5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Trial Technician

After all subpoenas have been served, depositions taken, hearings attended, and mediation survived, by the time you get to trial, the stakes are pretty high. You can bring on another attorney as co-counsel, have a paralegal spend a day out of the office to be in the courtroom with you, hire couriers to transport boxes and boxes of documents and exhibits to the courthouse, or you can hire a trial technician.

The return on investment for trial technicians is incredibly high when preparing for trial. They can be your case manager, cataloging and indexing all documents from litigation; your demonstrative designer, who will take your key expert’s report and convert it into an easier-to-comprehend image for the jury; and your hot-seat software operator, who will run the software needed to display images, documents, and videos throughout the room.

Trial technicians can be an absolute lifesaver during trial and can ease your stress, both while preparing for trial and presenting at trial. However, there absolutely are aspects of a trial technician’s job that puts some at a higher caliber than others. Below I’ve listed 5 questions to ask your trial technician to ensure they’re the best trial tech for your case.

1. What kind of hardware setup do you use?

When trial tech first came on the scene, it was sufficient to simply place a big screen TV in front of the jury and present the trial that way. Nowadays keeping such a simple setup can slow your pace more so than speed it up. It’s important to verify that you’ll have additional screens for the judge, witness, examining podium, your table, and opposing counsel’s table. This prevents opposing counsel from interrupting and asking for clarification of what page you’re on, the judge losing his or her place, and the witness from stalling because “they can’t find the appropriate section.” The quality of the hardware setup very often affects the efficiency of your presentation.

2. What are your contingency protocols?

Phones run out of battery, cars break down, and trial presentation equipment often malfunctions as well. Sometimes, it’s just a cable becoming unplugged and the fix is easy. Other times, projector light bulbs burn out, power strips short out, and laptops stop working altogether. If there aren’t contingency protocols in place to prepare for potential catastrophes, you’re taking a huge gamble with your case. Make sure your trial tech is ready for potential disasters so that you don’t have to change your presentation plan on the fly.

3. Which presentation software do you use?

While most presentation software only have small differences between them, some have significantly lesser capabilities. For example, most trial software designed to operate via tablet, such as TrialPad or Trial Director for iPad, will have severely reduced document search functions, so if your case is very document-intensive, you will want to avoid these kinds of software. My personal favorite software is Trial Director, but Sanction is a close second.

4. Do you have a price sheet you can give me?

While this isn’t the norm, some trial technicians will nickel-and-dime you and expense every aspect of their work to your firm. I’ve met trial techs from other firms who have no issue charging for each sheet of paper printed, mile driven, and even their lunches during the trial, while also charging an hourly rate while printing, driving, and eating. So ask this question to make sure you’re only paying for what you can’t do yourself, and not for the extra things you don’t really need someone else doing.

5. What do you need from us?

If you’ve gotten this far in the conversation, it’s time to start asking what the trial tech needs to work with and how much work it will be for you to prepare it for them. Some trial technicians are unable to work with office documents, while others need specific video formats. This is also a great time to discuss turn-around times, due dates, and preferences like Bates Stamp formatting.

So now you know a few extra questions to ask when meeting with your first trial technician. And in case you’re altogether unfamiliar with trial tech and your first few questions are about capabilities and services, don’t forget, Orange Legal offers complimentary initial trial consultations. Feel free to reach out to request one.