ABA Techshow

Tech-savvy litigators give advice and recommend tools


Tech-savvy lawyers should keep two age-old pieces of advice in mind before they decide to take their toys into the courtroom to help them argue a case: Always be prepared, and if something can go wrong, it probably will.

The good news for lawyers is that there is no shortage of affordable technological tools and applications at their disposal. During an introductory level session held at ABA Techshow on Thursday, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough partner William Latham and solo practitioner Marc Matheny demonstrated various gadgets and apps lawyers can use in order to prepare for trial.

Entitled “A Day in the Life of Two Tech-Savvy Litigators,” the program had Latham and Matheny start off by posing a nightmare hypothetical for trial attorneys: What happens when all of their painstaking preparation is for naught? For instance, what can a lawyer do if he or she was depending on being able to use the usual amenities present in a courtroom such as multiple electrical outlets and space to fit laptops, projectors and display screens, only to be forced to conduct a hearing inside a small, powerless cubicle?

“It happens quite a bit,” said Matheny. “But luckily, there are enough tools out there that can help. No power? No problem!”

Matheny and Latham noted there are pocket projectors and portable display screens and speakers that lawyers can easily purchase without breaking the bank. Latham, for instance, showed off a Pocket Projector Mobile mini projector that could broadcast in high definition and was about the size of a sardine can. “It’s about $299 at Brookstone,” Latham said. “It might be cheaper now if reports are true that they’re about to file for bankruptcy.” (According to a report in the Wall Street Journal today, Brookstone is preparing to file for bankruptcy and could file as early as Sunday).

Other tools that can help a lawyer in a pinch include video conferencing applications such as Skype, FaceTime and GoToMeeting, which can be used to take testimony or depositions. “They can be pretty good quality and can be very effective,” said Latham. “The key is to test it and make sure it works. If you can’t test it beforehand, then don’t use it.” Latham and Matheny recommended real-time translation tools such as iTranslate for Apple or Google Translate to facilitate communications with witnesses. They also recommended 360 Panorama, an app that would allow lawyers to take expansive and comprehensive photos of crime or accident scenes. Meanwhile, they noted that some valuable tools are hiding in plain sight, such as OneNote, a feature of Microsoft Outlook that allows people to take, format, organize and distribute notes.

The attorneys also spoke about issues that tech lawyers should be aware of. For instance, they emphasized that lawyers had to be on the lookout for data breaches and take steps to prevent them. “Data breaches can be devastating for a smaller firm,” said Latham. “And big firms are especially vulnerable since they usually have big financial clients. Plus, a big firm won’t want to be known as one that loses its client’s data.” Latham and Matheny recommended encrypting all data, and keeping no client information on laptops. Additionally, lawyers working remotely should have to log in to a secure virtual private network.

Lawyers should also be vigilant in investigating clients and their friends on social media. Matheny noted that Facebook, in particular, is a treasure trove of information that can help bolster or derail your case—especially if a plaintiff is claiming some sort of injury. “People are stupid,” said Matheny. “They’ll post anything on Facebook. It’s part of your duty as a litigator to investigate those sites.”

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