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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Advocacy Agony Aunt: Courtroom Technology in an Unwired World

Anonymous said...

Dear Advocacy Agony Aunt,

I have a question about teaching courtroom technology (visual presentation programs, trial software, and the like) to law students. Is the juice worth the squeeze?

The reason I ask is that most of the students I teach practice in smaller communities where there is virtually no likelihood of any of these technologies being installed in the courtrooms in the foreseeable future; budgets are simply too tight. While there is no prohibition against bringing A/V and computer equipment into courtrooms, this must occur at the client's expense--another problem in our straitened economic climate.

Our law school courtroom is well-equipped with these technologies. Outside of federal courtrooms, none of the courtrooms in the area have--or are likely ever to have--these capabilities. I suspect this situation is not unusual in the United States, or even in other countries.

Am I better off teaching the basics that worked well in the 19th and 20th centuries, or should I enter the brave new world of technology and teach its use even if it will likely never be use?


Larry Luddite

Hugh Selby Replied

Dear Larry,

As your cousin twice removed I sympathise, not only for your predicament but for your students and their future in olde time court houses where the cisterns are still noisy, the windows open (if the sash cords have been replaced), and people sit on wood rather than these new fanged plastic things that are extruded from one size fits all molds.

But I digress. Your students (and you too I am sure) are familiar with powerpoint, with mobile phones, with photocopiers, and marking pens. These are the provisions at the half way house between the high tech and the blackboard with its carcinogenic chalk dust.

Step 1: Tell em to use that camera in the mobile phone to save scenes, scribbled notes, documents left in the wrong places, text from a hardcopy of the reported case that will trump the other side.

Step 2: Because they started to be bombarded with powerpoint in elementary school they have grown up to think it's necessary. So, have them prepare powerpoint slides and use those slides as a vehicle to improve their persuasion: that is, they need to learn what should and should not be on those slides and how to prepare the page. By the way NITA has a book or two on this subject.(See our advocacy link to NITA and go to their online bookstore.)

Step 3: Get thee and them to a whirly photocopier. Make sufficient copies of each and every item so that every person involved in making a decision will have a copy in front of her or him.

Step 4: Ensure that each of those people has a pen, pencil, marker so that they can make their thinking marks on the relevant copy. That way they own it. This is so much better than on and off light sources (such as screens in court rooms). Once those are turned off that's the end of their influence.

IN summary, leave the 19th and three quarters of the 20th century behind. Embrace the years from about 1980 to 2005 with glee.

March 2, 2011 5:53 PM

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