Nextpoint is a trial services company. We manage data for a lot of multi-district (MDL) and complex litigation, including many cases that last for years. Some of our earliest cases are still active, thanks to appeals or new actions.
It might seem like a litigation support technology company would like long engagements and oppose shortened or expedited trials. But in fact, you don’t need less support and trial preparation for a short engagement. Your litigation technology needs to be faster, more efficient, and more collaborative.
This week, we talked to Josh Gilliland about expedited trials in California. Since 2011, California’s Expedited Jury Trials Act has created an alternative, streamlined method for handling civil actions to promote the speedy and economical resolution of cases. An expedited jury trial is heard by a smaller jury, limits the number of depositions and certain motions allowed, and the trial should be wrapped up in one day. That’s right – one day.
No One Wants to Be First
According to Josh, lawyers have been reluctant to adopt this strategy until it is proven to be effective. But the hope is that, as court funding is slashed, expedited trials provide a more cost-effective process for parties to get their cases heard.
We certainly endorse anything that makes trials faster, cheaper and more efficient because more efficient trials mean more justice. However, the only way to make the expedited trial effective is to make more efficient use of technology.
Six Tips to Success
As we’ve discussed before, we use the Nextpoint Nine to move clients through litigation. This includes data management as well as the design, implementation, and presentation of slides, video depositions, and concept planning and execution.
Below are a number of tips and steps that become especially important in an expedited matter:
1. Get organized with the right search tools. Search is the new model of navigating data. We recommend that lawyers move away from the folder categorizations found in local desktop systems or older, web-based applications and use search to find documents on the fly.
When organizing documents with folders, lawyers often have to rely on one document expert to know all the documents (ie, a paralegal) and keep an exhibit list. That is simply not flexible enough for a short trial.
To rely on search, teams need to be confident data is thoroughly indexed and documents are clearly marked and stamped appropriately. Make sure that you have segregated your privileged and redacted information so that nothing comes up on the fly that cannot be used in court.
2. Do a thorough readiness review. Review your data and plan for the best database construction possible. This means collecting witness materials and all of their associated documents, as well as checking that the information and data collected meet your expectations.
We like to meet with our clients at this stage to review the current state of the database, close up any loose ends, and review the preliminary deck of initial concept slides.
3. Mandate database training for your team. We believe it is important to train all users who will be accessing the data and information collected. Nextpoint provides free tutorials for all users and personal support from our in-house staff when you need it. This also improves flexibility for a short trial.
4. Preflight review. This is the last phase before trial and the last chance to check that your preparations are successful. The database of all available evidence is finished and your video, slides, and animations are complete. Your team should finalize the witness list order and prepare the actual trial presentations.
This is the stage where we believe teams need to whittle down their arguments and make sure you have the most impactful presentations possible. Too often, legal teams fall in love with text-heavy, wordy presentation materials. Strive to make the most direct, succinct, and effective visual arguments possible.
In a short trial, big concepts that are easy to understand are more persuasive than presentations loaded with too much information and detail.
5. Prepare counter arguments. Be prepared to change your case quickly. Don’t get locked into a single strategy just because the case is short. For example, in a recent matter, Nextpoint’s client came up with a strategy to not only undermine the opposition’s expert witness, but to turn the testimony in their favor.
During lunch recess, they took the expert’s slide deck and highlight portions of the evidence that actually supported their claim. The updated decks were displayed after recess, not only neutering the testimony, but also helping the client to win the case.
6. Share evidence via an online repository. Working more effectively means accessing data at night, at the courthouse, or wherever you are. More importantly, you need to share evidence with the judge and opposing parties without delay.
At least in California, discovery is not changed or shortened for expedited cases, meaning you need to review a lot of information and find relevant evidence quickly. Ideally, parties should produce evidence online, which means that you can get information to the judge and opposing counsel more quickly.
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
To succeed in an expedited trial, lawyers need a combination of strategy and technology that will allow them to prepare for a one-day trial. Nextpoint is affordable software for organizing and accessing all of your trial evidence, including deposition videos and documents. It’s a cloud-based solution, which means you can access documents online. You can call up documents, do document treatments on the fly and be organized content at a moment’s notice.
As Josh says in the podcast, there are special challenges in working fast. You need technology that can keep up.