Source of article Trial Technology.
I co-founded Barnes & Roberts in 1998 after 8 years at a now defunct firm. I serve as the Practice Manager, which means I lead our team of 9 trial consultants. I also act as chief art director and mentor. It’s one of the best parts of my job, helping my team work through difficult visual problems to find solutions.
I went to university to study computer science but dropped out after 3 years when I realized that, although I was capable enough, I had approximately zero interest in actually being a computer programmer. What I really wanted to do was be a commercial artist. So I spent 2 years in night school studying graphic art while delivering furniture on weekdays and tending bar on the weekends. After graduating, I was managing a restaurant/bar and doing freelance work when I got married and thought a full-time job would be a good idea. As luck had it, I landed a job with what was then Legal Arts in Dallas. I had a wonderful mentor in Pat Stewart, the owner and a pioneer in the field. The rest is history.
I’m pretty focused on becoming a better photographer, mostly landscape work. I try to take at least one long camping trip every year, generally by myself but also with my wife who tolerates my compulsion to get up predawn and head to the best sunrise spot, linger for hours waiting for the tide to go out, or drive down 10 miles of jeep trail just to see what there is to see. I post regularly at https://500px.com/jasonbarnes.
|Jason “on the trail”|
Quantel v Adobe in 1997 would be the first on the list. It was my first digital trial. We worked with the folks at InData who had a brand new program called “TrialDirector.” As I recall, we had programmers on site who were fixing bugs as they were identified, we through breakers in the court house because our monitors were all giant CRT screens, and we had all video edits done in both DepoDirector and traditional non-linear systems (Media100) just in case. It didn’t always go well with the technology, but anyone with half a brain could see that those techniques would be the way of the future. So, a few months later, I opened my own firm to focus on the new techniques and technologies.
The second pivotal case we had was Texas Industries v Hyundai in 1999 – the case that spawned an industry in the Eastern District of Texas. TI wanted to assert some patents against rival chip maker, Hyundai but didn’t want to wait years to get to trial. They looked around and found the EDTX docket to be nearly empty. They filed. They went to trial. They won. Big. We were proud to work with the TI/Jones Day team on that trial (yes, we used TrialDirector to great effect). Since then, the EDTX has become the busiest patent infringement docket in the nation. Being in Dallas, and having a strong background in computer science, we were well positioned to ride that wave. Other cases have been bigger in terms of dollars or effort, but none have had more impact on my career.
In one of our first trials in 1998, a little state court summary jury trial, we showed up and plugged in our system set up our projector and screen, and fired up Trial Director. We had the opening and witness all scripted out using only live documents. The hard drive crashed. There was no back-up! Yeah, I know, but it was literally our first case. What to do? I had an identical hard drive with me and a tool kit (pre-9/11 security) so I took a chance that it was the power supply and not the drive itself. Firewire drives of the time had notoriously finicky internal power supplies. I disassembled both drives and laid them out on the table, cut the wires on the bad power supply and spliced in the new one. With my attorney already standing up and addressing the jury, I plugged it in. It worked! He never knew until I told him afterwards. The memory of those parts stretched out and taped together in front of me on the desk will haunt my dreams forever. First rule: have a back up. Second rule: have another back up.
I think the most important question to ask yourself is, “am I committed to this industry?” Being a trial consultant or hot-seat person is difficult and demanding. Long hours and clients with very high expectations, time on the road away from friends and family, the pressure of the courtroom combine for a very exciting but taxing job. If you don’t love it, if you’re not committed, you will flame out sooner than later.
I would have spent more time, earlier in the development of the business, on training and mentoring. In the first five years, I was always running from case to case and didn’t spend enough time developing employees how to do what I was doing. Since nobody ever trained me, I didn’t have that experience and didn’t know how to do it for others. Now we have a formal training program and also many built-in opportunities for ongoing training.
I would like to be retired (or mostly so) in 10 years. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine being 100% away from trial. I still love it and feel rewarded when I’m doing it. So, maybe I’ll take two long camping trips a year. There are a lot of places to see and photograph.
When I started, all demonstratives, with the exception of some early work in animation, were created by hand. My desk was a drafting table. I used Pantone and markers for color and added type with Letraset rub-on lettering. I used radiograph pens, french curves and triangles. The revolution in desktop publishing brought so many new tools: Illustrator, Photoshop, PowerPoint, Flash, 3D Animation, TrialDirector, as well as large-format printing and mounting. Now we are creating models with 3D printers and VR is likely on the (distant?) horizon. It is exciting to think where technology, as well as the neuro-psychology of teaching and decision-making, will take us in the future.
I think we are in a period of maturing technologies: boards (still important), PowerPoint, TrialDirector/Sanction/OnCue and others. You see an incremental advancement in these tools but nothing very disruptive to the basic status quo. There are some areas where we are ready for a change, though. The move to all HD (1920×1080) switching, distribution and viewing is on the near horizon. The change will be painful though as hardware and software upgrades will be needed in courts across the country – some of which have only recently “upgraded” to SVGA capable systems.
As noted above, I see a lot of promise in 3D printing but widespread use of VR is still, I think, a long way off. I believe that the 3D capabilities in modern HDTVs could be put to good use right now by folks creating 3D models, for example, in construction defect cases. It is not quite “VR” but the idea of asking jurors to wear polarizing glasses is easier to imagine than having them don giant headsets.
On the business side of things, I see growing price pressure and commodification of hot-seat services. More and more law firms are likely to at least experiment with in-house presentation staff. For providers, we have to make the value proposition compelling. We have to offer more than hot-seat jockeys: communication consulting, information design, graphic production of all kinds, logistic and technical support must all be included. Of course, experience is a key. Many of us have more trial experience than our clients will ever have. Bring that experience to the team.