Cogent Legal Blog

iPads in the Hands of Your Judge and Jurors

Civil jurors in a Los Angeles court are using special iPads to review admitted trial exhibits during the trial. As I observed in a KPCC interview about iPads in court, I expect to see more iPads in coming years in the hands of judges, attorneys and jurors. The iPad is a great, easy-to-use tool for presenting and consuming content (which is exactly what happens in courts). This post includes a demonstration of a custom-made iPad app made to illustrate a patent.

My partner, Morgan Smith, has written many posts about iPads, and their advantages for attorneys. The iPad allows an attorney to easily control a slide presentation projected onto a courtroom screen for the judge or jury. Using an app such as TrialPad or Trial Director for iPad allows an attorney to present documents, deposition video and other evidence on the screen.

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Excel for Litigators: Tips to Present Numbers and Calculations at Trial

To master the presentation of numbers, attorneys should learn some basic skills in Microsoft Excel, the computer program most often used in business for calculations. Numerical evidence in litigation often appears in Excel spreadsheets because witnesses often use Excel to record data and perform calculations. Attorneys who understand Excel will be able to obtain, manipulate and use this evidence to prove their case.
In this post, I’ll discuss some of why native Excel files are important, and provide a simplified video reenactment showing how Excel was used in a cross-examination of a witness in which the goal was to establish the results of an Excel calculation.

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The Best Strategies to Present Your Case In Arbitration

Arbitrations are a great forum for the use of the graphics, animations and trial technologies. Depending on the arbitrator(s)’ familiarity with technologies, attorneys can often submit briefs, exhibit lists and other critical documents electronically. Because arbitrations are usually held in small meeting rooms, the more you can digitize and display this material electronically, the better. This post walks you through steps that will help you prepare and succeed at arbitration.

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Taming the Data Beast in Litigation with Visualization

The key to success in data-heavy litigation is developing a method to show the 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.

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The Best Strategies to Present Your Case In Mediation

Graphics can be an important part of a successful mediation. Most mediators prefer that the parties exchange briefs, since it allows the other side to know where you are coming from. Good graphics—not copied photos or handwritten charts—can be a powerful addition to your brief. Seeing professional graphics and animations can let the other side know how prepared you are for mediation and trial. Mediators often hear a different case everyday; you, on the other hand, have dealt with the same case for the last several years. To help the mediator understand the key facts in your case, consider including charts, chronologies and accident reconstruction scenes in your brief.

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“As A Good Trial Attorney, You Always Must Have a Backup Plan”

Trials are never, ever easy. They rarely go as planned, and they require the most amazing dexterity of knowing when to hold tight to your positions, and when to completely drop Plan A and go another course mid-trial as evidence comes in. The best trial attorneys do all the above on a regular basis, and the key is to always have backup plans and be able to think on your feet no matter what happens so you can keep going and not give up.

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Don’t Let Your Trial Graphics Go Beyond Advocacy to Misleading

Looking through the Yahoo news feed yesterday, I came upon an article about a misleading graph used by a major news organization. With a little bit of additional research, I found many additional examples of news graphs and charts that are intentionally misleading, and I realized this is something that’s worth bringing to the attention of trial attorneys. If you are an attorney who deals with graphs and charts presented by opposing counsel, then understanding the basic ways in which these graphics can mislead is the foundation of being able to properly object and have them thrown out.

Additionally, these examples taken from the news can help you determine when one side’s advocacy verges on misleading a jury. Some commentators believe that attorneys have an ethical obligation not to use “truthiness” in visuals that unfairly advocate one point of view (see this article for a discussion, The Truthiness of Visual Evidence). I look at the issue from a more practical standpoint within the framework of the advocacy system: that is, the big risk for any attorneys who use misleading visuals is a potential loss of credibility from the jury when opposing counsel calls them out on the misleading nature of the graph.

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How to Organize Digital Copies of Your Trial Exhibits

Going to trial requires planning and attention to detail. Jurors may not see the details of your plan, but they will appreciate attorneys who move quickly in trial and show respect for the jurors’ valuable time and attention. Good pre-trial planning should include preparing trial exhibits for display and use in trial with consistent format, naming and labeling conventions. In trial, I want digital copies of the exhibits on my trial laptop that I can easily search, share, display and use to incorporate exhibits into outlines for opening, closing and witness examinations. In this post, I’ll share my tips for digitally organizing trial exhibits.

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Who we are

Morgan Smith

Morgan Smith

Morgan C. Smith, president and founder of Cogent Legal, is an attorney who litigated complex, high-value cases for almost two decades.

Michael Kelleher

Michael Kelleher

Michael Kelleher is a registered patent attorney and former partner at the firm of Folger Levin & Kahn where he litigated IP and complex business cases for 16 years.

Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker

Andrew Walker is the Co-Executive Director of the Sacramento office, and an attorney with many years' experience in mock trial work.

Deep Athwal

Deep Athwal

Deep Athwal is Co-Executive Director in Sacramento, and also an attorney with extensive mock trial experience.

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