Technology is invading the hallowed courts of law. This is particularly true in the USA, where PowerPoint is fast becoming the software of choice for the courtroom.Other overseas law courts are embracing this trend enthusiastically. The UK, with its centuries of tradition (and pomposity, some would say) is lagging behind – but few can doubt that we will follow suit sooner or later.
PowerPoint offers the same advantages in presenting to judges and juries as it does to business people. It is particularly suited to simplifying complex issues – and trials that can last weeks or even months certainly qualify as that.
They can also get points across in a more memorable way. Evidence from the USA suggests that jurors retain 85 per cent of visual evidence, with nothing else coming close.
Furthermore, PowerPoint is ideal for presenting multimedia for enhanced impact. Its combination of photos, sounds, graphics and even movies can sway a jury far more effectively than even the greatest orator who is confined to words alone.
And of course, PowerPoint is now so common in business presentations that people increasingly expect to see it in other settings. US-based jury consultant Sonia Chopra commented in 2008: “Because people see PowerPoint in their daily jobs, in television and online, they expect to see it in a trial, particularly if it’s a trial of any weight at all.”
PowerPoint's flexibility and ease of use give potent benefits to its users. For example, they could choose to open a highly technical case with a presentation that simplifies the complexity. In a personal injury case, it might be good to close with pictures of the victims to provide emotive and compelling evidence.
With a little training, users could even employ PowerPoint to respond to the other side's arguments after a short break.
The key points for using PowerPoint in law scenarios are the same as for business: keep it simple, keep it short, don't overuse effects, get help from others and practise beforehand.
Huge sums can be at stake in court cases, not to mention reputations, goodwill and careers. Doesn't it make sense to use as much technology as courts allow, to get cases across as effectively and persuasively as possible?