When it comes to legal preparation and presentation advice, the truth is: What works for you is what works for you. Our latest Featured Pros are an excellent example of this. Chris Placitella and Jared Placitella are father and son. They practice at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, a boutique firm in New Jersey and Philadelphia that specializes in mass tort actions. Though they work in the same firm, have similar clients and cases, and use technology to advance their practice, they implement that technology in different ways - according to what works best for them and their clients.
Though Chris and Jared are from different generations, their day-to-day law practice is heavily influenced by the technology they use, and how they individually use it. In fact, technology is indistinguishable from the ethos of the firm. At Cohen, Placitella & Roth, technology is an important lever to counter deep-pocketed, large, and powerful firms (that represent deep-pocketed, large, and powerful companies) against which they litigate. This means using technology from the moment a matter begins, through its conclusion.
Chris told us, “You can compete with the biggest baddest firms out there, and actually have an advantage with the right type of technology. It must allow you to be nimble, and the LIT SUITE allows you to out-maneuver large firms, while creating a strong case for your clients.”
In their experience, defense counsel also often uses technology - but it a very different way. More often than not, Chris and Jared see their opponents using technology to complement their presentation of a matter. In contrast, Chris and Jared use technology to drive their case.
Jared said, “Often the defense counsel doesn’t know how to handle a nimble firm. They haven’t adapted to technology in the same way and are dependent on third parties and in-house non-lawyer staff.”
Though they have different ways of implementing the LIT SUITE, they both use it from the start of a matter through appeal. Since beginning to use the LIT SUITE apps many years ago, Chris and Jared have found that the primary function of the apps in the LIT SUITE is to level the playing field. Chris told us that, no matter your given position on a matter “you have an advantage if you control the technology. You can be litigating against a 1,000-person law firm, and when it comes to the final product the LIT SUITE gives you the resources to be competitive or better.”
Chris uses a Mac in the office and an iPad while out of the office. He has the LIT SUITE installed on both Mac and iPad, but finds the mobility of the iPad to be a huge convenience. At the end of a day at the office, Chris can pick up where he left off as needed, from home. The mobility of the iPad has been crucial to his effectiveness in the courtroom as well.
Chris recalled using TrialPad to try a talc case. He found he could walk around the courtroom, and appear very comfortable with the subject matter and the presentation. He told us that TrialPad allowed him to hold a seamless conversation with the witness and the jury.
The ability to use TrialPad’s Snapshot tool to capture an image of a presented document, with any annotations he has made, is a key tool in Chris’s arsenal. Chris will regularly take snapshots throughout a trial, which TrialPad automatically names and stores in a separate folder. At the end of each trial day, and at the end of trial, Chris uses those snapshots to create a visual representation of his closing argument.
Chris told us that the Snapshot tool comes in handy outside of the courtroom, too. For a major motion late last year, Chris created a Keynote presentation inserting TrialPad Snapshots of highlighted documents on each slide, and adding his argument in the text beside it. (He did this partly in the office, and partly on his porch, all on his iPad.) Chris knew that the judge would likely request the presentation, and thus had a PDF of the Keynote ready to email as soon as it was requested.
His usual practice for creating a Keynote presentation for oral argument is much more collaborative. Chris will create a Keynote presentation in iCloud, and then move back and forth between his iPad and Mac in Keynote, and TrialPad, until he has his argument fleshed out, and the corresponding documents highlighted and inserted into the presentation. He then puts the resulting presentation in SharePoint for collaboration and proofing. From SharePoint, associates can suggest or make changes. The final presentation product is a result of integrated technology and combined firm brain power.
Chris told us that, “The organization and presentation capability with the LIT SUITE in pre-trial is unparalleled. Other lawyers are constantly fiddling with PDFs on Zoom, they can’t blow anything up, and the witness can’t see it, or claims not to. Then they have to re-start the screen share and often accidentally share their whole screen instead of the document. It looks unprepared and is a waste of everyone’s time. There’s nothing that compares to TrialPad and Zoom in a remote presentation.”
Because of the nature of his practice, discovery is long and very involved, with multiple witnesses that are often deposed multiple times over many years. In both discovery and trial, “controlling tech is parallel to controlling the witness examination. The witness has to pay attention, and you have the ability to move all the necessary parts around.”
Presenting documents and video during deposition represents Chris’s most frequent use of TrialPad for presentation. For his deposition setup, Chris uses an iPad and document camera with an ATEM (https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/atemmini) to present on any remote meeting platform. This setup allows him to share documents and control picture in picture, preserving the testimony and document display exactly as he will need it in the courtroom.
That setup works so well that in a remote deposition last year, Chris received an objection where his opposing counsel called the judge to complain of “unfair use of technology.”
Chris uses TrialPad in all presentation contexts, including in a course he was teaching on remote proceedings at the Judicial College last year. There, he used TrialPad to show judges what they can and should expect from a presentation standpoint during a remote proceeding. He used TrialPad to help the judges understand what can be done. All the judges were impressed with the level of sophistication he could achieve with only a minimal amount of software, and their standard of what to expect from lawyers appearing before them was raised significantly.
While Chris uses a Mac desktop in the office, and his iPad out of office, Jared uses a MacBook Pro for almost everything, and reserves his iPad strictly for presentation. His MacBook Pro is his workhorse. He uses the LIT SUITE Mac apps for document review and transcript analysis and synthesis. He told us that he could use the Mac apps for presentation too, but the iPad touch gestures make everything faster, easier, and more natural when presenting.
The LIT SUITE is key to his practice in pre-trial, especially for deposition preparation and in the deposition itself. More than once over the last few months, Jared has had multiple corporate representative depositions, all for very large companies, all remote, all within a week. Unlike many lawyers, Jared prefers the remote deposition forum. He finds it allows him to masterfully control the presentation of documents, and the timing of the examination. When confronted with a seasoned deponent from a large company (with representation from a very large firm), Jared is even more confident because he knows neither the witness nor the lawyer understands the technology as well as he does.
He preps all his documents and exports them right before deposition, sending a link to all the documents he plans to review with the witness. With TrialPad he knows there’s never a risk the deponent can’t see the document in a remote setting. The professionalism his preparation and presentation ascribes to him is obvious. Multiple reporters have commented to Jared on the record that he has a mastery of the documents in the case and a mastery in presenting them.
Whatever your age and type of practice, one thing is certain: technology will play a role. How you implement that technology can be informed by others, but should mostly be informed by what works best for you. Both Chris and Jared Placitella use technology in unique ways to further their practice, and achieve results for their clients. In each of their cases, the technology they choose is straightforward to learn and use, but most importantly, it is adaptable to their individual styles of preparation and presentation. That is why they both see it as an integral part of the success of their firm.
More about Jared: