Legal-Graphics Enters New Trial Aids Market

Article excerpt

Legal-Graphics, a new division of Topographic Engineering Co. of Oklahoma City, has plunged into a new market designing and producing visual aids to assist attorneys in trial.

Visual aids, designed to assist juries in understanding complex lawsuits, range from simple bar charts to computer animated graphics displayed in different formats.

Sales generated from Legal-Graphics, founded two years ago, could boost total company sales by 10 percent within about a year, said John Pitts, Topographic Engineering marketing director.

Parent company Topographic Engineering, 6701 N. Classen Blvd., has posted steady sales of more than $2.5 million since 1987, said Jim Keating, treasurer of the family-run land surveying company founded in 1957 by John Keating, now the firm's chairman of the board. Company sales have increased 20 percent in the three months since July, compared to the same period last year, he said.

The 32-year-old company, founded in Duncan, primarily provides topographical mapping for the oil industry. The firm employs 65 people in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas with more than half stationed in field offices in Oklahoma and is planning to open another office in Hobbs, N.M.

Sam Anderson, director of Legal-Graphics, said the use of computer animation in court could explode in about four years in Oklahoma City courthouses, where use of the technology is now extremely limited.

"The technology is on its way," she said.

Computer animation is a good tool to teach a jury how something works. In the days of television, pictures bore us - this will keep the jury's attention."

Many lawyers on the east and west coast have already adopted computer technology as a tool in trial, noted Anderson, a member of Demonstrative Evidence Specialists Association.

Legal-Graphics charges $55 to $60 an hour for computer animation and about $40 an hour for graphics work, plus reproduction and material expenses. The division employs five people, including Janice Fowler, a newly hired graphic artist. Anderson said she expects the division could add another two or three people this year, depending on demand.

Demand for the new services has come without any marketing, said Pitts. "It has taken off by word of mouth," he said.

Equipment value totals about $100,000 and includes two high-powered work stations with graphic capabilities, augmented by 11 personal computers. Other equipment includes Wang mini-computer equipment and high-speed plotters, which can produce large-scale maps and legal exhibits up to 36 inches wide and 48 inches long.

The company expects to purchase additional personal computers and animation software. But Anderson said the company already has unlimited capabilities because of AutoCAD, powerful computer-aided drafting, which can produce three dimensional renderings and computer animation.

Although unfamiliar with the budding technology, U.S. District Judge Ralph Thompson said he thought it would be permitted in court as long as the court established trustworthiness in its use. …