21 Fam. Advoc. 17 (1998-1999)
The Latest Bells and Whistles

handle is hein.journals/famadv21 and id is 75 raw text is: The
Latest Be
and'
Whistle
BY STEPHEN J. HARHAI
!

Trial preparation is difficult, pain-
staking work. In fact, if the prepa-
ration is done properly, the trial
itself is easy by comparison:
hard preparation, easy trials.
Much of the stress of trial
preparation results from the
myriad details to be managed. There
is a constant risk that the pull of the
detail work will distract attention
from the strategic issues or that a
missed detail will undo an otherwise
brilliant strategy. Technology can
help manage details and make the
big picture issues clearer.
Practice tools
Part of preparation is having the
right set of skills for trial work. The
traditional methods for skill devel-
opment have been observing trials,
mock trial educational programs,
and hands-on experience. Now
computer technology can add a
valuable new tool: training CD-
ROMs. A set of training programs
from Practising Law Institute called
The Interactive Courtroom is an
example of how useful this approach
can be.
At the beginning of the program,
you see a window with the clerk of

the court who instructs you on
using the program. Once a wit-
ness examination begins, you
can press a button to make an
objection and choose the
exact objection from a drop-
down list. The live videos of
lawyers and witnesses give realism to
the training. The video judge then
rules on your objection and addi-
tional commentary is available in
text and from the expert commenta-
tor. Although not divorce specific,
the scenarios are well thought out;
the comments specific and instruc-
tive; and the overall effect interest-
ing, thought provoking, and educa-
tional. In fact, I have rarely attended
a live CLE program that was as use-
ful and entertaining.
Time is always short as trial
loonis, and anything that conserves
precious minutes will reduce
stress and improve the outcome.
Technology tools can provide speed
with accuracy HotDocs is a docu-
ment assembly program that is use-
ful in all aspects of a family law
practice. By preserving good draft-
ing ideas and combining them with
saved data about the case, HotDocs's
increases quality while decreasing
costs.

These features are never more
valuable than on the eve of trial.
Final briefs, motions, and trial data
certificates are prime candi-
dates for HotDocs's powerfiil
features. Once you have a
good template, you can pro-
J duce the document quickly
with fewer errors and get
a checklist of issues not to
forget.
Time ad
billing
When attorney's fees are at issue,
you need an accurate and timely
statement. Most time-and-billing
packages can produce an interim bill
to present to the court. But what
happens when you need to modify
portions of the bills to redact privi-
leged materials or to remove items
that are not chargeable for your pur-
pose? Most programs provide a
means to make modifications, but
often they are limited. To completely
customize a statement, export it to a
spreadsheet. Then edit, delete, or
modify the bill, and the spreadsheet
will update the math, keeping the
total accurate.
Preparation of the statement for
trial will be even easier if all time-
keepers enter their time on the
computer rather than on paper. That
way the bills will always be up to
date and you won't lose valuable staff
time entering data at the last minute.
This system also provides a cur-
rent total of fees whenever needed
for settlement, to request additional
retainers, or to assist the client in
making a judgment about strategy.
As a bonus, we have found that we
lose less unrecorded time using this
system, and our bills are more accu-
rate because of fewer opportunities
for error.
Having the most accurate and
up-to-date information is a huge

& A ,   U'   17

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