Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters and Certified Legal Video, LLC

Court Reporting, Legal Videos, and Videoconferencing - Omaha, Lincoln, Nebraska, Iowa, Nationwide

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters and Certified Legal Video, LLC, has been called Nebraska and Iowa's number one reporting firm. First established in 1977 by John and Gretchen Thomas, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters is a court reporting firm run and operated by court reporters with experience. Through John and Gretchen's efforts, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters has established itself as a leader in court reporting and legal technology. Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters works with an unparalleled team of professional court reporters holding numerous national and local certifications, ensuring clients receive a timely, accurate and professionally prepared transcript.

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters offers cutting-edge reporting and legal services such as high-definition videoconferencing, realtime reporting, and streaming realtime to iPads. With over 35 years of experience and a great deal of passion for the profession, Thomas & Thomas understands and appreciates the demands law firms face each day. Our staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and committed to helping you.

"We Are Technology"

Geoff Thomas is in charge of Business & Technology Development at Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters and Certified Legal Video, LLC.  His responsibilities include researching and implementing new court reporting technologies, including video conferencing, online repositories, synced legal videos, word-searchable PDF transcripts, and various realtime platforms. Geoff Thomas is also certified in Trial Presentation Services, and has assisted his clients in trials totaling over $100M in verdicts.  Geoff Thomas is proficient in TrialDirector, PowerPoint, and other trial presentation softwares. 

How to Try a Patent Trial via Zoom – Inside Centripetal v. Cisco, the First Virtual Patent Trial

How to Try a Patent Trial via Zoom – Inside Centripetal v. Cisco, the First Virtual Patent Trial

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being one of the trial technicians for what is believed to be the first patent trial ever tried remotely – Centripetal Networks, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc., 2:18-CV-00094-MSD-LRL.  Over the course of six weeks, I learned how to effectively, efficiently, and correctly present an all-digital case via Zoom.  Below are a few helpful tips one may want to consider, in the event you find yourself trying a case remotely, as well as some real-life examples from the trial and what the parties did to address them. 

The first steps in conducting a successful remote/Zoom trial occurs well before the trial ever starts.  If done correctly, your pretrial efforts will significantly reduce any technical issues you may experience at trial.  As is the case with all technology, you will always experience some issues.  It is unavoidable.  However, you will have put yourself in a position to handle most issues that come up at trial. 

There is a lot involved with conducting a trial remotely.  If you or your firm do not have a full understanding of the equipment and technology, I highly recommend hiring a trial technician who can guide you through the process and handle any issues that will inevitably arise.  As with a live trial, you only have seconds to fix a technical issue before all eyes are on you. 

 

Technical Setup

Internet

The most important part of your setup is the internet.  Without good, quality internet connection, your trial will be a disaster.  It is the foundation for your audio, video, and everything else you do.  Not only do you have to be aware of your own internet connection, but you also need to ensure all parties, including witnesses, have good connections as well. 

It is highly recommended that you hardwire your device and not rely on Wi-Fi.  As we all know, Wi-Fi allows you to connect to the internet without any wires, and while this is very convenient, it is not reliable.  Because the Wi-Fi signal is being transmitted via a frequency, other frequencies and environmental obstacles (i.e. Bluetooth devices, power sources, walls, etc.) can cause your signal to go in and out.  As a result, you want to remove those impediments and connect via an ethernet cable.  In the event you do not have access to a hardwired connection, consider placing your device as close to the router as possible.  You may also want to eliminate as many sources of interference as possible.

In addition to a hardwired connection, you should try to limit the number of devices on your network.  Ideally, you would set up a dedicated network so that only the necessary devices are on it.  In the event you are unable to set up a dedicated network, try limiting the number of devices and usage as best you can.  If you are at work, consider limiting internet usage that is unnecessary for business operations.  Do not stream music or content, as that will create a drag on your network.  If you or your witness is at home, ensure that as many devices are off the network as is possible and that unnecessary internet usage is limited or eliminated until you are done for the day. 

You will want to know the internet speed of your network, as Zoom has minimum bandwidth requirements for their sessions. 

HERE:

  • Me – 100 Mbps
  • Centripetal – Unknown
  • Cisco – Unknown
  • Court – Unknown

ethernet cable

 

Microphones

The second most important part of your set up is the mic.  Without clear audio, the Judge and/or the court reporter will not be able to hear you or your witnesses.  Although poor or no video may not be ideal; it is not mandatory to conduct a trial.  Just like with the internet, without audio, you are dead in the water. 

As a court reporting office, we conduct Zoom sessions on a daily basis.  As a result, we have really learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to mics.  We always use external, noise-cancelling USB mics for all of our depositions, and we recommended to our clients that they use them here.  They are louder, clearer, and all around much better than the internal mic you might find on a laptop or other devices.  Some models even have Bluetooth, which is convenient when your internet is poor, as you can connect your phone to the speaker for louder, clearer sound. 

In the event you or your witnesses do not have access to an external mic, you may want to consider a speakerphone.  They are very reliable; however, you may experience an audio sync issue if your internet isn’t fast enough.  The audio sync issue may not be ideal, but it is better than the court and/or court reporter not being able to hear you.  We recommend using a commercial-grade speakerphone, like a PolyCom, if possible, but iPhones are adequate if there is only one person speaking.  A speakerphone is also a great option when your internet connection is poor and you are experiencing audio issues.

HERE: 

  • Centripetal (and witnesses) – Mostly, if not all, our recommended USB mic (contact or office for the specific brand and model number)
  • Cisco – Unknown
  • Court – Unknown

microphone

 

Cameras

The third technical item you will need to address for a successful remote/Zoom trial is your camera.  As stated above, our office has had considerable experience with the video component of Zoom through our daily use of Zoom for depositions.  Just like with the mic, we recommend an external USB camera.  They generally have better image quality and can be mounted wherever you want so you can optimize lighting and angels.  Given the current COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and shortages, you may want to consider ordering one immediately if you have a trial in the near future, as most quality webcams are currently on backorder.  Same would go for a microphones. 

When deciding where to position the camera for trial, take into consideration the lighting in your room and the angel of the camera.  The light source should come from straight on and not from the side.  Anything else will cast a shadow on part of your face.  Additionally, side light, such as a window, and backlight, will create shadows as well and should be avoided.  If the lighting is too bright, you may want to unscrew just one or two light bulbs instead of turning an entire bank of lights off.  

HERE: 

  • Centripetal – External webcam; above eye level
  • Cisco – External webcam; above eye level
  • Court – Appeared to be from a laptop stationed on the Judge’s desk

camera

 

Backgrounds

With all activity and issues that come up at trial, you may want to consider utilizing a virtual background to reduce distractions to other viewers.  For those that are not familiar with Zoom’s virtual backgrounds, it is a way to add an image as your background and have that image cover up everything else in your background.  Zoom uses an algorithm to differentiate you from said image, and, as a result, provides a clean appearance for viewers.  Here, the Judge required the parties to use virtual backgrounds and to mark those backgrounds with each party’s logo (Centripetal and Cisco) so that the Judge could easily identify those on the screen. 

Some virtual backgrounds work better than others and should be extensively tested before trial.  Your location and the lighting may also have an effect on the quality of your virtual background.  Additionally, the virtual background seems to work best when the image has some depth to it, as opposed to just a flat color.  It should be noted that Zoom’s virtual background tool is not compatible with all devices.

HERE: 

  • Centripetal – A photo of a conference room with Centripetal logo in the corner
  • Cisco – Cisco logo on paper taped to a whiteboard (or something similar)
  • Court – None

background

 

Monitors

Zoom is designed to work seamlessly with dual monitors.  Whether it is the Share Screen function or working on other parts of the case, utilizing a secondary monitor is essential to a successful remote/Zoom trial.  I actually had two external monitors connected to my laptop – one monitor for all things Zoom, one for my trial presentation software and PowerPoint, and another completely devoted to Zoom’s Share Screen tool. 

HERE:

  • Me – Two external monitors in addition to my laptop
  • Centripetal – Dual monitors
  • Cisco – Appeared to have at least dual monitors
  • Court – Dual monitors

monitors

 

Pre-Trial Prep

Practice, practice, practice.  I cannot stress it enough.  Through proper practice, you will:

  • Become comfortable with the Zoom platform and how it interacts with your device;
  • Make certain you and your witnesses have an adequate internet connection and proper audio and video;
  • Ensure that you do not have any compatibility issues; and
  • Be able to easily and quickly address technical issues as they arise.

It is important that you and your witnesses practice from the locations you will be participating from during the trial.  Technology is quirky, and even moving rooms in an office can have an effect on the technology.  Consider the time of day and how the lighting may change throughout the day.  Determine whether your space is too noisy (i.e. road noise based upon the time of day, fire station nearby, etc.).

 

Zoom Features & Tools

Zoom

Zoom can be as simple or as complicated as you want.  Most users of Zoom are only aware of its basic features – video and audio connections, chatting, etc.  However, Zoom has many intricate features that enhance and facilitate a better videoconferencing experience.  Below are several Zoom features and tools that I believe were instrumental in our successful presentation of the case.

Share Screen

  • Allows you to share your screen, window, or program with others on the Zoom call
  • Great way for showing PowerPoints and exhibits
  • Works well with trial presentation software (TrialDirector, Sanction, etc.)
  • Can allow another user to control your device, which is helpful if a witness wants to run a PowerPoint themselves

Hot keys

  • Just like most programs, Zoom allows you to utilize “hot keys” for quickly activating or deactivating different functions

Chat

  • Great way to communicate with the group; helpful to troubleshoot technological issues
  • Share contact information
  • Add comments to the discussion without interrupting the speaker
  • Can utilize the Private Chat function to speak with individuals directly, outside the presence of the entire group
  • Share exhibits
    • Drag and drop files you want to share with the group
    • Great alternative to Share Screen in the event you want people to have access to the entire document

 

Trial Examples

As noted above, technical issues are unavoidable with a trial this complex and long.  Despite your best efforts, something will go wrong.  Hopefully, with adequate prep and practice, you will be able to handle any issue that arises.  Here, we were able to handle all technical issues with little to no effect on the trial.  Below is a breakdown of how different aspects of the trial were handled, the issues that arose at trial, and what was done to resolve it. 

 

Day 1

  • Tutorial – Centripetal Expert
    • We utilized the Share Controls tool of Zoom to allow the witness to be able to control the PowerPoint at his own speed, as there was limited interaction with the taking attorney. I was still able to maintain control of the PowerPoint and was able to take control as needed

Day 2

  • Witness – Centripetal Fact Witness
    • The first witness. The Court placed all witnesses Zoom “Waiting Rooms” prior to testifying so that they could be admitted to the trial on a timely basis without exposing them to testimony they were not entitled to be privy to
  • Exhibits
    • Opposing counsel did not deliver the exhibits to the correct person at the Court; sent to the wrong person at the court who was out for the day
    • Be sure to think about and possibly test exhibit exchanges in advance
  • Depo Clips
    • Shown through Zoom’s “Share Screen” function
    • Choose the “Share Computer Sound” option when selecting Share Screen so that Zoom uses your internal speakers for the audio
    • There is an “Optimize Screen Sharing for Video Clips” option when sharing screens in Zoom. It seems like said feature increases the amount of data that is sent so you may want to ensure that your system and the others on the session can handle the extra packets

Day 4

  • Witness – Centripetal Expert
    • Placed the public call (i.e. the call-in number that was available to the public in the event they wanted to “attend” the trial) in a Waiting Room during confidential/proprietary testimony

Day 5

  • Witness – Centripetal Expert
    • Was on his home Wi-Fi network and experienced some audio issues; moved locations in his home and it worked better
    • As noted earlier, make sure you limit the usage of your network if you are connecting via Wi-Fi

Day 7

  • Witness – Centripetal Expert
    • An artifact of an exhibit appeared on the other ends; closed out of Share Screen and re-entered
    • Judge pushed something on his laptop, which caused the Share Screen window to disappear; closed out of Share Screen and re-entered

Day 18

  • Witness – Cisco Expert
    • Had very poor audio quality. Not necessarily internet related, just inferior equipment.  Either used the internal mic on his laptop or iPhone wired headphones (was hard to tell from the video).  Switched audio sources (not sure to what) and it was much better.  This should have been discovered prior to testifying
    • Was using audio from one source and the video from another; prevented the judge, who is on Active Speaker, from being able to see him. Had to merge audio and video feeds into one to allow Active Speaker to work

Day 21

  • Witness – Centripetal Expert
    • Had tested setup during trial prep with no issues
    • Froze for the first time during trial; left and then came back in
    • Thereafter, his USB mic stopped working. Switched over to internal mic for a bit, which was poor.  Switched back after several comments from the court reporter that she was unable to understand him, and there were no further issues.

 

Conclusion

Over the course of the six-week trial, I learned a lot about the intricacies of the Zoom platform and the possible pitfalls of presenting a case remotely/via Zoom.   Because of our success, I would not be surprised if courts around the country adopted similar practices, now and post-pandemic.  The entire process was orderly, efficient, and, most of all, without major technical issues. 

The time and costs savings of conducting depositions remotely/via Zoom have been clear for a while.  Now, we can add conducting hearings and trials to the list. 

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How to Conduct Remote Depositions

Last week, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters spoke with Dave Sommers at the Omaha Bar Association to discuss how law firms can continue to conduct depositions during the current coronavirus outbreak.  Below is the recording of said interview as well as an explanation of the benefits of remote depositions and our recommendations on how to successfully conduct one.

While the ability to conduct remote depositions have been around for a while, the advent of the coronavirus has put them in the forefront of the legal community.  Having performed over 2,500 videoconferences, Thomas & Thomas has seen the benefits of remote depositions firsthand.  For starters, it is easy to use.  We generate a unique link and send it to all the participants.  One simple click and you are in.  Another benefit is you can connect from anywhere.  Given the current climate, we have seen attorneys, deponents, and court reporters appear from businesses and homes, allowing flexibility to those who cannot or prefer not to be out in public.  Our remote deposition platform, Zoom, also allows the participants to share exhibits in real time with all the other participants.  This function ensures everyone is on the same page and can easily follow along.  Zoom also works with almost all devices – PCs, Macs, and other videoconferencing units. 

Benefits of Remote Depositions:

  • Connect from Anywhere- Connect from your home or office
  • Easy to Use- Simply click a link to connect
  • Incorporate Exhibits- share your desktop to ensure all participants can see and follow the exhibits in real-time
  • Universal Connectivity - Connect to PCs, Macs, and V/C Units

Even though remote depositions can be a great alternative to conducting an in-person deposition, the participants should be aware of the pitfalls and how to avoid them prior to conducting their first deposition.  As with any technology, you should do your best to use current, up-to-date products that have the latest updates and security patches installed.  As technology ages, they become less compatible with current software and devices and may not work properly.  External devices, both webcams and speakerphones, are essential to a smooth videoconference.  We recommend Logitech’s HD Pro Webcam and Jabra’s noise-cancelling USB speakerphone.  You also want to ensure you have a stable internet connection.  Make sure you conduct the deposition from somewhere with a constant, high-speed internet connection.  Conducting a videoconference on a public network may be subject to varying internet speeds.  If you can, hardwire the internet connection.  If your device doesn’t have an ethernet port, try acquiring a USB ethernet adapter.  Finally, you always want to test your system with the parties involved.  Ideally, it will be the same setup and in the same location as the deposition.  Thomas & Thomas always tests with each participant prior to each deposition to ensure the user knows how to connect and that there is a stable connection.  Troubleshooting in advance ensures your deposition will get started on time and will be successful.

Recommendations for Conducting a Successful Remote Deposition:

  • Use a stable, current device – desktop, laptop, or tablet
  • Invest in an external webcam
  • Use an external, noise-cancelling speakerphone or call in telephonically
  • Use a hardwired internet connection whenever possible
  • Test, test, test!

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters has led the way in court reporting and litigation support technology for over 40 years, and now we welcome the opportunity to assist you with any need you may have. If you would like to learn more about remote depositions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to show you the multitude of services we have to offer. We look forward to making your life easier.

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Security Tips for Conducting Zoom Depositions

remote deposition

While the ability to conduct remote depositions has been around for a while, the arrival of the coronavirus has put them in the forefront of the legal community.  Platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and GoToMeeting are being used like never before; and, as a result, are exposing security issues that should be considered when conducting a deposition. 

Below are some protocols to consider prior to conducting your next remote deposition.  Please keep in mind that there are also several other aspects of Zoom depositions (i.e. devices, hardware, connections, etc.) that you will also want to address to ensure your Zoom deposition is a success.

featured cybersecurity

Security Tips for Zoom Depositions

  • Use Most Current Version of Zoom - Every so often, you will want to click on your User ID in the upper-right corner of the Zoom dialog box and select “Check for Updates.”
  • Require Passwords – Ensure you have gone into your settings and turned on the password requirement option for all sessions you create. The password for the session will then be included in the invite.
  • Enable “Waiting Rooms” – The Waiting Room feature requires the host to allow each participant into the meeting. This will further prevent unwanted guest from joining your meeting in the unlikely event they circumvent your password.
  • Do Not Use “Personal Meeting IDs” – Personal Meeting IDs are a way to use the same meeting number over and over again. As a result, they will be easier to hack than a randomly generated meeting number.

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters has led the way in court reporting and litigation support technology for over 40 years, and now we welcome the opportunity to assist you with any need you may have. If you would like to learn more about remote depositions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to show you the multitude of services we have to offer. We look forward to making your life easier.

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Court Reporting, Legal Videography, and Trial Presentation Services Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits from Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters: Focus Groups

 

Welcome to court reporting, legal videography, and trial presentation services tips, tricks and tidbits from Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters.  Each month, we will be providing some insight or thought on a particular litigation support service.  Hopefully, you find these posts and videos informative and come back each month for additional content!

 

This week we will be discussing focus groups.  Below are several tips, tricks, and tidbits we have learned over the years by conducting our own focus groups.  In the event you have questions or want to learn more, please reach out to our office.  We would be happy to talk with you. 

 

Focus groups can be conducted in many different ways.  From deciding whether a case is worth taking, all the way to a mock trial, focus groups can be beneficial to your case regardless of where you are at in it.  Below are just a few examples of why you might want to conduct a focus group:

 

  • Case development:
    • Know whether a case is worth taking
    • Develop facts
    • Determine which expert you are going to need to hire
    • Prepare information for a deposition or mediation
  • Mock trial
    • Prospective jury’s perception of your client or witness
    • Practice voir dire, openings and closings
    • Gain insight into the deliberation process

 

In my experience, though, you should try and stay away from using focus groups to determine a dollar amount for your case. 

 

One of the most important things to remember when conducting a focus group is to remain neutral, both in presentation and in setup.  Here at Thomas & Thomas, we offer a neutral, third-party location so the participants do not know who is conducting the focus group.  If you conduct it at law firm, they may come into the focus group with a preconceived notion of who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.  We also issue the checks to the participants so that everything comes from our office and not a law firm.  If our clients desire, we will also present the facts of your case.  This ensures that your biasness does not interject itself into the presentation of the materials. 

 

Other important things to consider are making sure you have a true representation of your eventual jury and having the participants signs confidentiality agreements.  You will want to provide snacks and/or meals to the participant to ensure they stay happy and engaged.  Regular breaks also help keep them focused.  We like to provide forms and notepads that you can collect at the end of the focus group, as each participant may respond differently to the setting.  These options allow you to capture the thoughts of a quite participant that you may not hear from much when conducting the focus group.  Being able to record the session for future playback is immensely important.  Often times people tell me that they learn something new each time they rewatch the video.  You may also want to consider streaming the session to another room so non-participating individuals can observe the session without affecting it.  Streaming is also a great way to allow the participants to “deliberate” during a mock trial and still be able to observe their thoughts and feelings in real time.  

 

Focus groups can be wildly entertaining and informative if presented in the right manner, and we hope you are now better positioned to do just that. 

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides A/V Equipment Rental for Trial at Douglas County Courthouse

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides A/V Equipment Rental for Trial at Douglas County Courthouse

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters is excited to be providing A/V support for a three-day trial at the Douglas County Courthouse this week.  Thomas & Thomas brought in four monitors, a large screen TV, ELMO document camera, and a matrix switch so the parties can present their cases in an efficient, digital manner.  Said A/V equipment can be used to show exhibits, videos, and PowerPoints to the jury, counsels’ tables, and the judge. 

Don’t feel comfortable running the equipment?  Need additional tools like trial presentation software (i.e. TrialDirector, Sanction, etc.)?  Thomas & Thomas has you covered.   Our trained trial technicians can assist you at your next trial, ensuring everything runs smoothly and the jury’s attention is kept.  Contact us today to learn more about our court reporting, legal videography, and trial services. 

 

AV Equipment Rental Douglas County Courthouse Omaha

 

AV Equipment Rental Douglas County Courthouse Omaha2

 

 

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Trial Presentation Services in LeMars, Iowa Leads to Defense Verdict

Trial Presentation Services in LeMars, Iowa Leads to Defense Verdict

Last month, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters were asked to provide trial presentation services for two-week trial at the Plymouth County Courthouse in LeMars, Iowa.  Specifically, defense counsel needed assistance working with MRI images and a radiologist to counter plaintiff’s contention of what the images showed.  For those who have worked with medical imaging software, you know this process can be difficult and unpredictable.  That is where Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters came in.  We worked with the doctor to select the best images and how we might present them in the best way.  Ultimately, we decided between a joint effort of trial technician, doctor, and ELMO document camera operated by the attorney.  With all of the A/V equipment being run through our trial technician, switching between sources was seamless and the elicited testimony proved dispositive in the jury returning a defense verdict. 

Whether it is court reporting, videotaped depositions, or trial presentation services, consider using Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters the next time you need litigation support services.  With over 40 years of experience, we know how to get the job done right. 

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A/V EQUIPMENT RENTALS FOR COURTROOMS AND ARBITRATIONS

 

ELMO Document CameraTelevision

 

Whether you need to rent A/V equipment for a trial, a hearing, or an arbitration, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters can help.  Our team of trained professionals will provide you with the highest quality, cutting-edge courtroom equipment available, all well below the traditional rental rate.  Available in Omaha, Lincoln, Nebraska and Iowa.

Thomas & Thomas has the following items for rent:

  • Televisions (50")
  • Monitors
  • Projectors
  • Projector Screens (100")
  • ELMO Document Cameras
  • Distribution Amplifiers ("DAs")
  • A/V Switches
  • Speakers
  • POLYCOM Speakerphones
  • Tables

Thomas & Thomas is a great alternative when the court's equipment is unavailable, at a price significantly less than other local equipment rental vendors.

 

RELIABLE TECHNOLOGY, EXPERT SUPPORT

Often times courtrooms and other litigation matters require a specific knowledge of who needs to view what materials in order to present the most effective case.  With over 40 years of experience in the legal field, Thomas & Thomas has the ability to provide you with the ideal setup for your specific needs.  We coordinate courtroom setups with judges and their staff to ensure an expert and delay-free presentation.  

 

PACKAGE RENTALS & TRIAL PRESENTATION SERVICES DISCOUNTS

Choose from the following packaged rentals to save money:

  • Basic Courtroom Package (50" Television and ELMO Document Camera)
  • Premier Courtroom Package (50" Television, ELMO Document Camera, 4 Monitors, and an A/V Switch)

Also available: a rental discount when you rent equipment in conjunction with hiring one of our Trial Presentation Services Specialists to assist with the displaying of exhibits, demonstratives, and videotaped depositions at trial.

Call Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters when you need top-of-the-line A/V equipment for your next matter:

  • Courtrooms
  • War Rooms
  • Arbitrations
  • Depositions
  • Focus Groups
  • Mock Trials

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters is leading the way in court reporting and litigation support technology, and we welcome the opportunity to assist you with any needs you may have. If you would like to learn more about videoconferencing, mobile videoconferencing, trial presentation services, and/or focus groups, please do not hesitate to contact us.  We would love to show you the multitude of services we have to offer. We look forward to making your life easier.

With Best Professional Regards,

Geoffrey S. Thomas, J.D.

"We Are Technology"

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Capturing & Memorializing Text Messages and Photos for Discovery

Capturing & Memorializing Text Messages and Photos for Discovery

According to Experian Marketing Services, in 2013, cell phone owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchanged an average of 128 text messages per day and 3,853 per month.  Although this is only a small segment of the population, these statistics are evidence that society is changing the way it communicates with each other.   For law firms, this trend is significant and should be considered when thinking about potentially relevant evidence.

MEMORIALIZING TEXT MESSAGES FOR DISCOVERY

Whether an attorney practices family law or criminal defense, they are most likely seeing a spike in the number of cases using evidence from text messages.  As a result, attorneys are having to work with clients and witnesses to memorialize these text messages for discovery.  For some, this can prove challenging.  From navigating various technologies and devices to keeping the law firm out of the retrieval process, there are instances where relying on a third party for memorializing text messages might make sense.  At Thomas & Thomas, we can gather text messages from various cell phone manufacturers (Apple, Android, etc.) and export them into a viewer-friendly format for easy review and dissemination.  We also create an affidavit attesting to the method and completeness of the materialization process.

OBTAINING METADATA FROM DIGITAL PHOTOS

Digital cameras embed technical metadata called Exchangeable Image File Format ("EXIF") data into the image files they create.  Some of those common data fields can include the make and model of the camera, the date and time the image was captured, and the geographical location where the image was taken.  Obviously, this information might prove useful in a case and should be considered by law firms when determining what evidence has value. 

Not sure what EXIF data your photos have?  Thomas & Thomas will run an analysis on your photos and provide you with a breakdown of said information.  As with text messages, Thomas & Thomas will include an affidavit attesting to its method and completeness.

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Omaha Court Reporters Transcribe and Provide Realtime Feed for 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

On May 6, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters provided court reporters for and transcribed the 2017 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting, which was held at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska.  This was the seventh straight year Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters transcribed the Annual Meeting live throughout the day, and was the second straight year we provided a realtime feed for Mr. Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting.  The realtime feed provided Mr. Buffett and Mr. Munger with a direct written record of investor and analyst participant questions so they could better respond as the questions were posed.  Known as the "Woodstock of Capitalists," the event drew an estimated 40,000 attendees.

 

Court Reporter Realtime3

 

Court Reporter Realtime2

 

Court Reporter Realtime1

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THOMAS & THOMAS COURT REPORTERS PROVIDES TRIAL PRESENTATION SERVICES FOR $15 MILLION JURY TRIAL IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

THOMAS & THOMAS COURT REPORTERS PROVIDES TRIAL PRESENTATION SERVICES FOR $15 MILLION JURY TRIAL IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

On September 21, 2016, a jury found in favor of Finjan, Inc. and awarded them $15 million for Sophos’ infringement of their five asserted patents. This verdict followed a two-week trial before the Honorable William H. Orrick, III of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Specifically, the jury found that all asserted claims of Finjan’s U.S. Patents were literally infringed and valid.

 

Finjan was well-represented by Paul Andre, Lisa Kobialka, James Hannah, Hannah Lee, Kris Kastens, and many other talented lawyers from the law offices of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in Menlo Park, California.

 

Geoffrey S. Thomas, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters’ Trial Presentation Specialist, worked closely with Kramer Levin's legal team to provide a seamless display of exhibits, demonstratives, and videotaped depositions. With each side limited in the amount of time they had to present their case, a quick, efficient presentation of the case was paramount. Precise clip creation and fluid direct and cross examinations helped Kramer Levin present its case with time to spare. Congratulations to Kramer Levin and Finjan on a job well done!

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Sponsors Nebraska Defense Counsel Association's Annual Meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska

On June 3, 2016, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters was one of six Exhibitors at this year's Nebraska Defense Counsel Association's Annual Meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska.  As an exhibitor, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters was able to show off its newest court reporting and litigation support technology, like trial presentation services and live video and text streaming.  With over ____ attorneys present, it was a great way to discuss the newest trends in court reporting and litigation support services.  Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters is proud to sponsor the Nebraska Defense Counsel Association and is already looking forward to next year’s Annual Meeting.

 

Nebraska Defense Counsel Annual Meeting

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Need Realtime, Video Streaming and Trial Presentation Services? Look to Thomas & Thomas As Your One-Stop Court Reporting Firm

Over the past ten months, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters has been providing various court reporting, legal video, and trial presentation services for an arbitration here in Omaha, Nebraska.  Our court reporter, Brianne Starkey, RPR, CRR, CSR (Iowa), has been providing a realtime transcript feed via LiveDeposition to over ten attorneys.  Our legal videographer has also been using LiveDeposition to stream the video from the hearing to participants in various states.  Our Trial Presentation Services Specialist, Geoffrey S. Thomas, J.D., has been presenting exhibits and demonstratives via trial presentation software and creating various clips from videotaped depositions.  Mr. Thomas has also utilized the video from our legal videographer to form clips of what was said throughout each hearing to be used in closing arguments. 

 

Trial Presentation Services Arbitration

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Omaha Court Reporters Transcribe and Provide Realtime Feed for 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

On May 7, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters was, once again, the preferred court reporting company for the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting. Like in years past, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters transcribed the Annual Meeting live throughout the day, but this year we added a realtime feed for Mr. Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, providing a direct written record of investor and analyst participant questions. Last year’s Annual Meeting drew a crowd of 40,000 attendees. Although no official attendance number has been offered for this year’s meeting, those that have attended the meeting in the past suggested the auditorium was no less full than in years past. This was also the first year the meeting was streamed live online. In the past, cell-phone videos and audio recordings were prohibited, so those curious about the proceedings had to rely on media accounts and amateur transcriptions.

 

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Takes Trial Presentation Services to the Johnson County Iowa Courthouse

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters is preparing to provide trial presentation services for a one-week jury trial at the Johnson County Iowa Courthouse.  In addition to providing trial presentation services, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters will also be outfitting the courtroom with monitors, a large screen television, and a document camera.  Below is Thomas & Thomas testing the equipment prior to departing to Iowa for trial.  In this particular case, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters will be providing four monitors (one for each counsel's table and one for each the judge and witness stand), a 50" television for the jury, and a document camera.  We have also installed a blackout switch for the 50" television, which allows us to control what the jury is seeing.  With this setup, the attorneys will be able to show exhibits and videotaped depositions electronically, while still incorporating traditional ways of presenting evidence.  Be sure to contact Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters for all your trial presentation services and litigation support needs.

 

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Important Amendments to Neb. Ct. R. Disc. for Depositions

Important Amendments to Neb. Ct. R. Disc. for Depositions
 
 
 
 
On October 21, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court adopted several amendments to the Neb. Ct. R. Disc. §§ 6-3276-3306-331, and 6-332, which became effective January 1, 2016. Several of those amendments specifically affected the court reporter's role in a deposition, including where the court reporter is supposed to be located during telephonic or other remote depositions and the requirement that the court reporter provide an on-the-record statement before the beginning of each deposition.  Below are a couple of those amendments and the practical implications those amendments have on depositions.  For a complete list of the rule amendments, please click the above-referenced link.
 
The first important amendment is to Neb. Ct. R. Disc. § 6-330(b)(7).  This amendment states: 
 
"the parties may stipulate in writing, or the court may upon motion order, that a deposition be taken by telephone or by other remote means. For the purposes of these rules, a deposition taken by telephone or by other remote means is taken at the place where the deponent is to appear to answer questions. Absent a court order or stipulation of the parties, the officer must be in the same location as the deponent." (deletions omitted)  
 
As a leader in the use of technology during depositions, hearings and trials, Thomas & Thomas sees this amendment becoming more and more relevant as more attorneys use other remote means for conducting depositions.  For example, our office has seen an increase in the use of videoconferencing and mobile videoconferencing for deposing people across the state and country.  Not only does videoconferencing and mobile videoconferencing save money, time and effort for attorneys and their clients, but it also allows the court reporter to remain here in Nebraska, thus reducing the cost of the transcript even more.  Plus, with the advent of document cameras and other technologies, conducting a deposition remotely has never been easier.  However, it is important to remember that the presumption is the court reporter must be in the same location as the deponent unless a court order or stipulation of the parties states otherwise.
The next important amendment is to Neb. Ct. R. Disc. § 6-330(b)(8), which is as follows:
 
"(8) Officer’s Duties.

(A) Before the Deposition. Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, a deposition must be conducted before an officer identified by Rule 28 as a person before whom a deposition may be taken. The officer must begin the deposition with an on-the-record statement that includes: (i) the officer's name and business address; (ii) the date, time, and place of the deposition; (iii) the deponent's name; (iv) the officer's administration of the oath or affirmation to the deponent; and (v) the identity of all persons present.

(B) Conducting the Deposition; Avoiding Distortion. If the deposition is recorded nonstenographically, the officer must repeat the items in Rule 30(b)(8)(A)(i)-(iii) at the beginning of each unit of the recording medium. The deponent’s and attorneys’ appearance or demeanor must not be distorted through recording techniques.

(C) After the Deposition. At the end of a deposition, the officer must state on the record that the deposition is complete and must set out any stipulations made by the attorneys about custody of the transcript or recording and of the exhibits, or about any other pertinent matters."
 
This amendment adds a requirement that the court reporter provide an on-the-record statement before and after a deposition is conducted.  Just like Neb. Ct. R. Disc. § 6-330(b)(7), the parties can stipulate away this requirement, if desired.  Without said stipulation, these on-the-record statements will become part of the record.
 
The final important amendment is to Neb. Ct. R. Disc. § 6-330(e), which governs the reading and signing the deposition transcript.  Rule 30(e) now reads as follows:
 
"(e) Review; Waiver; Motion to Suppress.

(1) On request by the deponent or a party before the deposition is completed, the deponent must be allowed thirty days after being notified by the officer that the transcript or recording is available in which (a) to review the transcript or recording and (b) if there are changes in form or substance, to sign a statement listing the changes and the reasons for making them. The deponent may be allowed more or fewer than thirty days if the parties stipulate to or the court orders a different number of days. The officer must note in the certificate required by Rule 30(f)(1) whether a review was requested and, if so, must attach any changes the deponent makes during the period specified above for review.

(2) All objections to the accuracy of the deposition, including objections to accuracy of the interpreter’s interpretation of the questions or answers, are waived if a request for review is not made before the deposition is completed or, if a request for review is made, no changes are submitted to the officer in the time and manner required by subdivision (1) of this rule and no motion is made pursuant to subdivision (3) of this rule.

(3) If a request for review is made, the deponent or any party may move to suppress the deposition pursuant to Rule 32(d)(4) on the ground that the deponent was not allowed to review the transcript or recording as provided in subdivision (1) or that the transcription or interpretation of the deposition is inherently inaccurate."
 
The Comments to Rule 30(e) go on to note that this modification now requires the deponent or party to invoke the right to review before the end of the deposition and gives the deponent or party thirty (30) days to review after being notified that the transcript or recording is available.  This is contrary to the former rule, where the deponent had a right to review unless the right was waived by the deponent and the parties. This modification is important because now the presumption is that the reading and signing of the transcript is waived unless expressly stated otherwise.  Thus, if the right to review is not invoked, then the transcript of the deposition is deemed to be accurate.
 
Although these amendments may not affect the way an attorney prepares for or conducts a deposition, they are important procedural modifications that should be considered when scheduling and conducting a deposition.  
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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides Trial Presentation Services for $40 Million Jury Trial in San Jose, California

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides Trial Presentation Services for $40 Million Jury Trial in San Jose, California

Congratulations are once again in order for the Law Firm of Kramer Levin after a $40 million verdict was announced on August 4, 2015 in the Finjan, Inc. v. Blue Coat Systems, Inc. matter.  The verdict followed a three-week trial before the Honorable Beth Labson Freeman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  The jury found that five of Finjan Holdings, Inc.'s six patents were literally infringed by Blue Coat with the sixth being infringed by the Doctrine of Equivalents.  The jury ultimately decided Finjan was entitled to $39,528,487.00 in damages as a reasonable royalty for Blue Coat's infringement. 

 

I worked closely with Kramer Levin's  legal team of Paul Andre, Lisa Kobialka, James Hannah, and others, to provide a seamless display of exhibits, demonstratives, and videotaped depositions.  With each side limited to only 18 hours to present their cases, a quick, efficient presentation of the case was paramount.  Accordingly, I had to bring in extra trial presentation items to ensure an optimal setup.  I also assisted with the creation and modification of PowerPoint presentations throughout trial.  I was asked to combine trial exhibits and tutorial animations for direct and cross examinations of expert and fact witnesses.  Congratulations to Kramer Levin and its client, Finjan!

 

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Look to Thomas & Thomas for Realtime Text and Video Streaming

Look to Thomas & Thomas for Realtime Text and Video Streaming

Often times attorneys need to depose witnesses in various locations across the country.  Sometimes that can require additional attorneys and/or support staff members to have to travel to those various locations, which can cause the client to incur additional costs compared to a traditional, local deposition.  With the advent of realtime text and video streaming, attorneys and support staff individuals can now attend any deposition remotely.  By using various platforms, such as LiveDeposition, individuals are able to view the transcript in realtime, see and hear the deponent as he or she testifies, and communicate with their team via a private chat.  Realtime text and video streaming also gives clients the ability to attend depositions remotely in the event they want to watch the deposition, but are unwilling or unable to travel.  In addition to realtime text and video streaming, the basic function of realtime allows attorneys read the questions and answers as they happen, search the transcript for a specific word or phrase, and highlight important text for future reference.  

 

The above picture is a deposition Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters recently provided realtime text and video streaming for.  This stream was provided to various law firms, clients, and experts across the country.  As a result, numerous individuals did not have to travel to attend the deposition, reducing time, money, and effort spent by all parties.  Be sure to think of Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters the next time you need realtime text and video streaming.

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Throwback Thursday: Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides Videoconference for Warren Buffett's Trial Testimony

Throwback Thursday:  Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides Videoconference for Warren Buffett's Trial Testimony

"Three weeks into Brendsel's trial on administrative charges, Buffett's testimony by video link was the most vivid, yet. The Berkshire Hathaway chairman, who is a member of the board of The Washington

Post Co., sat at a table against a wrinkled gray backdrop, a Coke bottle in easy reach and looked into the lens. Brendsel and other participants in the proceeding watched Buffett on big-screen televisions in a richly paneled Washington courtroom."

 

On October 30, 2007, Warren E. Buffett testified about how he saw early signs of Freedie Mac's woes.  However, he did not do so live.  He did so from the offices of Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters and Certified Legal Video, LLC.  In an attempt to accommodate Mr. Buffett's busy schedule, his staff asked that Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters provide a videoconference feed between our office in Omaha, Nebraska and the Washington courtroom.  Below is an article by the Washington Post about Mr. Buffett's testimony and the underlying videoconference that Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters provided.

 

Buffett Testifies That He Saw Early Signs of Freddie Mac's Woes


By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post StaffW1iter
Wednesday, October 31, 2007; D03

 

Billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett sat in front of a video camera in Omaha, spelled his name for the record and minced no words as he testified for the government yesterday in its case against former Freddie Mac chief executive Leland C. Brendsel.


Brendsel is accused of presiding over accounting manipulations and running Freddie Mac in a reckless manner. Buffett, one of the most successful and revered investors, sold a huge stake in the mortgage funding company before the manipulations came to light, and the government wanted him to explain why.


Buffett said he was troubled in part by a Freddie Mac investment that had nothing to do with its business.


"I follow the old dictum: There's never just one cockroach in the kitchen," Buffett said.


The government is trying to show that Brendsel's promises of double-digit earnings growth set Freddie Mac on a dangerous path, and Buffett said they were another key reason he sold.


Sometimes, when executives offer earnings projections and cannot make the numbers, "they start making up the numbers," he said.


Trying to deliver smoothly increasing earnings "can lead to a lot of trouble in any company," and it is "unachievable" at a company like Freddie Mac, whose business is inherently unpredictable, Buffett testified.

 

Under cross-examination by an attorney for Brendsel, Buffett acknowledged that many companies offered earnings projections, including two big companies where he has been a director, Coca-Cola and

Gillette.


He agreed that his antipathy for the practice was a minority view among professional investors. Asked to read aloud from Freddie Mac annual reports, he showed that the McLean company had been predicting "mid-teens" earnings growth years before he began liquidating his stake.


Three weeks into Brendsel's trial on administrative charges, Buffett's testimony by video link was the most vivid, yet. The Berkshire Hathaway chairman, who is a member of the board of The Washington
Post Co., sat at a table against a wrinkled gray backdrop, a Coke bottle in easy reach and looked into the lens. Brendsel and other participants in the proceeding watched Buffett on big-screen televisions in a richly paneled Washington courtroom.


Because the case involves regulatory rather than criminal charges, Brendsel is not at risk of going to prison. He is trying to avoid liabilities and penalties that could exceed $1 billion.


With a fortune estimated at $52 billion, Buffett, known by admirers as the Sage of Omaha, ranked second on Forbes magazine's latest list of the richest Americans. Buffett has pledged the vast majority of
his wealth to the philanthropic foundation run by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who topped the list with $59 billion, and Oates's wife Melinda, also a member of the Post Co. board.


Buffett said he bought stock in Freddie Mac in the 1980s because "it looked ridiculously cheap." He said his company became one of Freddie Mac's largest shareholders before it began liquidating its stake in the late 1990s at an eventual profit of about $2.75 billion.


Buffett said he met with Brendsel and former Freddie Mac president David W. Glenn five or six times over the years at Brendsel's request, initially at a summer house Buffett had in Laguna Beach, Calif.
Brendsel requested and followed some of his recommendation whom Freddie Mac should appoint to its board, Buffett said.


Buffet said he became troubled when Freddie Mac made an investment unrelated to its mission. He wasn't clear on the specifics but said he "didn't think that made any sense at all" and "was concerned
about what they might be doing ... that I didn't know about."


Achieving "mid-teens" earnings growth "seemed to become more and more a mantra of the organization," giving him greater cause for concern, Buffett said.


Buffett said he reviewed Freddie Mac's annual reports every year he held stock in the company. Presented with excerpts from reports for as early as 1992, he agreed with Brendsel's lead attorney, Kevin
M. Downey, that he held onto his shares while Freddie Mac repeatedly affirmed its earnings goals. Buffett said he thought he expressed his concern to Brendsel in several conversations but added that he
didn't keep notes or a diary and couldn't recall details.


Downey said the specific wording about mid-teens earnings growth did not appear in a disclosure Freddie Mac filed in 2001, but Buffett rejected the implicit suggestion that Brendsel was responding
appropriately to his concern.


"He may have seen the writing on the wall," Buffett said.


Downey suggested that Freddie Mac properly tempered its projections, pointing to warnings in an annual report that its earnings could be affected by various adverse developments. Buffett said the
cautionary words were merely legal boilerplate.


"I would not be particularly impressed by them," he said.


Asked by the judge, William B. Moran, whether he felt his concerns were vindicated, Buffett said, "I think they were fully vindicated."

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides Trial Presentation Services for $30 Million Jury Verdict

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Provides Trial Presentation Services for $30 Million Jury Verdict

Congratulations to the Law Firms of Kramer Levin, New York, New York, and local counsel, Koley Jessen, Omaha, Nebraska, and their amazing trial teams for their most recent jury verdict in the civil lawsuit of Prism Technologies v. Sprint Spectrum L.P. The matter was tried to the Court and Jury, the Honorable Lyle E. Strom, Senior United States District Judge for the Federal District Court of Nebraska, presiding. This case was the second of five patent infringement trials against the five major U.S. wireless carriers - AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.

 

Congratulations also to Geoffrey S. Thomas, J.D., and certified Trial Presentation Specialist, for his role in the successful delivery of courtroom visual technology. The result was a seamless presentation of demonstratives and exhibits presented at trial. Clean, on-point videotaped deposition clips highlighted and pinpointed important trial testimony. Dual laptops used simultaneously during opening, closing, and witness examinations, ensured a quality and flawless presentation at all times. In the end, the synergistic mix of attorneys, witnesses, support staff and specialized and professionally administered courtroom technology garnered a $30 million jury verdict for the plaintiff.  Congratulations!

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Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Reports 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters Reports 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting

On May 2, 2015, Thomas & Thomas Court Reporters reported the 2015 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting held at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska.   Thomas & Thomas has provided same-day transcript court reporting services for the Annual Meeting since 2011.  Roughly 40,000 people from all around the world showed up to witness the 50th anniversary of Warren Buffett taking control of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 

 

Congratulations to Kristen Teel, RPR, CRR, and Brianne Starkey, RPR, CRR, court reporters extraordinaire, on a job well done!

 

And congratulations to Mr. Buffett for once again making Omaha proud.

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