Litigation support consulting is a service provided to attorneys to help them prepare for complex trials. These trials can involve extremely technical issues and tremendous amounts of evidence. Litigation support consultants may themselves be experienced lawyers, while others may have technical expertise in certain areas such as medicine or forensic accounting procedures. There are also consultants who specialize in providing training to a law firm’s own litigation support staff or helping firms set up an in-house litigation support division.
All litigation support consulting in some way helps attorneys develop, shape, and present a legal theory of a case to a court or a jury. The theory of the case is what some trial lawyers like to refer to as “the story of the case.” It is presumed that judges know the law and are able to sift through complicated information, disregarding material irrelevant to the legal issues. In complex cases, it is essential to present an easy to follow story supported by relevant facts for both the court and the jurors.
The first step in preparing for a trial is identifying and organizing all the relevant documents. Most of these documents will have been provided in discovery, the process by which each side discloses the evidence that may be used at trial. Discovery documents usually consist of electronically stored information (ESI). They are referred to as electronic discovery or e-discovery. Litigation support consulting involves using technologies designed specifically for isolating and cataloging relevant legal information in e-discovery documents.
Legal research is an important aspect of trial preparation. Attorneys must have up to date legal knowledge to support arguments to the court and prepare jury instructions for the judge’s approval. Case law, particularly that involving scientific or technical issues, is constantly modified and added to. New appeals decisions are published electronically. Litigation support consultants help ensure that the trial attorneys have the most current law available at the time of trial.
Complex litigation can involve the use of expert witnesses to explain technical language and offer an opinion on the ultimate legal issues in the case. The rules of evidence require experts to prepare written reports for the court and the opposing party. These reports must contain the expert’s qualifications to testify about issues in the case, her opinions on those issues, and how those opinions were reached. Consultants assist in ensuring that expert reports are in the correct legal format and can be clearly understood by the court or a jury.
The presentation of trial evidence is a key element of complex litigation. This is particularly true of “demonstrative” evidence, such as graphs, charts, photographs, and visual aids that help explain the legal story. Litigation support consulting involves the design of visual evidence intended to summarize the key steps of the story in a concise and dramatic way. Technical consultants often set up and operate any audio and video equipment used during trial so that the lawyers can focus on presenting the case.