I was sitting in the middle of, quite possibly, the biggest trial of my firm’s history. The liability was golden. It was just a matter of how much we were going to win.
To be specific, I was sitting in the middle of the courtroom. Literally the middle. Between the jury and the counsels’ tables. The middle. In a chair. Holding a digital projector. Waiting for my boss, who was giving a muddled closing argument, to say the words “next slide.”
My boss had recently upgraded from a PC to a Mac and thought he would update his closing argument with some similar technology. However, there were some problems: (1) The cord was not long enough; (2) he had no idea how to operate the device; and (3) I had no idea how to operate the device.
The Naked Lawyer
These seemingly simple but profound problems had a very interesting impact on the jury (and me). I was clothed, but essentially naked—holding a small digital projector while sitting on a plastic chair reminiscent of fifth grade. The jury was transfixed by my every move. An ear itch. A small throat gargle. I became incredibly aware of my own eyelashes. I swear I could hear the cartilage in my knees rub against my tendons every time I shifted my seat. Awkward doesn’t quite sum up the situation. My boss was attempting to give an impassioned speech about our client not being able to play catch with his eight-year-old son. All the while the jury and I were in an intense game of eyeball chess.
The jury was like a class on a trip to the zoo while I sat annoyingly still like the caged gorilla that just won’t turn around. Halfway through, the fancy new digital projector completely shut down. My boss just kept talking. I kept sitting, like an unmarked exhibit. I had no idea what to do. So I sat … for another 45 minutes … in the middle of the courtroom … holding a broken digital projector … and carrying a full bladder. No one was listening to my boss. It took the jury less than three hours to render a not-guilty verdict. We should have won.
Lessons on the Slide
I use an intense amount of technology in both my personal and professional life: iPhones, iPads, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, even my running shoes are equipped with digital sensors. However, my naked-lawyer experience taught me three simple lessons:
1. Whether in your daily practice or in trial, never, ever, ever use technology you do not completely understand. I don’t just mean that you “get how it works.” You need to know why it may not work and how to fix it—instantly.
2. Test and re-test the technology. Repeat this step 100 times. Use a law clerk if you have to. When a live television broadcast starts, the producers don’t just plug in the cameras and see what happens. Prepare.
3. If you were over the age of 35 when the technology was invented, always consult with someone under the age of 25.
I may not know what I am talking about, but I think you understand.
William Melater, or “Bill” to his close friends, is a young associate attorney working at a firm focused on commercial litigation and transactional work. A self-described legal hunter and gatherer, Bill has accumulated a plethora of legal certificates and diplomas—all of which have been appropriately framed and hung behind his desk. Bill has a distaste for emails, suspenders, fake tans, paralegals who cry, sea urchins and attorneys who repeat the phrase “this is my bottom-line offer.” When irked, Bill blogs about his experiences at Attorney at Work.