Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Technology Done Right is Technology Worth Doing...

A recent article in Law Technology News asks: Did Mark Lanier change the way you use Powerpoint at Trial? Gosh, I hope so. For the past several years, I have witnessed many lawyers misuse technology in the courtroom. The funny thing is, they are usually very experienced lawyers and they are completely unaware that they are making a mistake.

There are two basic mistakes I have seen lawyers make. The first mistake is using technological bells and whistles simply because they exist and not because they are helpful. The second is giving up on the technology.

In my experience, lawyers tend to overuse technology. For some reason, when lawyers get ahold of a new technology they forget why the lawyer needs the technology in the courtroom in the first place. Visual communication technology is there to assist a witness to tell the story and to assist the jury to remember the information and be persuaded by it. That's it. If technology is interfering with the witness’ retelling of the story or if the visual tool is preventing the witness from remembering the information, the technology is in the way and it ought to be removed from the courtroom -- because it is not helping.

But it appears that this is hard for some lawyers to recognize. Lawyers who have spent the time to figure out how to use the software and electronics are proud to show everyone that they have mastered these tools. Like an excited child with a new toy, they will show off all of what the tools can do. But a lawyer who highlights 400 documents in bright yellow, has in reality highlighted nothing. Doing so distracts the jury – the exact opposite of what the trial lawyer set out to do. Worse, it could possibly hurt his case.

Visual communication should be thought of as a smart bomb. It has a specific focused goal. The type of media used to display evidence is incidental to the type of information the lawyer is trying to convey. The need to display a certain type of evidence will determine the medium/technology on which to display that evidence, if at all (such as a large format poster, a model, a document camera, videotape, computer presentation, 2D animation, 3D simulation, etc.). The trial lawyer should employ a particular medium because it is useful for a particular reason. In preparing for trial, the effective lawyer must analyze the best method for presenting that particular information (e.g., timelines work better in a scrolling interactive presentation and not on PowerPoint slides).

Second, lawyers tend to underuse visual communication technology. This is probably motivated by inexperience - not as a lawyer, but as a lawyer practicing with 21st Century tools. If a lawyer is unfamiliar with how to effectively integrate a visual presentation into his or her own style, they tend to just let the technology go. They give up on it. In my experience, this is almost always because the lawyer did not leave enough time to prepare himself to properly and effectively use the presentation tool. More time … means better prepared.

Another way in which lawyers tend to underutilize technology is by giving up on its admissibility. Thomas Edison said: "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."

I recently tried a case where we wanted to use an interactive timeline throughout the trial. We asked the judge if we could use it in the opening argument. He said, “No.” We asked to use it in with our first witness. The judge said, “No.” We asked to use it in the cross-examination of our opponent’s key witness. He said, “No.” We then asked to use it in our closing argument. The judge said, “For the last time. No!” Finally, I asked the judge if we could use a blackboard to display our timeline to the jury in the closing argument. The judge said, “No!!!”

Later that afternoon, the judge’s clerk called to say that the judge would reconsider the use of the interactive timeline before closing arguments the next morning. He did and we were allowed to use the interactive timeline during the closing … and we won.

Sometimes, getting a judge to understand why the technology is helpful and why it does not raise any admissibility problems can be a challenge. It helps to give the judge an analogy, like a chalkboard, to make him feel more comfortable with how and why the technology will be used. It also helps to not take "no" for an answer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

3D Technology

In my most recent interest in the ever growing 3D technology, I've not noticed the inevitable desire for all visual displays to embrace this new phenomenon. However, I can see this technology having more than one use and could potentially be a really helpful tool, as shown in this article.

"Although 3D imaging is predominantly used in blockbuster movies, this new system could reveal even the tiniest details of airborne animals and insects.

A new multi-camera, real-time, three-dimensional method of recording multiple flying animals and insects shows the minutest details of these creatures.

In the future, the system may even be paired with virtual reality technology, allowing scientists to investigate every aspect of the behavior of airborne species, such as birds and houseflies. The new high-tech video package has been appropriately named "Flydra."

"The Flydra system uses high-speed cameras to track the 3D position of animals as they fly," project leader Andrew Straw, a senior research fellow in Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News.

"It does this almost instantaneously, so we know where the animal is at any given moment," added Straw.

In one set-up, Straw and his team combined 11 video cameras capable of recording around 60-100 frames per second. These were linked up to a network of nine standard Intel Pentium and Core 2 Duo computers. The system is described in the latest Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Prior commercial motion capture systems, often used on blockbuster movies, required reflective markers. Straw said the markers are way too big and heavy to be stuck on a tiny fly. They're also impractical for use on big birds and other large animals. Flydra therefore eliminates that step.

Other earlier real-time 3D tracking systems could only record one or a few animals at a time. Flydra, on the other hand, can capture a limitless number, depending on how much the camera and computer set-up is expanded."

As a 3D artist for WIN Interactive this newly emerging 3D technology potentially displays more than one use than just for the cinematic experience. Interactive 3D animations already greatly improve an attorneys presentation of evidence in the court room, now just imagine immersing yourself in the situation of say the scene of an accident. It would without question bring visual presentations to a whole new level of realism.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Who Is In The Driver's Seat?

Just recently, I was perusing the online world looking for commentary on the issues of law and technology. I happened to come across this blog, called "Law and Technology Theory," devoted to that exact topic. I must mention that at times some of the entries in this blog seem a little convoluted and full of impressive big words without a similarly impressive amount of substance. Nonetheless, they do touch upon some very interesting concepts.

One of those concepts was whether or not technology has come to control the direction of humanity or whether humanity remains autonomous. Even further, how does the answer to this question determine how we view the law?

Now, I am not going to even try posing an answer to this question because I'd like to avoid running into a chicken and the egg conundrum (e.g. Did man create technology or did technology find man? Take fire, for example... it existed long before humans did, so did we evolve because of a desire to harness this most primal technology, thus fire helped shape humanity today, or did we, as autonomous creatures invent technology, which just happened to allow us to harness fire? etc, etc, etc.). I'm more of the opinion that you can't really separate them out this way and that the imagination of humanity can shape technology in new ways, just as technology can shape the direction of our culture.

In any event, the issue, when it comes to the law, is one of great concern to all of us in the legal field whether we admit it or not. Our courtrooms are sorely behind the technological curve, while our society is racing out far ahead. How can our justice system purport to represent our societal interests when there is such a discrepancy? The simple answer is that eventually, it can't.

Does this mean that technology is re-shaping our views of justice? Does/Should technology control the direction of the legal system? The knee-jerk reaction is that of course it shouldn't. People and their societal ethics should determine what justice is and how to implement it, right? Right. The problem is then that if people don't make a conscious effort to make sure that we are updating the legal system, then it will soon control us without our knowledge.

Take photographs for example. When the first photograph was introduced into evidence, I'm sure some attorney somewhere had no idea how to defend against it and he (no offense to my sisters in the law, but it was a long time ago... it was probably a he) probably went nuts when a very smart judge said, "I'll allow it." The law probably had to play a very fast game of catch-up to make sure that justice wasn't being perverted by something no one yet understood. The same thing probably happened with videos when they first showed up, and again with computer simulations. Actually, there are still huge issues with authenticity/admissibility of computer simulations, computer generated images, and 3D models.

In an age where e-mails are the norm and cell phone bills can track our every movement, shouldn't the law have an up-to-date way of dealing with these issues? The legal community needs to test the waters. We need to pass legislation like the updates made to U.S. Copyright laws to deal with software. We need to challenge judges (that's right, I said it!) to make reasonable and accurate rulings about technology.

Either technology shapes the law or we, as the legal community, shape the law to deal with technology. I would much rather have laws and a legal system that people shaped to accommodate us, than a system that is struggling to accommodate a faceless technology at perhaps the expense of justice.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

WIN's social networks

Join our Facebook group,or follow us on Twitter. There we add news stories daily and happening events within the WIN Interactive firm. We hope to build up our social networks to ensure that our clients, and those we have worked with remain up to date on our growing firm. If we worked with you, we would love to schedule a video interview and post it on our website www.wininteractive.com. Contact the WIN Office if you are interested or would like to work with us on your future cases. Thank You.

Real life Mr. & Mrs. Smith in the Boston area

What do fellow Bostonians think of Russian spies in the Bay State? Are there more people in our area that are living "normal" lives who have a secret identity?