lawyers

Technology In The Courtroom

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The statistics that support incorporating the use of technology at trial are never-ending. In the United States people spend an average of 7.4 hrs (444 mins) each day looking at a screen. Most Americans cannot go more than 10 mins without checking their phone, but in the beginning of a trial jurors lose this privilege. They are selected to participate in a process that most do not enjoy and to make matters worse they’re prohibited from using any personal electronic devices. The use of technology at trial gives the jury a screen to satisfy their urge, if nothing else.

Years ago defense attorneys avoided using technology at trial for fear that it may lead to the “Big Screen” effect. This is where a jury observes defense counsel using technology and concludes that the defendant must be wealthy because they can afford such services. The thought is that, assuming liability is proven, this could hurt the defendant when the jury is deciding damages. In 2017 this is not the case. The CSI effect is real. Americans are accustomed to receiving and experiencing information electronically, not in print or poster boards. Presenting your case in a manner that is consistent with how jurors expect to receive it renders your argument that much easier to digest.

After 72 hours a juror remembers 10% of what they’ve heard, 20% of what they’ve seen, and 65% of what they’ve seen and heard. If you want the jury to remember your arguments you must present it to them in multiple formats.

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Ill-will Not Necessary to Prove Bad Faith

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Justice-Scale-ImageThe Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently held that “ill-will” or “self-interest” is not necessary for a policyholder to successfully sue an insurer for bad faith.

Justice Max Baer writes in Rancosky v. Washington Natural, “Additionally, we hold that proof of an insurance company’s motive of self-interest or ill-will is not a prerequisite to prevailing in a bad faith claim under Section 8371, as argued by Appellant. While such evidence is probative of the second Terletsky prong, we hold that evidence of the insurer’s knowledge or recklessness as to its lack of a reasonable basis in denying policy benefits is sufficient.”

The two prong test developed in the 1994 Superior Court opinion of Terletsky v. Prudential remains. A party suing an insurer must prove “(1) that the insurer did not have a reasonable basis for denying benefits under the policy and (2) that the insurer knew of or recklessly disregarded its lack of a reasonable basis.”

For now, the precise effect of Rancosky is yet to be seen; however, what we know is that more plaintiff’s claims will survive motions for summary judgment. A significant win for the plaintiff’s bar, not so much for the defense.

See, Penn. Supreme Court: ‘Ill-will,’ ‘self-interest’ not necessary to win insurance bad-faith claim. 

 

Doing It For The ‘Gram

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The law’s stubbornness to bend with trends is not a flaw, but by design. It prevents unnecessary changes and ensures that an adjustment is truly needed. Consequently, the law often struggles to keep up with technology. For an example, look no further than Instagram. The application has become a major platform for advertising and copied content. This article by Scott Alan Burroughs highlights the law’s struggle to adapt…

See, Doing It For The Gram.

Digital Dictation Today

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“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works,” said best by Douglas Adams. Today time is the most precious commodity not only for young attorneys but all young professionals. So, does digital dictation really work? A recent article posted on Attorney at Work outlines the recent improvements in digital transcription and what to realistically expect.

See, Digital Dictation and Transcription Options.

ABA Says It Is Okay To Internet Stalk Jurors

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Facebook Stalking

Lawyers who want to pick through troves of public information that jurors or potential jurors put on the Internet about themselves may do so, but they may not communicate directly with the jurors, such as asking to “friend” them on Facebook, according to a formal ethics opinion issued by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professionalism.

Formal opinions are based on the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which have been adopted by all states except California. The rules are not binding but serve as models that can be adopted or modified. Formal Opinion 466 addresses three situations concerning lawyer review of the Internet footprints of jurors or potential jurors.

• Looking at information available to everyone on a juror’s social media accounts or website when the juror doesn’t know it’s being done. The opinion says the “mere act of observing” is not improper ex parte conduct, much as driving down a juror’s street to get a sense of his or her environs isn’t.

• Asking a juror for access to the his or her social media. The opinion says that is improper, much like stopping the car to ask the juror’s permission to look inside the juror’s house for a better view.

• When a juror finds out, through a notification feature of the social media platform or website, that the lawyer reviewed publicly available information. The formal opinion says the social media provider, not the lawyer, is communicating with the juror, the same as if a neighbor saw the lawyer’s car pass by and told the juror.

See, Lawyers can look up jurors on social media but can’t connect with them and FYI – The ABA Says It Is Okay To Facestalk Jurors

 

Plaintiff’s Lawyer Barred from Defense’s Medical Exam

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gavelandstetho

A plaintiff’s attorney is not allowed to be present during neuropsychological testing of his or her client, a Lebanon County Court of Common Pleas judge has ruled.

Addressing an issue that has apparently gone largely untouched by appellate court review, Judge Bradford H. Charles based his decision mostly on the defendant’s doctor’s ethical objections and the fact that the plaintiff’s attorney had not been present when the plaintiff’s doctor examined the plaintiff.

Although the plaintiff had argued that the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure give plaintiffs the right to have counsel present during independent medical examinations, Charles looked to a 2013 Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas decision, and determined that the attorney could not be present for the standardized testing portion of the exam.

“Permitting a third-party observer to be present during [the defendant’s doctor]’s examination would create an injustice that we do not believe was contemplated by a global evaluation of Pennsylvania’s discovery rules,” Charles said.

See: The Legal Intelligencer’s, Plaintiff’s Lawyer Barred From Defense’s Medical Exam

Bully Times — Be Prepared

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Tough

One day, one morning, one afternoon, it will happen — the inevitable encounter with the bullying lawyer. As I continue to acclimate myself with the practice of law in a new environment, with a new town comes new rules. For that reason, amongst many, I immediately identified with the following article. The writer outlines the importance of young attorneys standing ready to confront the older more experienced attorney that may will bully you. The author details how the foe may present him or herself in a number of disguises. Bullies do not always appear as the big bad wolf, they may very well be the sly cunning fox. Either way, it’s important that you stand your ground. Of course, we all make mistakes and can learn a great deal from the more seasoned attorneys; however, never allow that to compromise your ability or confidence to perform well. More experience is simply more “practical contact with and observation of facts or events.” Not superiority.

It Was Just a Routine Motion

One of the first matters I worked on involved drafting a relatively routine bankruptcy motion to reject a contract for a corporate debtor. After filing and serving the motion, I received a call from counsel to the counterparty to the contract. He immediately lit into me, accusing me of filing a frivolous motion, threatening sanctions and questioning my qualifications — that’s the G-rated version.

Whoa. I was shaken up. This guy was pretty seasoned, at least in terms of years of experience. At the end of the conversation I was convinced I had really messed up, and that my legal career was pretty much over.

Read more: You Will Be Bullied — Be Prepared