Answering the question, “What do you do?”
Invariably after I meet someone, one of the first questions after “what’s your name,” and perhaps questions about my family, is “what do you do?” In my quasi-rebellious youth, I might have answered “I do lots of things,” and regaled the new acquaintance with tales of independent film making, travel, surfing or other adventures. This was primarily because I was usually jobless, and saying, “uh, I’m unemployed” made for a conversation killer.
Now I find myself struggling to answer that question, but not because of the lack of a career, but because my career is in a dynamic, esoteric field that few people outside of it understand. The quick answer to “what do you do?” would be that I’m a project manager at Nextpoint. But given that Nextpoint is a player in a quickly evolving industry, even that is a moving target.
What is the “Hotseat?”
In 2006 when I started at Nextpoint, the company specialized in providing support for trials, and also had a little web-based application that could be used to designate deposition testimony. We provided top-notch service on many high-stakes trials, creating demonstrative graphics that could be shown to a jury to help the attorneys get their points across. We would take the information, develop visual concepts, and create graphics to explain complex material in a simple visual way. I would often help out on the creative side of things, but my primary duty was that of a “hotseater.”
The hotseater sits in court with the trial team with all of the graphics, trial exhibits, and other multi-media on a computer (and a back-up computer – we hotseaters are a paranoid bunch). When attorneys ask questions of a witness they often need to show documents or graphics. That’s where we come in. The hotseater is asked to pull up documents or files to be displayed on monitors and projector screens throughout the courtroom. As they go through the documents, the hotseater will zoom in on important areas, highlight key text, and create other annotations to help pull the jury’s focus to the appropriate areas. It seems very simple, and yet it can be a terribly stressful endeavor. With the sheer volume of documents and the endless ways they could be asked for, a hotseater’s brain becomes saturated by information that must be recalled instantly, and often without warning. Hotseating is a live performance in which everyone in the courtroom is watching what you are doing, and if a document takes 10 seconds to appear on the screen, it seems like an eternity.
Another source of stress for the hotseater is the anxiety and uncertainty associated with ensuring all necessary documents are accounted for. Despite all the best efforts to gather every thinkable necessary document, invariably one will creep in there that had never been mentioned prior to that moment in court where the hotseater is scrambling to find the elusive document as the jury sits waiting. In the past I would get new items delivered to me in court via a USB drive or CD-R. However, if I thought I might need something, it was always difficult to get word to the appropriate person to deliver it. Now, more and more, courts are either allowing, or providing Internet access in the courtroom. The ability to email a paralegal or fellow Nextpointer to ask for a document relieves a great deal of the stress. But what happens when the file is too big to email? Enter Nextpoint’s Trial Cloud.
Trial Cloud, All Growed Up
Now remember earlier when I mentioned that back in 2006 we had a little web-based application that could be used to designate deposition testimony? Well that little application has grown into a ground-breaking, robust, SaaS platform that has become an indispensable tool in our trial support arsenal. With Trial Cloud, we have the ability to host all the documents that might be used in a trial in a fully indexed and searchable database. Since it is web-based, any changes or additions made by one of my colleagues back in the warroom (that’s what we trial support folks call our trial offices) is instantly accessible by me in court. Got a new 50mb PowerPoint file that I need ASAP? Just upload a new version and click the email notification, and I’ll be able to download it in court in moments. Is an attorney struggling to recall a document? Just pop in a few search terms and I can find it. Along with Trial Cloud, Nextpoint now offers a couple other products: Discovery Cloud (our native file processing and review tool) and Cloud Preservation (our social media and website archiving platform).
Now that I am also involved in training and support for our products, I have fundamentally changed my answer to “what do you do?” But even more so, it seems the question has changed to “how do you do it?”