Creating a Technical Tutorial for a Judge - Learning from Hollywood
District court judges often need guidance concerning the complex subject matter that will be presented in a scientific or technical intellectual property case. Gaining a grasp of the underlying technology of a case enables a judge to construe the claims and, ultimately, to render a competent, informed judicial decision on the legal issues raised in the case. In order to reach the necessary level of subject-matter proficiency a case requires, a judge often asks for, and relies on, the technical tutorials submitted by the parties.
Creating a technical tutorial can be likened to creating a Hollywood movie. Several of the steps directors use to produce powerful and on-budget films, should be employed by attorneys when creating technical tutorials.
Before a writer of a script puts pen to paper, he needs to know what the purpose of his movie will be. The reason for the movie may be to make people laugh, to scare them, to inspire them to take some sort of action, or to bring history to life. There could be one, or several, themes within a film.
While the overarching objective of a technical tutorial is always to enable a judge to assimilate the complex subject matter of a case, several themes might be explored during the presentation. Perhaps, the technology’s history and progression of development should be discussed. Depending on the case, it may be important to go into depth concerning the accused products. If there are multiple patent families, lawyers must discern whether an explanation of each of these will be necessary.
The purpose of the tutorial is not to advocate the evidentiary issues in the case. Doing so, ironically, will not serve to increase a party’s chances of success at trial. It will prove more beneficial to a party’s interests if the judge gains a true understanding of the technology that will form the basis of the issues attorneys will later advocate for during motion practice and at trial.
Write the Script
Movie producers never start filming a movie until the script is written. Attorneys, too, should have a complete script in hand before they start production of their instructive video. The scripting process should be started six to eight weeks before the due date. Many attorneys who are seasoned in the art of technology-tutorial creation state the best method for writing it is to, first, make an outline of the material that will be discussed, and, second, fill in, word for word, what the final narration will be.
Scriptwriting is the most tedious and time-consuming component of the technology tutorial creation process. However, a strong focus on this task will be rewarded, because every other aspect of tutorial creation will become apparent after generation of a solid script. Lawyers should quickly be able to determine the best method for conveyance of the information, what graphics will be needed, and whether animation should be used.
Sure, tweaks of a completed script can take place during production, but attorneys should take precautions to avoid full-scale changes during that time. Just as movie production costs would go way up if a scene had to be reshot due to a script change, technical-tutorial costs will rise if an attorney creates graphics that never get used due to a narration re-write.
The best precaution against eleventh-hour script changes is to have the narration reviewed by the key decision makers. Film scripts are reviewed by directors, producers, and the investors before “take one” is ever uttered. Attorneys should have their written script reviewed by key attorneys, general counsel, and expert witnesses before they start digital assembly of their tutorial presentation.
Technology and Technique
Attorneys and their teams must determine the mechanism by which they will relay their information to a judge. A judge will not expect, nor will he or she be more impressed by, a DreamWorks-level production. In fact, unnecessary use of special effects might distract the judge or, at worst, annoy him or her. The key to the presentation is to use the method that most effectively fosters understanding of the complex scientific or technological information.
A straightforward, slide-by-slide PowerPoint-style production might be the apt mode to most effectively relay the information. Perhaps some animation, in key spots, will be required. Depending on the information the legal team is trying to communicate, other options might be an animated video or an interactive presentation.
It may also be helpful to provide the court with a booklet to supplement the submitted digital tutorial. This booklet should reference key still frames from the tutorial and include summary text explaining the images. If the tutorial is organized with clearly-delineated chapters and controls (forward, rewind, next chapter), the judge can reference a page in the booklet, then quickly find the precise location of that material in the video. A judge will appreciate not having to sit through a long portion of linear presentation to find the five-minute scene he or she desires to review.
Hollywood movie producers and lawyers alike are under pressure to stay within budget. Staying true to the video’s purpose of clarifying information, finalizing a script before production, and utilizing apt mechanisms for relaying information will do much to keep production costs down.
By taking advantage of digital technology advancements, lawyers can also lower the costs of producing tutorials for the court. A decade ago, when law firms rented out high-end recording studios and hired professional voice actors, tutorial production was an onerous and expensive undertaking. Nowadays, desktop software and prosumer audio equipment enable simpler, more cost-effective, voice recording. Law firms can utilize the services of anyone who possesses clear enunciation and a pleasant voice. Lowering overhead makes sense for both the movie and legal industries. Think of all the great independent films we have seen in recent years. Just like Hollywood, an attorney who can keep production costs down and still produce a great film is always a star with his or her client.
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Appeared in Focal Point Press
December 15, 2016