Here’s a story you may be familiar with:
Dan, a young and ambitious attorney, strides confidently into the courtroom. Sure, he’s a little nervous, but he has practiced this presentation several times, and he knows he can convince the jury in his favor. Plus, he’s using powerful trial presentation software to help him out. What could go wrong?
The opposition, judge and jurors arrive, and it’s finally time for Dan to begin. He brings up the first image of his presentation on the big screen and starts to talk. He starts out strong. He already feels a rhythm. The jury is hanging on his every word, but then disaster occurs. He clicks to the next image in his presentation, but instead of the picture he’s expecting, a different image with the words “No Image Available” dominates the screen.
Dan fumbles for a precious second or two, but then he gets back on track. He’s embarrassed, but he breezes over it. He makes a quick joke, sees some of the jury chuckle, and clicks to the next image. Thankfully, the next image is there and he quickly gets back to his rhythm. It was just a hiccup, he’s not ruined.
He continues clicking through his images, building up steam for the big reveal at the end, but it happens again.
“No Image Available”
Dan is devastated, his face is flushed red. He can see members of the jury rolling their eyes. The judge is glaring at him. Dan quickly finishes up his remarks and sits down, fuming over what just happened.
Where did the images go? They were all there when he practiced yesterday, how did they just magically disappear?
What went wrong?
Dan fell victim to a misunderstanding of how the technology he was using worked. But before we get into what exactly happened to Dan, let’s go over some basics of that technology. Specifically, databases.
Understanding Database Basics
Whether Dan knew it or not, he was using a database to reach and work with his case documents.
In the most basic terms, a database is an organized collection of metadata, or in other words information, that describes items within the database. As it applies to Dan and other attorneys using trial presentation software, a database is a sort of metadata repository of all the images and other documents that Dan puts into it.
However, it is important to note and reiterate that the database doesn’t hold the actual images themselves, but the metadata or information about those images: Where the images are located, what they are named, when he entered them into the database, and any other information Dan decides to enter.
Aside from just being trial presentation software, trial preparation and presentation applications also serve as minor document management systems which often use a database. That’s what you’re actually working with when you import files into a case, organize them, and mark them up.
Working with a database is a little different than you might think because even though you’re working with the actual files, those files are not housed within the application itself.
If it helps, think of using a database like using an Elmo document projector or some other projection machine. The image that is being projected onto the screen or wall is not the real, original image. It is a reference to the real image being projected on the Elmo.
In a database, the files are only referenced. Therefore, if the referenced files are ever moved, it breaks the application’s connection.
See where we’re going with this?
When Dan opens an image in his application, the application is using the information in the database to find the image and show it to him in the document viewer.
That is one of the many things that are misunderstood about databases. When you import a file into these systems, you’re basically just telling the program where to look to find the image. If that image is ever moved, then the application won’t know where to find it.
Check out these quick tips on naming files to make working with a database easier!
Benefits of Databases
So, why do these software tools use databases? Why not just house the files right in the application so that you never have the “No Image Available” problem?
We’ll approach this question conceptually. A given case has the potential to have several thousand documents, even tens of thousands, in various states of progress. Not to mention the many many hours of deposition and evidence video. While we don’t recommend you import all your case documents into your trial presentation tool, you’re going to want to at least import several hundred that might be relevant to your presentation at trial.
Any one image file can have a large file size on its own. One video, like a deposition, can be several hours long, making the file size much much larger than an image. These large sizes present several problems.
First, it would take a large amount of time to actually get the files into the software. Then, once they are there, you need a system to keep track of all the information being processed along with each document. Having to manually look for each file as if you were looking through the Windows file explorer for each of the thousands of documents in your case would eat up a lot of precious time.
We are extremely aware of the precious time of attorneys.
Instead of all that noise, we can use a database. A database puts all the information you need about a document right in front of you in an easy-to-read manner, letting you get back to what matters: strategizing, developing arguments, and winning your case.
A database makes everything much faster, more efficient and gets you what you need. Since it only references the files that are already on your computer, the file size when importing documents becomes much smaller and much faster to import. It also makes tracking all the information related to each file much easier and provides the possibility of adding information as a document goes through the case process.
In short, databases make working with loads of case documents much more streamlined and efficient, speedily getting you the information you need. All it takes on your part is a little more basic knowledge of what a database is and how to approach using one.
What about Dan?
To sum up, after a file is imported into a trial presentation tool, if somebody moves that file, it breaks the path the database uses to find it and the application can’t find the file anymore, resulting in “No Image Available”.
So what happened to Dan? Remember him? Turns out, even though he had practiced and made sure his presentation was ready to go, his paralegal, Rachel, was still working well into the night on the case. While she worked, she had to move some files around on the computer. Some of those files she moved were referenced in Dan’s presentation software.
See the problem?
Yep. You guessed it. Moving the files broke the reference his application needed to find them, so when Dan tried to call them up in his presentation, he got the dreaded screen.
There are a couple solutions we recommend you use to help avoid experiences like these, but hopefully, this article gives you a better idea of how managing documents works in most trial preparation and presentation applications.
Have you seen the “No Image Available” picture come up during a presentation? What did you do to get through it?
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