Law Office Computing
ast month I told you of my laborious search for an inexpensive but functional laptop computer for use in the court room. The conclusion that I reached was that the Toshiba Satellite Pro provided the greatest bang for the buck. This weekend, I saw the Satellite Pro for under $2000 with a CD drive and some other goodies. That is a deal!
have been using the Toshiba Satellite Pro in trial for the last month and I have come to the conclusion that my original recommendation was correct. The Toshiba has performed flawlessly. We have used the computer to present an opening statement that was created in PowerPoint. We have all of our deposition testimony in fully searchable text files and the court reporter is providing us with a daily transcript which is incorporated into the testimonial database. Most of key documents have been scanned and are available for display over the courtroom monitor system along with photographs, charts and other images. All of the image and text files have been recorded onto a CD Rom which makes them available and safe from loss. The CD Rom has another important advantage beyond mere safety. If the computer were to fail, all of the data and information stored on the CD Rom could be immediately switched to another computer. Using the Satellite Pro in an actual trial has given me some additional insight that I want to share with you. First, 16 megabytes of Ram memory is simply not sufficient to handle the multiple applications and graphic files that are needed for trial. Toshiba has a simple and quick way of adding additional RAM memory, but you must decide in advance how much additional RAM you want because you can only add a single board. The boards comes in 8, 16 and 32 megabyte versions. If you intend to use your Satellite Pro for real trial work, you need to invest in the 32 megabyte board, which will cost you somewhere around $350. That will provide you 40 megabytes of total RAM memory and it makes the computer very usable. Don't waste your time or money on a 16 megabyte board because that amount of additional memory simply does not pack the punch that you need for real work. As for the 8 megabyte boards that are often given away with this computer when you buy it, I suggest you don't waste your time. Sixteen megabytes of on-board RAM is simply not enough to run Windows 95 and the kinds of graphics intense applications that you need in a trial setting.
he second thing that I learned about the Toshiba is that the little pencil eraser mouse that is imbedded in the middle of the keyboard is terrific when you are carrying the computer around and an external mouse would be a bother. But, when you are trying to get to a file fast or highlighting text for emphasis, the pencil eraser mouse is slow and difficult. I have been using a regular old-fashioned Microsoft mouse that plugs into the serial port on the back of the computer. The PS\2 port on the back of the computer will support a PS\2 mouse but use of the mouse in that port disables the pencil eraser mouse on the computer itself. If you use a serial mouse as I have during this trial, you will be able to use both the mouse on the computer and the external mouse at the same time. That is important because when highlighting and zooming in on text by dragging your mouse cursor, I have found that it is much easier to drag with my right hand and click the mouse buttons on the computer with my left hand. It is virtually impossible to conveniently perform that drag and click function using only the pencil eraser mouse in the middle of the keyboard. An external serial mouse can be bought for under $20.
Using Computer Generated Graphics at Trial
emonstrative evidence used at trial comes in many forms. Not to many years ago it was commonplace in any serious trial to find graphics created by artists without the help of computers and at a great expense to the client. Computer-based graphic programs have dramatically reduced that cost. A chart or graph that has been created on the computer can be blown up and mounted on a foam core, 30 by 40 board for $100 to $200. Graphic shops, such as Reproductions, Inc. in Tucson, now have huge color ink jet printers that allow the creation of similar sized boards directly from a photograph. Still, the cost of 20 to 30 trial boards is not insignificant. Trial tactics may dictate some of your displays be on large boards, but the fact that the graphics that produce those boards are created by computer means that they can also be displayed on monitors or by way of projector in the trial courtroom, all at considerable saving to the client. We used a simple monitor setup that we rented from Work Productions Services in Tucson. That was sufficient for our needs but had we had a jury trial instead of a court trial, we probably would have opted for a digital projector that would allow us to throw a large screen image up in the courtroom.
n my next column I will talk about the various software components of a simple graphics production system in your own office. The development of such a system and the designation of one of your staff people as a graphics coordinator can be done at relatively low cost. A hidden benefit of creating your graphics in-house is that the involvement of the lawyer in the creation and structure of the graphics is a powerful engine for case analysis.
omputerized images and graphics also help you organize the courtroom better. No more will you suffer from falling trial boards or bankers boxes full of documents. And, it makes preparing a case for trial more interesting and fun.