Many people think finding courtroom technology consultants or “hot seat” operators is easy to do. After all, anyone can run a presentation with a few PowerPoint slides for a couple of days during a trial. Yet, few trials are quite that simple. When the stakes are high and the demands are numerous, you need someone you can trust to perform well under pressure. At Litigation Insights, we are often asked about what characteristics make up a seasoned courtroom technology consultant. The following are some of the most important traits and skills of an effective hot seat operator.
Qualities Shared by the Best Hot Seat Consultants
- Proficient with Software and Hardware. You will likely use several pieces of software throughout trial prep and at trial. Your hot seat operator should be an expert in all of them. Most obvious, hot seat operators need to be experts at PowerPoint and TrialDirector (or Sanction). They should also be proficient in using traditional graphics editing applications like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Finally, they should be able to set up all of the audio/visual equipment themselves and to run any existing equipment in the courtroom.
- Adept at Trouble-Shooting. Problems will arise, and you need a presentation technology consultant who can solve them. For example, issues with video files are especially ubiquitous. That’s really no surprise since video depositions are conducted all over the country with numerous videographers and hundreds of different types of encoding software. Whether you are in a focus group or in a courtroom, the seasoned hot seat operator will have available several applications to deal with troublesome video files.
- Able to Edit Video on the Fly. If you want to impeach a witness with testimony that you have not prepared for, you will need an expert in video editing with plenty of experience in a Trial Presentation application like TrialDirector. The seasoned operator can edit a short video clip in less than 45 seconds (or perhaps even less than that), while ensuring the video clip begins and ends in the exact spots needed. So, in the time it takes for counsel to lean over and give the page and line to the operator then announce to opposing counsel and the judge the designation, the video clip is ready to be shown to the jury.
- Capable Mind Readers. This quality is somewhat facetious, but only somewhat. Seasoned operators are able to anticipate counsel’s needs. They are following your witness outlines and the testimony, and grouping relevant exhibits and testimony clips on the fly just in case you need them. They may not really be reading your mind, but the best hot seat operators can make you think they are.
- Calm, Cool and Collected. Any number of technical problems and glitches can happen during a long trial with multiple co-counsel and experts. Seasoned hot seat operators handle these problems with ease, and most of the time an attorney will never realize there were any problems. In the event something does happen that the trial team needs to know about, the operator will quickly define the problem and offer 2-3 suggested solutions on the spot.
Experience in the Courtroom Really Does Matter
All of these characteristics boil down to one obvious overall trait: experience. When hiring a hot seat operator to be a part of your trial team, experience should be the number one consideration in your decision-making process.