TRIAL PREPARATION TRICKS YOU’LL ACTUALLY USE (PART 1)
Scott J. Grossberg, Esq.
Here’s the challenge for those of us who are both litigators and iPad users: Can the iPad truly be a powerful tool for trial preparation?
The answer: Yes! In this series of articles, I want to share with you the more powerful apps that allow me to be a litigation road warrior.
Prior to the iPad, I would use OneNote as my digital Trial Notebook on the PC and Outlook for scheduling/project management (Okay, I’ll show my age and tell you that I still miss the powerful and versatile DOS program called Lotus Agenda . . . but it is no more). When I switched to a Mac, I started using Growly Notes in place of OneNote, but continued to use the Mac version of Outlook. When I learned that Growly had no intention of producing an iPad version of its terrific software, I created my own workflow for litigation preparation that permitted me to do all that I needed on my iPad.
Now, those of you who have attended my iPad for Lawyers seminars know that I am insanely practical. So, I must digress and confess that, even though I do all of my planning now on the iPad, I still carry a paper version of everything into Trial. Every technology junkie, if they’re being honest, must confess that eventually the technology we love to wield will inevitably fail and at the worst possible time. When that happens, you (and the judge) will be glad you have a paper backup.
Let’s start with how I easily handle litigation project management now. Generally, my project management starts with a new case – even before a Trial date is actually set. Let’s face it – I want to plan the end-game long before the other side does. My litigation design, then, all revolves around an app ironically called “SG Project” from FourthFrame Technologies. With SG Project, I am able to keep track of all important deadlines, pleadings, cut-off dates, and other Pre-Trial and Trial activities that I want to periodically manage and review. It also easily permits me to assign entries to other attorneys to handle. Naturally, I am able to continually update the status of how far a particular task is in the completion process. Further, I can assign color codes to entries for a quick visual cuing ability.
SG Project runs only in landscape mode on the iPad. This permits the greatest amount of screen real estate for your use. The real power behind this app for me is that, in addition to naturally allowing you to create new projects, you can duplicate existing projects. This duplication feature allows you to create a Trial Project template once, copy it, and modify it for a particular case. I’m all about using my time wisely and this app eliminates repetitive work for the busy litigator.
After you create a project, the SG Project app has headings across the top of the grid that is created: Task Name (the title of a particular activity will appear here), Work (how many work days will be spread over the total number of calendar days), Start (the start date), End (the end date), % Done (how far into the completion process you are), People (the attorneys, paralegals, or assistants you assign to a task), and Predecessors (events/tasks you specify as having to occur prior to the current event/task). While I may start a new project in advance of a Trial date being assigned by the court, the real power of SG Project takes place once you know the date Trial is to commence. With the first day of Trial known, you can then start assigning realistic and controlling dates that will easily permit you to stay on top of your case instead of rushing around to complete things at the last moment. SG Project allows you to be incredibly proactive!
So, let’s get down to what I track in SG Project. Here is my secret formula for planning out a case in the Pre-Trial and Trial stages. Each one of the following items is entered as a separate entry initially (remember, I only had to create this once and then I duplicate this template for each Trial):
Case Management Conference
Final Status Conference
Prepare Motion for Summary Judgment
Summary Judgment Hearing
Mandatory Settlement Conference
Supplemental Discovery to Plaintiff/Other Parties
Independent Medical Examination
Update Trial Status/Evaluation/Budget
Notify Clients of Trial
Notify Experts of Trial
Prepare CCP 998 Offer
Statement of the Case
Prepare Trial Brief
Prepare Trial Notebook
Site Inspection With Experts
Prepare Motions in Limine
SDT’s to Third Parties/Facilities
Demand for Exchange of Experts/Documents
Motion to Bifurcate/Sever
Bill of Particulars (CCP 454)
Notice to Attend Trial/Bring Documents
SBP for Witnesses
Supplemental Expert Designation
Motion to Compel Discovery
Meeting with Clients/Witnesses re Trial Preparation
Meeting with Experts re Trial Preparation
Trial Exhibits/Demonstrative Evidence
Voir Dire Outline
Deposit Jury Fees
Prepare Opening Statement
Prepare Closing Argument
Motion to Exclude Expert Witnesses
OSC re Mediation/Motion to Amend Answer
You will notice that these events are not necessarily in the chronological order I want them for a case. You see, SG Project is also somewhat of a brainstorming tool. You can enter events as they come to you and then freely rearrange them later on to suit your particular case. It should go without saying (but I’ll do it anyway) that you can continually modify the actual event titles or delete any events that are not suitable or relevant to a particular case.
While we’re talking about modifying a litigation project to your heart’s desire, you should know that SG Project gives you the power to create hierarchal sub-events under your primary headings. For example, under the Obtain Experts activity, I might specify particular areas of expertise as they come to mind after reading the pleadings or through the discovery process.
One project review secret that I use all the time is assigning colors to the various attorneys, paralegals, and assistants that I might be using on a case. By creating a color-coded Trial management plan, I can powerfully review my outline by task designee. Oh, by the way, you can assign more than one person to a task, if needed!
Finally, you can share your SG Project in a number of different ways. I generally export my project whenever it is updated or revised. I like sending it in PDF format to the various people working on a particular project with me. You can also link your project with a Dropbox account.
By now, you can readily see how SG Project on your iPad will make you more productive, more proactive, and more powerful as a litigator! Who could ask for more?
Next time, I’ll explore using the iPad as a digital Trial Notebook!
If you enjoyed this, I’d be grateful if you share this with others. That’s right, go ahead and help spread this information by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. And, if you’re interested in finding out how I can make a presentation to your law firm, please contact me at 909-483-1850 or email me at email@example.com.
© 2012 by Scott Grossberg. All Rights Reserved.
Mr. Grossberg is a founding partner of the Southern California law firm of Cihigoyenetche, Grossberg & Clouse. He is a featured speaker and published author on numerous topics including media relations, social media, technology, public speaking, memory, and various other cutting edge concepts. Mr. Grossberg’s “iPad Lawyer” seminars provide legal professionals with the ability to truly harness the potential of Apple’s tablet. He is regularly called upon to address the impact of emerging technology and social media, suggest policies and procedures that should be in place, and to discuss liability exposure for this new way of doing business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.