While a variety of factors are up in the air during trial that can boost costs, that won’t stop most clients from asking counsel to forecast their budgets. It’s a reasonable request, but not always an easy one to fulfill.
When it comes to outside costs, trial graphics and on-site trial support are two areas where budgets are sometimes tricky to estimate. However, with a bit of discipline and planning, and a few rules of thumb, they can be kept manageable and predictable. Here are 8 tips for forecasting your trial support budget — and reducing costs along the way.
How to Reduce Trial Expenses During Discovery
Before you ever get to the courtroom, there are three ways to cut costs:
1. Synchronize Your Video at the Time of the Deposition. If your case has video depositions, having the court reporter’s transcript synchronized with the video is a must. Luckily, the cost of doing so has dropped dramatically. Many court reporters and videographers now provide a synchronized copy in their copy cost. Since most clients will pay for a copy of the deposition, order it synchronized.
2. Get Deposition Video Delivered Electronically, if Possible. If you can get your video electronically, do it. Having to copy files from a DVD to a computer might not seem like a big deal, but with enough witnesses those hours can really add up. Go digital, and you can download it all in the background while you focus on more pressing things.
3. Have Your E-Discovery Vendor Prepare the Trial Exhibits. If your case is big enough and you are using an e-discovery vendor, have them create the trial exhibits with an appropriate load file for your trial technician. This load file will supply any relevant information they have coded, such as document type, author, etc. That information can then be called up in the presentation software your trial technician uses.
How to Limit and Estimate Your Trial Support Budget
4. Estimate On-Site Technology Consultants’ Time. The first question we ask our clients is, “How does your trial team like to work?” Do they burn the midnight oil, or do they punch out right after court?
Since trial support tends to mirror the attorneys’ schedule, estimating technology consultants’ time usually falls into one of three categories:
- Heavy: The case has several moving parts, and rulings are happening each day that will affect the testimony being presented (and the necessary prep) as well as how prepared the trial team is. A good rule of thumb for this scenario is 14-16 hours a day.
- Moderate: After working eight hours in court, the trial team spends two to three hours each night preparing documents and video clips. This scenario usually averages out to 10-12 hours a day.
- Light: The trial team is fully prepared and only needs the trial technician to call up documents and video clips. Estimate around eight or nine hours a day.
Some cases call for one technician, some call for two, and the bet-the-company cases can benefit greatly from having trial techs and a graphic artist on-site. Plan and estimate your budget accordingly.
5. Make Sure Your Vendor Can Support Large File Repositories. Most trial support vendors can send and receive large files electronically. But, the vendor you choose should be able to host every single one of the exhibits, video depositions, and any other relevant files you need, before and during trial. This full, anytime access means you — and they — won’t be stuck waiting for files or paying for last-minute shipments.
6. Have One Main Point of Contact with Your Vendor. Whether you are creating document callouts or preparing video deposition designations, selecting one point-person will save time and money for the vendor and your trial team. We know everybody wants their say; but, constantly editing by committee can cause communication mix-ups with the vendor, and over time these small corrections pile up hours. You can still have your team weigh in on the important decisions, but choose one person to communicate with your vendor.
7. Share the Cost of Audio/Visual Equipment with Opposing Counsel. Trial teams used to see courtroom equipment as an chance to one-up opposing counsel. The common sentiment was, “If they don’t have their own equipment, that’s their problem.” In modern jury trials, however, judges emphasize that trial counsel be as efficient as possible with jurors’ time (and the jurors prefer that, too). Sharing A/V equipment will speed up the process. Even if opposing counsel doesn’t anticipate the need for the equipment, it’s still good etiquette to offer.
8. Share a Trial Technician with Opposing Counsel (Optional). This option has advantages and disadvantages. Sharing a technician is an efficient way to keep costs down if you only need to show agreed-upon exhibits and video designations. That said, if you go this route you’ll lose your ability to quickly cross a witness or create a PowerPoint slide during rebuttal testimony. You’ll have to weigh the savings against that potential loss of strategic advantage.
Ultimately, it’s much easier to estimate your budget if you can weed out the main issues that stack up unnecessary hours. The 8 factors we’ve highlighted above should help avoid sticker shock for your client by keeping your expenses aligned with your expectations.
By: Adam Bloomberg – Managing Director, Visual Communications
A version of this blog first appeared on law360.com