by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting
A trial technician, also known as a hot-seat operator, has an incredibly challenging job. He or she needs to manage the minute-by-minute display of evidence at a trial. Often that means bringing up deposition video that has already been synchronized with the deposition transcript, or being able to bring up one of thousands or even millions of documents on a moment’s notice. In addition, a great hot-seat operator must understand what the litigator needs to prove at trial and what the pitfalls may be. He or she must almost feel like a “second skin” to the trial lawyer and must anticipate problems that will inevitably occur in the proof of the case.
Here are 11 characteristics of a great trial technician.
- They anticipate problems and solve them before they happen. Typically, the trial technician is able to respond to requests from the litigator at trial almost before the requests are made.
- They exude calm and confidence, even when everyone around them is tense.
- They don’t just flash massive amounts of text on screen that no one can read. Instead, they know how and when to enlarge and highlight key portions. They have an instinctive feeling for what will be relevant to a jury.
- They are a source of solutions and better ways to achieve the presenter’s goals. It’s amazing how often a bright and qualified person ends up being a hindrance rather than a help to a litigator’s goals.
- They disagree when it’s in the best interest of the client. The excellent trial technician sees things not only in terms of the law but also in terms of how they will fare before a jury and is unafraid to state his or her opinion.
- They are quick on their feet and always on their toes. You only have to tell them what you want once and they get it.
- They’re flexible and make changes on short notice without a fuss. A great trial technician can make significant changes in a presentation without calling attention to himself or herself.
- They are highly professional and blend well into the trial team.
- A great trial technician is realistic about the limitations of the technology and the time it takes to perform certain tasks, so they can advise counsel to help prioritize for the best outcome.
- Even when the presenter fumbles, the great trial technician can keep going and help the lawyer stay on track.
- The great trial technician is an excellent communicator who can put even the novice technology user at ease.