It is an understatement that the pandemic inflicted widespread pain. One silver lining is that it has led to much-needed improvements for trial preparation and presentation. We have tried several cases during the pandemic and are scheduled to try more before returning to the new normal. Here is what we have learned.
In the lead up to trial, our lawyers meticulously prepare legal memoranda, exhibits, witnesses and our clients. Preparation of legal memoranda may be done anywhere. Before the pandemic we would edit legal briefs at the kitchen table and receive handwritten comments from colleagues. The kitchen table still plays a role, but handwritten comments have been replaced by track changes.
Readying documentary exhibits for trial requires careful electronic preparation and organization. For complex cases, we use cutting edge case management software to organize our exhibits. Now we need to share exhibits with opposing counsel prior to trial, effectively broadcast via Zoom or Microsoft Teams to the factfinder, and easily navigated so that there is no artificial delay when presenting a key piece of evidence to a witness.
Although some of us were initially suspicious of how well we could prepare witnesses by video conference, we have become believers in most cases. Video conferencing is now standard and there are real benefits associated with using it. Scheduling and meeting with potential witnesses has been made substantially easier through the use of video conferencing. Time constraints imposed by busy schedules and travel are less of a concern. Now you just need time and the internet. Through video conferencing technology, we are able to share exhibits with witnesses in advance and are often able to spend more time meeting with them.
The use of videoconferencing, however, has not replaced face-to-face interactions. With our clients, in-person meetings remain our preference. Meeting with our clients ensures that we prepare the best case possible. It is critical to us that our clients understand our trial strategy and trust us to execute it. In-person collaboration with our clients is the best way to facilitate this goal. That will never change.
Written by Patrick Hanley and Matthew D. Thompson