As litigation has become more complex and technology has advanced over the years, a new profession has emerged – that of trial technician.
This profession is relatively new in the legal marketplace, so much so that the title still varies considerably: These individuals can be called trial consultant, courtroom technology specialist, hot seat operator or simply trial tech.
By any name, trial technicians perform three key litigation tasks:
- Organizing and preparing documents, video and other evidence to be used at trial.
- Setting up the war room and courtroom electronics consistent with local court rules.
- Running the trial presentation software and equipment during trial so that trial counsel can see any document, video or exhibit on a momentʼs notice and so that the presentation runs so flawlessly that the fact-finder focuses only on the evidence, not the method of presentation.
There are several key considerations to appreciate when hiring a trial tech for your next litigation matter. First, quality varies widely, as does price. One should expect to pay between $125 and $400 per hour with an average rate of $200 per hour. Hours worked per day will usually be between 10 and 20 during trial. To help trial teams manage cost predictably, our firm recently pioneered flat rate pricing for trial technician services.
In selecting a trial tech, there is no substitute for real courtroom experience. Experienced trial techs have survived technology failures, power failures and weather-related failures many times over. Great trial technicians have successfully run dozens or hundreds of trials and hearings and can provide the names of those cases and names of the attorneys involved. When interviewing, as you would for any vendor, check at least three references.
Great trial technicians are often in the center of the court but are never the center of attention. Part of the trial tech’s skill set must be an ability to comfortably disappear into the background. When he or she is doing the job right, no one is looking at him or her.
Outstanding trial technicians must be true Renaissance technology people. Not only must they be able to authoritatively run the latest versions of trial presentation software like Sanction or Trial Director, they must be able to sort out complex versioning issues with PowerPoint, diagnose hard drive problems, mass-rename files, handle unheard-of image formats and much more. Again, experience makes the difference.
For more information about this emerging profession and a pre-engagement hiring discussion checklist, see our free downloadable article offering a 20 point trial technician skill set and trait guide.
Trial technicians add an enormously disproportionate amount of value to a trial team with the budget to hire one. Instead of focusing on the availability of documents and evidence, the proper functioning of courtroom and war room technology and overcoming technological hiccups in real time, litigators can focus on careful strategic trial preparation of arguments, experts and witnesses. With some carefully planned discussions, litigation teams evaluating the addition of a trial technician to the courtroom support team can virtually guarantee success.