The world is changing. As lawyers, we must keep up or get left behind. A big part of being a trial lawyer is taking complicated facts and turning them into a simple yet compelling narrative—the art of storytelling. And, as every good storyteller knows, you need to understand and communicate with your audience. Every lawyer recognizes that technology is changing the ways we can tell our clients’ stories. But not all of them realize that technology also changing the how the audience absorbs those stories.
Because of technology, people demand a higher level of storytelling. By way of illustration, think about what high definition has done to television, or what high-speed-internet service has done to browsing. Once you get used to a certain level of detail or speed, anything less is unpleasant and distracting. And in the courtroom, an unpleasant or distracting message can result in defeat.
Here are few things to consider:
1. Remember the four goals of courtroom technology:
All courtroom technology should accomplish one or more of the following four goals:
- You want to use technology to get and keep the attention of your audience. You should use technology to emphasize your points, and give your audience a visual reference. But that also means that you have to be careful not to overuse it. Too much emphasis is more distracting than no emphasis at all.
- Your clients and the jury will expect you to use and be proficient with technology. You want to meet those expectations. Including technology in your presentation shows effort, and effort signals importance. You don’t want the jury or your client thinking that this case is not important enough for you to give maximum effort.
- Teaching Tool. One thing we do in the courtroom is teach. You want to use technology to help your message resonate with your audience. You want them to learn and remember what you are telling them. We all learn differently, but studies suggest that engaging multiple senses of your audience will help them remember. Tell them, show them, and if you can let them feel, smell, or taste what you are talking about. If they don’t remember your points, they are unlikely to be very helpful in the deliberation room.
- Organization and efficiency. Trial lawyers are the ultimate multitaskers. Technology can also be a powerful tool to help the lawyer stay organized and efficient in their messaging. Staying organized is essential, and it allows you to keep your attention on what is going on, rather than where things are.
If your technology does not accomplish one or more of these goals . . . get rid of it! Remember the best courtroom technology lets you do what you normally do—but do it more effectively and efficiently.
2. Don’t Over Use.
As discussed above, too much technology is even more distracting than none at all. Imagine writing a letter to someone and using nothing but capital letters. The reader will focus mostly on figuring out why rather than absorbing the message.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice.
Any technology is only as good as the person using it. If you are clumsy with it, then it distracts you and your audience. You must speak the language of the technology you use. It has to be natural for you, and no one can do that for you. So you really need to spend some time with the technology and wear it around for a while.