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Courtroom Technology: The iPad – A Dynamic Visual Aid for the Litigator

Good storytellers incorporate visual elements to help convey their message and hold the audience’s attention.  Litigators use graphics and technology to reinforce themes, clarify case facts and explain complex issues.  Over our 27 years of courtroom and ADR experience there has been a significant evolution in visual communication technology from diagrams and photos on court-boards, to animations on barcoded laser disks … followed by PowerPoints, TrialDirector, Realtime transcripts, testimony by video conference and on to today where the laptop reigns supreme.

This evolution continues now with the use of portable electronic tablets, the development of which is driven mostly by the popular iPad.  The ubiquitous iPad is quickly transforming from a consumer product to a professional tool with exciting potential.  No longer used by attorneys to simply take notes, check e-mail and surf the web, this device is evolving through rapid application development into a robust litigation support device.  Transcripts can now easily be reviewed while waiting in the security line at the airport.  PowerPoints can be presented from the palm of your hand while standing in front of the jury.  And expert witnesses have a new and improved version of John Madden’s Telestrator tools.  With a handful of new applications, the iPad is becoming a solid tool for storytelling.

Useful Presentation Apps for iPads

keynote iconKeynote (#1 Presentation App)

KeyNote, Apple’s scaled-down version of PowerPoint, allows you to create, present and share your presentations on an iPad, iPhone or PC.  This app comes with several well-designed templates and corresponding fonts, backgrounds, charts and layouts.  Since every slide in the template has placeholders for text and images, editing is as simple as tapping the object with your finger.  You can also choose from generic charts, tables and even some simple 3D art.  Advancing your presentation from one slide to the next is as easy as swiping your finger across the screen.  You can even use an iPhone or iPod to control your presentation.

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Importing PowerPoint Files Created on a PC

KeyNote can open a PowerPoint in its native format, thus allowing it to maintain most of the attributes of the original file.  You will get a warning about incompatible transitions, animations and fonts that may change the look of the presentation.  Keynote does support more than 40 font types.  If your presentation incorporates a font that isn’t supported, this app will attempt to replace it with a close match.  After the importing process, a warning message will list any incompatibilities that were flagged and replaced.

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Since most attorneys are relativity new to KeyNote, it’s easy to get caught up in using nontraditional slide colors and backgrounds, and especially animations and transitions.  Don’t be tempted by fancy and “cute” transitions.  Stick with layouts and transitions that have worked well in the past.  Finally, make sure you test your presentation well before show time. And remember, rehearsal is one of the most important components for any successful presentation.


trialpadTrial Pad

TrialPad, a “lite” version of traditional PC applications like Trial Director, Sanction and Visionary, allows you to organize, annotate and present documents and videos.  You can organize your files by folders, create “key documents” and after you have annotated your documents you can save them as new versions.  This app is perfect for hearings, small trials and expert witness presentations.  And like most of the other presentation apps it offers a laser pointer option that permits you to use your finger instead of a handheld remote.


Another unique feature of these applications is the ability to call up a document to display it on the screen and/or courtroom monitors then hand the iPad to your testifying expert.  He/she can then highlight the essential copy live, versus setting a paper copy of the document on an Elmo and highlighting it yourself.  Allowing the expert to showcase the key copy live enhances the credibility of both the document and the testimony.

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Since TrialPad only supports iPad-friendly video formats, like .mov or .mp4, you will need to ask your videographer to provide the proper format or have your IT folks convert the video file.  Since you can’t load synchronized transcripts with your video, the ability to edit videos is currently quite limited.  While the latest TrialPad release doesn’t integrate with discovery applications like Summation and Concordance, we may see this function available in upcoming offerings.  Finally, like with any presentation software in the courtroom, you should back up all of your data onto another iPad or a PC.


powerpoint slideshowPowerPoint (Slideshow Remote)

If you aren’t ready to abandon your PC and all of the functions and options PowerPoint provides, Slideshow Remote is an excellent option.  Think of it as an extension of your laptop or a USB remote for the preview mode of PowerPoint 2010.  Just like a USB remote, you can start and stop your presentation, control the advancement of slides forward and backward, blanking the screen and, just like the preview mode in PowerPoint, you can see your upcoming slides with speaker notes.  And because you can see all of your slides, you can jump to any one of them at any time.

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For this app to function, you will need a Wifi connection between your laptop and your iPad.  If Wifi is not available, we suggest using a mobile hotspot.  Additionally, when you access the slides on your iPad they will be static images (or snapshots) versus fully capable slides with transitions, animations and imbedded multimedia.  With that said, you will still be able to see them on your projected image and you will be able to control them all with a simple swipe of the finger.



In the last 30 years, modern storytelling in the courtroom has evolved dramatically with visual communication support from modern graphics and technology.  And now presentation tablets, led by the rapid development of the iPad and its presentation apps, are providing yet another step forward in the development of innovative trial tools for litigators.  Like most iPad apps, these litigation tools are easy to learn, use and are providing increased presentation flexibility for trials around the world.

If we look back just three years, every lawyer had a Blackberry and a laptop at counsel table.  Now many in the courtroom, judge and jury included, carry some form of smart phone.  The next 12 months should be an exciting time for tablets users.  Apple will introduce a fourth version of the iPad, Google will continue to develop its Android offerings, Microsoft will introduce Windows 8 tablets and many others will scramble to produce smaller, more powerful devices.

Looking even further down the road, what does technology hold for tuned-in litigators and storytellers?  Could the magic displays of Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report” movie become reality?  Though not transparent, we are already using Smartboards for complex presentations.  We do know the future of storytelling will involve even more visual communications technology.  Hand gestures and voice commands thought to be decades away are already being tested and employed in industry.  Those holographic models used for forensic investigations in the “Bones” TV series may be just around the corner.  We will keep you posted!



By: Adam Bloomberg, Principal & Managing Director of Visual Communications and Robert Featherly, Senior Consultant



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