Taming the Data Beast in Litigation with Visualization

 In Business Litigation, Legal Graphics, Personal Injury, Tools and Tech

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 11.19.03 AM-01Every day the world produces more and more data about everything. Our cars all have black boxes (whether we know it or not) that monitor key information. Our phones keep track of our locations and that data can be retrieved to show our precise movement during the day. Computer IP addresses and browser histories leave traces of our movements across the web.

All this data is increasingly finding its way into the courtroom in all different kinds of cases. While the data itself is as varied as the world from which it comes, the challenge for attorneys is precisely the same in most every case:  What am I supposed to do with all this information?

We, and correspondingly our cases, are drowning in data that must be considered, categorized and potentially explained to a jury in a straightforward yet engaging manner. Standing in front of a jury with reams of printed-out pages, or trying to cross examine a witness with pages and pages of data, is a recipe for boredom or confusion. The key to success in data-heavy litigation is developing a method to show this data in a way that effectively tells your story, ideally in a format that is interactive so the attorney can pick and choose which data they want to access and show at any particular time with any particular witness.

At Cogent Legal, making large data sets accessible and understandable is one of the most challenging aspects of what we do, and the most satisfying. In today’s post, I’ll review a recent case in which we faced this challenge and created an interactive interface for a large set of data about employee locations throughout a day.  

In this case done for the Veen Firm, we had data concerning the supposed locations of numerous different employees of a defendant on a particular day. These employees worked for a property management company and drove around to various locations throughout the day. Each of these locations had electronic swipe pads that (if the employees used their swipe cards) would register their location and time. Each of these employees also filled out timecards that identified their whereabouts. The defendant took the position in this personal injury case that none of their employees could have been involved in the unwitnessed incident, since the timecards had all the employees at locations too far from the incident location at the time of the incident.

What the attorneys for the plaintiff noticed is that the time cards often did not match the swipe records—meaning that employes would say they were at one location all day, but the swipes showed they were at multiple locations throughout that day. The challenge for the attorneys was how to make it clear to the jury in a simple manner that the timecards were not necessarily accurate,  nor were the electronic swipes since often employees simply did not swipe in anywhere all day.

The video below shows an interactive PDF that allowed the plaintiff attorneys control over a great deal of this data by simply clicking a hyperlink. This PDF would show the timecard locations, the electronic swipes, or both together for every employee. Additionally, the location of the swipe or card would appear on a map so the jury could physically see each location and see they were often very far apart in distance.

Below is an image explaining the interactive buttons, and you can download a copy of the PDF to try yourself by clicking here.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 10.23.08 AM-01

While every case presents a different challenge on how to present data in a visual and persuasive manner,  the fact remains that figuring out how to do that might be one of the most important things you have to do as an attorney. Let us know if you would like to discuss the data challenges in your case with us—you can email me (morgan.smith@cogentlegal.com) by clicking here.

If you’d like to receive updates from this blog, please click to subscribe by email

Contact Us

Send us an email! We're looking forward to working with you.