Despite the high drama portrayed in "L.A. Law" and a spate of
recent courtroom movies, most people in the legal profession spend
the bulk of their time grappling with paperwork.
But that may be changing. In the last few years, software and
computer systems have emerged that are altering the ways lawyers
gather and manage the evidence in their cases.
For a few hundred dollars, lawyers can buy software that helps
organize information. And for close to $5,000, they can obtain
multimedia technological systems to manage evidence and speed
"The whole field is just ripe for this sort of technology,"
said Jerome Miller, administrator of court reporters for the Cook
County, Ill., courts in Chicago, and a former president of the
National Court Reporters Association.
The most recent technological advance, introduced late last
month by Stenograph Legal Services Inc. of San Ramon, Calif., is a
device that can show text, video and audio images on a single
computer screen at one time.
The system has the capacity to search and retrieve any word or
succession of words from a text or videotape of a court proceeding
or preial deposition. Company officials are hoping that the system
will be embraced by the legal community as a timeving and moneyving
"It brings to the table something that will expedite the
judicial process," said Sam N. Edge, president of Stenograph Legal
Services and chief mastermind behind the DiscoveryVideo superscr
Using four components, the system works quite simply. While a
deposition or trial is being taped, on video or laser disc, a court
reporter transcribes the proceedings on a stenographic device that
is connected to a personal computer equipped with the company's
The finished videotape or disc is popped into a VCR or a
computer. Using commands on the computer keyboard, words can be
searched through the text alone or in the text and tape at the same
time. The video can be viewed on a standard television screen or on
a computer monitor. The tape can be searched at reduced speeds,
even frame by frame if necessary. The system also allows for
noteking and annotation throughout the text.
Gone are the lengthy searches through mounds of paper
transcripts or hours of unedited videotape. While trial testimony
and depositions have been videotaped for several years, as allowed
by the court, the ability to instantly catalogue and easily search
the tape is relatively new.
People in the court reporting field believe systems such as
DiscoveryVideo superscr will not only be used in preial research,
but by lawyers and judges in the courtroom during the course of
trials to check prior testimony or court exhibits.
"Videotape recordings are starting to be part of the official
record," said Edge. He also believes that videotaped testimony and
depositions will be used more often in the future and will become
more influential in swaying judges and juries who might not
otherwise pick up the verbal nuances or facial tics of a witness.
"That's an aspect of this that a court transcript doesn't
bring," he said. "Even though it's subtle, it's a major aspect."
Edge and others in the legal technology field say that while
new systems like DiscoveryVideo superscr are bound to evolve and
flourish in the future, the bureaucratic and traditionund legal
world may present some resistance.
"It irritates me to death that law firms and the judicial
systems don't behave like businesses," said Walter Sutton,
president of Logan Pearsall Inc. …