On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the Jacksonville Bar Association (JBA) put on a top-notch Technology Conference and CLE filled with noteworthy speakers and panelists at the Champions Club at the TPC Sawgrass.

For the event, Michael Orr, of the JBA Board of Governors, brought together two engaging technology law speakers and two panels, one with the Clerks of Court, and the second consisting of five local judges from Duval, Clay, and Nassau Counties, and the Federal Bench.

To top it off, the venue was TPC Sawgrass on a beautiful, sunny day, and while the audience of Northeast Florida attorneys listened to and interacted with the speakers and panelists, we were surrounded by the energy of the spectators and golfers gearing up for Jacksonville’s premier golfing tournament.

The value of the day didn’t end with education. It was followed by lunch overlooking the 17th green, and good social networking with attorney peers exchanging ideas on topics ranging from legal technology within law practice management to electronic discovery and legal technology vendors and service providers.

After lunch, we had the use of the Champions Club for the remainder of the day, but many of us, having been receiving emails from the office via our smartphones, headed back in the late afternoon to get in a couple of hours of work.

All in all, I’d say it was a good day to be an attorney in Northeast Florida. One filled with cutting edge legal technology content, feedback, advice, and war stories from our Clerks and Judges, and set within the scene of one of the greatest golf tournaments in our country.

Here’s a breakdown of the Speakers’ Presentations and Panel Discussions:

“Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls when using Social Media in Litigation” Presented by: Ethan Wall, Esq.

To say Ethan Wall is a dynamic speaker would be an understatement. His presentation was high energy and engaging, and filled with tips on how to ethically manage social media evidence within litigation. Mr. Wall discussed best practices, such as having a Social Media Plan, putting procedures in place to protect your firm, and defensible preservation of Social Media. He gave us tips on managing different Social Media, for example, LinkedIn has different features than Facebook that can impact an investigation and collection and preservation of Electronically Stored Information. You can find out more at www.socialmedialawandorder.com.

“Preparing for the Next Generation of Electronic Discovery” Presented by: Chad Roberts, Esq.

The main take-away I got from Mr. Robert’s presentation was that all is not lost if you haven’t been paying attention to E-Discovery thus far. According to Mr. Roberts, the first 20 years of E-Discovery were painful and awkward, but today we have tools and technology to deal with mountains of Electronically Stored Information. Tools to help you divide and conquer and cull you data into clusters that make sense and can be analyzed. Mr. Roberts advised our audience to be aware of what’s coming next and how to prepare for things like: Information Governance, Technology Tools, and Proportionality. For more information or to contact Chad Roberts, go to www.edcc.legal.

“Clerk’s Panel – Advances in Technology at the Courthouse

Our Clerk’s of Court from Clay and Duval Counties were next to speak to our group. They answered questions and gave us feedback on topics such as e-filing and electronic access to court records. Other hot topics were reaction software and enhancements for audio/video capabilities like Digiboards, Jury Kiosks, and Wi-Fi.

“Judicial Panel – Presenting your case with Technology”

The five judges who took the time to speak at the Technology Conference were full of interesting stories and good feedback.

Tips from our Judiciary:

  • Avoid Tech Meltdowns: Test your Technology before using it in court. Plan ahead with your technology. Call the Courthouse and schedule a time to test it out beforehand.
  • At the Duval County Courthouse, based on your evidence make a choice about whether to use the small screens in the jury box or the large screen in the courtroom. Using the large screen keeps the jurors’ eyes on you while your presenting, but if you have intricate evidence, or a grainy photo, you may be better off with the small screens. It’s a judgment call.
  • Let jurors touch the evidence. Putting a gun into evidence is more powerful than putting a picture of a gun into evidence.
  • Bring someone with you who understands technology to help you.
  • Have a back up to your back up. Be prepared to proceed without your PowerPoint if necessary.
  • If pictures are worth 1,000 words, videos are worth even more. In your closing argument you can ask the Jury, if they recalled what Dr. Smith said and then hit “play,” It makes an impact.
  • Caveat: Demonstrative aids should not usurp what the attorney is saying.
  • Keep your eyes on your audience, the jury.
  • Computer Aided Design to recreate accidents can lead to fascinating demonstrations.
  • E-Discovery: Make sure you have confidentiality agreements in place with your vendors and providers of E-Discovery products and services.
  • We have a very ethical bar in the 4thCircuit, and young attorneys needs to keep that up. Be careful of innocent technology mistakes that can make you look unethical to the other side, like different versions of a photograph or document in the Clerk’s evidence vs. the Court’s  or opposing counsel’s evidence binder.

Challenges the Judges are noticing because of Technology

  • It is a challenge to keep jurors from accessing information outside of the courtroom, which is a violation of the Defendant’s constitutional rights. Judges have to walk through what jurors are not permitted to do. Jurors have to be instructed not to Google search or otherwise research the case on the Internet. For example in an eminent domain case, they should not research on the property appraiser’s website. Also, Judges need to instruct jurors that if they know of a violation to let the court know by giving a note to the bailiff.
    • Some potential jurors look up cases on-line before they even come in to serve, by checking the internet to see what cases are going to be on the trial docket.
  • Jurors are fearful for their safety. These are good citizens who have to stand up and tell where they work and live.
    • One Judge had a Defendant who sent a Facebook friend request to a juror, and the juror was terrified and had to be dismissed.
  • For the younger generation, Social Media is intertwined into their lives, and judges have to ask: “Can you really stay off of Social Media for a month long trial?”

One final thought from the Judges’ panel

Technology is just one arrow in your quiver. Know you audience, e.g. millennials vs. an older generation, and watch for non-verbal communication.