtroom set up also had a document camera (not the ELMO brand, but otherwise equivalent) that opposing counsel used, but it wasn’t quite as elegant as TrialPad. For one, you still have to take your paper exhibits up to the podium with you, and the unavoidable slight delay as the camera adjusts the brightness to the document doesn’t make for a smooth presentation. There’s also no question in my mind that one can gain a slight tactical advantage by leaving the last exhibit on the screen (using TrialPad’s “freeze” mode) while looking at my next exhibit on the iPad and asking the foundational questions of the witness.

The judge was very impressed with what could be done with TrialPad (he owns an iPhone but not an iPad), and even at our last pretrial conference when I was making sure TrialPad would work with the courtroom set up, opposing counsel admitted that I was making him a bit nervous by being able to display exhibits to the jury that well.

In this day and age, we don’t get to try many cases to a jury any longer (at least in the civil bar). It may be several years before I have another jury trial. Nevertheless, I’m already thinking about how I might be able to use TrialPad in other settings besides the courtroom. I know the next time I have a trial or evidentiary hearing, TrialPad is going to be my second-chair again.

Simply put, TrialPad alone justifies the cost of buying an iPad for any lawyer who does courtroom work.

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