Monday, November 29, 2010

Accuracy in 3D Legal Graphics

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of creating three dimensional models and animations for the legal industry is that the more accurate the visuals are the more effective the presentation is. Creating a fair and accurate presentation is the only way to enable the visuals to be admissible into evidence for a trial. There is no room for error, unlike a mediation where visual aids are more persuasive and not bound by legal rules. If the presentation is not fair and accurate during a trial when the animator has to testify on the stand, they will be torn apart by the opposing side of the case. This could cause a completely different outcome resulting in a benefit to them instead of your side.

The first stage in the accuracy process is to collect all the photographs and as much data and measurements as possible. Even if this requires going back to the scene of where the incident took place after the majority of the data has been collected from the clients and experts. The more measurements the better, and all of the additional details help.

If all this is done in the very beginning, not only does it help ensure that everything in the digital world matches up with the real world, but it also makes things easier in the building process. Having all this vital information speeds up the production time astronomically because of not having to go back and find bits and pieces of missing data. For instance if you only have the height and depth of an object but not the width, it causes you to not only risk admissibility but also makes the production time much longer than necessary.

When the virtual world is being presented in a trial, and is fair and accurate, it can be extremely helpful to the side it's being used for. The jury can now see multiple angles of an incident they would never have been able to see before with the use of 3D animation. New levels of detail can be noticed in close up camera shots and a better understanding of the incident as a whole can now be perceived.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Alternative legal careers... for alternative lawyers.

I've recently had the pleasure of speaking with some third-year law school students and recent graduates. They have some... well... let's say, "interesting," ideas about the world. Almost every law school student or recent grad I've spoken with has this idea that not only are they marketable, but that they can still land a job in today's economy, which you know is a laughable idea if you've graduated within the last three to four years. I suspect that law schools (more specifically their respective Career Services departments) are keeping student hope alive for the express purpose of making sure that law school enrollment stays at an all time high even though legal jobs are at an all time low.

I personally graduated right when the economy took its downward turn. Many of my friends thankfully found work early on, but I was one of the less lucky (though still very fortunate) ones that had to go through two boxes of resume paper and countless online applications before landing my own job (without ANY help from Career Services mind you). It took me almost a year to find a steady job and not a day went by during that time that I wasn't actively, in some way, trying to land a job. The process was grueling, exhausting, and demeaning all at the same time.

I made the same error early on that so many graduates make. I assumed that I'd get work at a medium to large sized firm. I set the bar there (no pun intended) and I was committed to that goal. I realized there was a problem when I noticed that almost no firms were hiring and if they were, they wanted experience. "Experience," now there is a word to dread as a recent graduate. The one thing you can't possibly get in order to land a job that requires it. The comically tragic Catch-22 that rules out so many applicants when the economy is down yet law schools are pumping out graduates faster than ever.

I started to lower my standards and look for legal jobs that I wasn't even interested in, just so I could get the fabled "experience" that would make me marketable. I joined five temp agencies and got one job that lasted one week (actually it was listed for three weeks, but I was so efficient that I did the work in one - silly me for having a strong work ethic). So, when that didn't work, I lowered my standards even more and looked for paralegal jobs. Just something, anything, to keep me in the legal field. No luck... it's not that I wasn't qualified, it's that no one wanted to hire a lawyer to be a paralegal because as soon as a job opened up that lawyer would be gone... and... I totally would have been. Lastly, I turned to trying to get ANY job. That's when my eyes opened to all of the other opportunities out there available to a person with a law degree that had nothing to do with law. Click here to check out this blog about alternative legal careers. It lists four types of jobs reported by four different law school graduates, which are: financial planner, real estate investment, campaign work, and government consulting.

It was alternative legal careers that gave me new hope. I started looking into what it would take to get my real estate license, which is easy for a lawyer. I also looked into finance when a friend of mine told me that her accounting firm loved the idea of hiring a lawyer to manage certain finances. I also realized that plenty of companies were interested in the idea of hiring lawyers as business developers because while an MBA is nice, a law degree is often better. It was during this period of newfound hope for employment that I found my current position at WIN Interactive.

Granted, my current job is very related to the legal field, but as far as legal careers go, there aren't many lawyers that do what I do. At first, I thought it would bother me not to do what all of my colleagues were doing, but I quickly realized that I (like all associates) I probably would have hated the first few years of my career at a large firm. I'm sure the pay is wonderful, but they take it out of you in a reduction in the quality of life. Many of my friends were working obscene hours and burning out in the process. Often, alternative legal careers can give you a taste of the law without a lot of the hassle that goes with it. For example, as a litigation consultant and project manager, I get to work with some of the best attorneys in the country (not just the state!) and on some of the best cases in the country. I don't often have to deal with the early stages of a case where there's a lot of paperwork and very little interesting legal argument. Where I come in, I get right into the meat of a case and I get to help craft the presentation of a case at mediation, arbitration, or trial... and I got to do that right out of law school!

Many of us have talents that get tossed to the side in the pursuit of a legal career. For example, I was always very creative growing up and in school. I loved the arts and computers, but there isn't much room for visual creativity in law school. My alternative legal career allows me to take advantage of my love for the arts and computers and apply those skills to my legal knowledge.

As time went on, other, more traditional lawyerly, opportunities also began to present themselves because as a lawyer working for a legal graphics consulting firm, I work with other lawyers. As a result, we can try cases when we feel like it in addition to our regular business. A little over one year after law school and I cross-examined a witness in court in a small case. I also got to teach at a MCLE course on medical malpractice and visual communication.

The bottom line is that working as a lawyer for a firm is great if you can get it and that's what you want out of life. On the other hand, there are so many other opportunities out there if recent graduates are willing to open themselves up to them. Not everyone is cut out for firm life, and even less people are getting those jobs today, but luckily, there are alternatives...

It’s who you know, not what you know.

Headlines lately have been lashing out on the probation department and the idea of patronage. Commissioner O’Brien has recently been fired after a long battle of the blame game. However, the underlying message here is that our world has become a battle between networking with people and not so much how much knowledge or how smart an individual is, which is troublesome to say the least. Many jobs in the criminal justice field and services are not hiring very often so when a position does open up many applicants will be pushed aside and others moved to the head of the list because their parents donate money, their family is friends with someone that works there and the list of possibilities goes on. Many of my friends are on the state police list and have seen their name go up and down the list very often, many have seen why that is because of parents involvement in the department or some phone calls and extra pushes from family friends, neighbors and teachers. It is hard to see an individual who does not have the same scores, experience and to be quite frankly the drive you have be considerate for a job because they “know someone, who knows someone.” Networking has become the buzzword in our society and especially in this economy any help you can get you take. How has the “ who you know” idea shadowed over what you know. That’s simple because in this economy everyone is fighting for a job and there are many more fighting for the same job you want. Was Commissioner O’Brien wrong in hiring a majority of his family to work in the probation department and other branches of Massachusetts state positions? Yes, is he the first person who is guilty of helping out people he knows and giving them a job over other? No. O’Brien was an extreme case as he was public about his favoritism; however the problem of patronage is evident outside of the probation department.

So how do we address this issue is it a crime to network and use those names and contacts to your advantage? We are a society that uses all forms of communications from word of mouth to texting and video chat. When we meet someone for the first time, their business card becomes that much more important down the road because you never know when you need their help or that extra push to land the job you want. No matter what, what you know and learn in the classroom and through experience will help you succeed in your position however if you know someone that can help you or knows the employer that can guarantee an interview, and your foot in the door.