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Why Rapport Between a Trial Lawyer and a Trial Technician is So Important

Ken Lopez
By: Ken Lopez

Trial Technicians, Litigation Technology, Hot Seat Operators, Trial Technology, Practice, Newscasts

Rapport, or lack of it, between a first-chair attorney, who is in charge of a trial presentation, and his or her trial tech can make or break a case. When this rapport exists, the result is akin to a well-choreographed ballet, a perfectly orchestrated symphony performance, or a beautifully planned newscast. Everything happens on time and on cue. There are no pregnant pauses, and visuals feel as if they support what is being said by the lawyer, rather than being used as a reminder to tell the lawyer what to say.

When this relationship is not perfect, the trial presentation can feel like watching a streaming online movie that is constantly pausing to be buffered. When a presentation has not been sufficiently practiced between a first-chair attorney and a trial tech, you will see missed timing, flustered attorneys and a general unease that does not have to be there.

Trial techs, of course, are the people whose job is to ensure that content flows in a smooth, pre-scripted fashion, making the trial lawyer look like a polished presenter. The trial tech controls the electronic presentation in court, brings in the evidence at just the right time, and plays audio and video of depositions in a way that helps the judge and jury appreciate and understand the case.

A good trial tech, as I have said before, frees the lawyers and the litigation consultants to marshal the witnesses and the evidence to tell a compelling story. A great trial tech produces that seamless result.

Some litigation graphics consultants can have only a limited interaction with the first-chair lawyer, and the trial can still be a success. That cannot be true of the relationship between the top lawyer and the trial tech. That must be outstanding. How can you make sure it becomes outstanding and stays that way?

As with many things in life, the answer is practice. There is no substitute for thoughtful repetition subject to peer review. An opening statement, a closing, a direct examination or a cross-examination all require subtle interchange between a first-chair lawyer and a trial tech, and these efforts must be practiced. There’s no fast-forward button for this.

In the past, I have argued for a 30-to-1 ratio of practice time to actual trial time. Although I have received some pushback on this, I have not yet seen arguments convincing enough for me to change my views as a general matter. You might get away with less, but this is a business that does not look favorably on second chances. I prefer to give myself a wide margin of error.

While the 30-to-1 ratio is still the best one in my view, the trial tech doesn’t have to be in the room for all those hours of practice. It’s possible to achieve excellent results working with your trial tech with a 5-to-1 prep ratio, but I think that 10 to 1 is the best practice for time spent practicing with your trial tech/hot-seater.

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