& Montgomery finds conference center an advantage in the courtroom:
The conference center
and the courtroom
does a leading trial law firm prepare for the courtroom?
The answer today is tied
closely to presentation technology, says David Boyd, partner at Williams
& Montgomery Ltd. of Chicago.
The firm, with the help of
United Visual, recently completed construction of a new multimedia conference
center. The center serves as the focal point for major efforts in trial
preparation, client conferencing, and training of attorneys and staff.
"Law firms," says Boyd, "need to be client responsive, efficient and
technologically advanced. This room enhances our ability to meet those
Multimedia and trial preparation
and trial lawyers have long had a close relationship. The attorney who
can impress a jury with sound and visuals has some obvious advantages.
Not as obvious, though, are some of the behind-the-scenes efforts that
a law firm can make to prepare its cases. There are three major areas
where Williams & Montgomery uses its multimedia center to give its lawyers
an edge in the courtroom.
preparation and mock trials.
In an important case, the
firmís attorneys will try out strategies with stand-in juries. There
are many variations on the mock trial concept, says Boyd, but "itís
essentially a dry run. You bring in a jury, they listen to the arguments
and you poll them afterward to see what was compelling." The multimedia
center, with its built-in presentation and videotaping systems, makes
such trials extremely useful.
In many cases, the firm
uses the room for shorter simulations, running witnesses through their
testimony with an attorney doing direct and cross examinations. "We
tape those too," says Boyd, "to give the witness a greater appreciation
of the nuances of body language, diction and everything else that
can have an impact upon a jury."
advocacy is important at Williams & Montgomery. Even though the associates
they hire are highly educated, the firm frequently conducts courtroom
skills seminars. Itís an effective way to pass the experience of successful
partners on to new recruits. Topics of these seminars, according to
Boyd, include how to take a deposition, how to argue motions in court,
how to do cross examinationsó"the whole range of skills that are part
of being a trial lawyer." The seminars include partial trials and
full mock trials, all of which are videotaped for class analysis.
The firm also conducts
extensive computer application training in the multimedia center.
Thatís important because legal research at Williams & Montgomery is,
for the most part, PC-based. The center has 16 desktop systems dedicated
to training of attorneys and staff. The firm conducts frequent training
sessions, ranging from word processing basics to use of the firmís
CD-ROM library and the Lexis/Nexis on-line service for research.
"Weíre involved in many cases," says Boyd, "that require a lot of
interface with our clients." Chicago-based clients may be easy to
meet with face-to-face, but the firm has a national trial practice.
"We have one client," says Boyd, "for whom we conference regularly
with managers in Connecticut, Chicago, and two or three other locations."
The centerís videoconferencing system makes frequent meetings practical,
allowing attorney and client to share documents, diagrams and face-to-face
contact without the need to waste hour after hour in transport. The
firm also uses the center for conferences with its offices outside
Naturally, in all of these
situations, participants bring in the same AV support they would use
in a courtroom: PC-generated
visuals, professional animations, a document camera and videotaped
depositions. "This is the television age," says Boyd. "Juries and
judges all want things that vary the tempo and the visual impact of
what they receive." Itís not just entertainment. "If youíre in a complicated
case, you need visuals that will help them understand. And visual
images reinforce memory as well as persuade. They help jurors understand
your point and remember it all the way through to the verdict."
Obviously, visuals need
to be tested and refined before they are used in court. A major advantage
of the multimedia center is that attorneys can try out visuals in
courtroom-like conditions, with clients, other attorneys and stand-in
jurors present to give them feedback. "What this room gives us," says
Boyd, "is a greater ability to strategize and anticipate the impact
of what we use."