During a jury trial, one of the biggest challenges you face as a lawyer is trying to figure out what a jury wants or needs to hear. It’s often difficult to determine how your jury is interpreting the facts and evidence. Currently, lawyers are forced to decode a jurors body language and speculate as to its meaning [this is what Blab looks like from your mobile phone]
This uncertainty is about to stop. In the near future, I believe trials will include real time feedback from jurors, the judge and almost everyone else who may be participating in the event, regardless of their location.
I’m talking about real-time video streaming technology now offered by new and increasingly popular apps like Periscope, Blab and Meerkat. I believe these technologies will change communication as we know it and improve how we will try cases in the future.
Blab, Periscope and Meerkat allow anyone using a mobile device, to live stream from almost anywhere in the world. Unlike ordinary video services, these streaming apps allow your audience regardless of where they are located, to communicate back to you in real time. These communications take the form of real time video and comments on Blab, and real time comments on the other platforms. In the future, I expect new feedback interfaces like video, audio, vibration and color responses to be added into the mix.
I recently used both Periscope and Meerkat to live stream my son’s soccer game to the world. By sharing a video of the game from the sidelines with my iPhone 6, soccer fans were able to view and comment on the play. Some enthusiastically corrected calls made out on the pitch by the referee. One viewer made me smile with his remarks about an AR (sideline referee) interacting with the coach in the heat of battle. The real-time back and forth with my audience created a unique event. I’ve since use all three platforms in business and am hooked!
To understand how upcoming live real-time platforms like Periscope, Meerkat and Blab will change trial practice forever, consider the following:
You’re in the middle of cross-examination and a live video stream is being shared with your jury, judge and court staff. Depending on the court, the video stream is either projected overhead or to a more personal viewing device, like a smartphone or possibly wearable tech like Google Glass or Apple Watch.
As you ask witnesses questions, the jury is sharing instant feedback indicating they are interested in this particular area of inquiry, even suggesting that you dig deeper. Jurors share comments and give you guidance from their screens. Their input and feedback is instantly relayed to you via confidential text, comments, vibrations or colors. In real time, you can tell what they want to know and what is of interest to the 12 people who will be deciding your case. You are free to use the feedback or completely disregard it.
You “make the record” by repeating, in your own words, the jurors’ questions. You disregard input and feedback that either requires an improper question or takes the trial a direction you’re not interested in going.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you have an expert on the stand and are presenting a large diagram depicting a bridge showing its components and how it was constructed. As you ask your expert witness to explain different items on the exhibit, real-time comments and questions are streamed directly to you from one or more jurors. They ask for a clarification or possibly a more detailed description concerning an aspect of the exhibit. Depending on the relevance of their questions, you respond by spending a few more minutes with your expert answering the jurors’ questions. The result is a more effective use of your expert providing tailored information to your jury.
This real-time technology will be used by jurors and consulting experts both in and outside the courtroom. An expert in New York can watch and comment, in real time, with witnesses testimony happening in an Orange County, California. You can take action, or disregard as needed. This added input will avoid issues being missed by the 12 most important people in the courtroom.
I recently used Blab and Periscope to crowdsource ideas and topics for an article I was asked to right for the American Bar Association about live streaming video. Here’s a link to the actual Blab video recording. During the Blab, input and ideas were shared by marketing, tech and social media experts and influencers and about 40% of the content in my article came from this particular Blab! Pictured are three of those superstars- Brian Fanzo, Vincenzo Landino and Nancy Myrland.
Currently, many trial judges are allowing jurors to submit written questions after lawyers are done examining a witness. Most of the time, jurors ask good questions, and it’s interesting for counsel and the judge to see what jurors are focusing on. If the juror questions are appropriate, the witness is asked questions by counsel. The result is a more satisfied and informed jury.
Apps like Periscope, Blab and Meerkat could compliment, if not revolutionize this process by adding the crowdsourced real-time element. When all said and done, these tools, and that’s what they are, could help jurors render a higher level of justice in our courtrooms.
There is no doubt that these types of apps will forever change how lawyers try cases. Things are changing at an exponential rate and I’m looking forward to trying to get permission to use this technology in my next jury trial. If I’m successful, I’ll share my experience in a post.
For trial lawyers, I hope we will have the chance to try a case together using this new technology. Until then, I look forward to seeing you around town, at the next legal convention and on the digital platforms. We can connect on Twitter, Periscope, Blab and Meerkat via @mitchjackson
If you’re interested in this topic and technology, join me over at StreamingLawyer.com where I share projects, tips and updates.
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Jon Mitchell “Mitch” Jackson enjoys combining law, technology and social media to hack and improve our legal system. He has been a trial lawyer for 29 years and was a 2013 California Litigation Lawyer of the Year (CLAY Award) and 2009 Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year. When he’s not trying cases, Mitch uses social media and technology to help good attorneys become great trial lawyers and to show everyone (not just lawyers) how to communicate better. His law firm website is JacksonandWilson.com and his communication tips blog is MitchJackson.com Outside of law and the courtroom, Mitch enjoys interviewing people from around the world who are disrupting industries and influencing change at Human.Social