Graphics Programs for Lawyers
An edited version of this article was originally published in Computer Counselor column of the December 1989 issue of the Los Angeles Lawyer Magazine.
Comments are generalizations and may not apply to every situation. It is advisable to consult with a competent professional before relying on any written commentary. Paul D. Supnik is a member of the State Bar of California and not of any other state or country. The material set forth herein is not for the purpose of soliciting any engagements where to do so would be to offend or violate the professional standards of any other state, country or bar. This web page Copyright 1989, 1996 by Paul D. Supnik
A graphics program makes and visually displays information in a readily
understood form. It creates graphs, diagrams, illustrations, charts, and
lists. The graphics created can be printed out on ordinary printers, can
be transformed into color slides or overhead transparencies and can be
blown up for courtroom presentations. Essentially, graphics programs allow
you to develop easily understandable communications tools. Two programs
will be discussed, "Draw Applause" from Ashton-Tate and "Harvard
Graphics" from Software Publishing Corp., both of which have a suggested
retail price of $495.
Graphics draw attention because displayed information is easily digestible.
Reading three to five short phrases is far simpler than reading a single
spaced typed page. Understanding is enhanced when phrases appear in clear
bold typeface. Clarity is enhanced when information is shown in suitably
Background of Graphics Programs
The need for graphics programs arose from use of spreadsheet programs
which display primarily tables of numerical information in a manner best
appreciated by an accountant. Graphics features in some spreadsheet programs
did not advance creating a need for a more sophisticated stand alone program.
Separately developed graphics programs came on the market to better display
spreadsheet information. Initially then, graphics programs then would display
information in graph forms, typically, line and bar graphs and pie charts.
Graphs are only one type of display now available from graphics programs.
HOW CAN A LAWYER USE A GRAPHICS PROGRAM?
Demonstrative evidence is generally invaluable in a courtroom. The lawyers
job is to persuade the trier of fact that his or her point view is the
correct. Words often are expressed without full comprehension by the listener.
Communication can readily occur by presenting images and graphics. Graphics,
of course, are no stranger to the courtroom.
Graphics programs help prevent last minute trial exhibit preparation.
Local rules are likely to require disclosure of charts to the opposition
at an early date. What frequently happens is that counsel will tell opposing
counsel that they expect to have a blowup or a graphical presentation available
at the trial but not have one to show opposing counsel.
There are several reasons for delay in preparing graphical presentations.
Blowups cost money to create, both in terms of material costs and lawyers
time. Graphics usually take time to prepare. That time might be better
allocated to other aspects of trial preparation. Indecision as to the precise
form of exhibits may slow their creation. The desire to have the graphics
display perfect may inhibit the final creation of courtroom blowups. Information
to be shown on the blowups may be subject to change before the time of
All these problems associated with courtroom graphics can be minimized
by graphics programs. Cost of creation and modification is minimal since
the program is available in the attorneys office. Charts and graphics can
be readily created without the inhibiting factors of trekking off to an
outside company where there might be little control over the result. If
an outside service is preferred, the graphics program can still be used
to create "rough drafts" of displays. It is simple to send actual
computer files by telephone and modem, similar to a hookup with LEXIS or
Westlaw, to a presentation graphics service company. The outside service,
having greater experience in visually presenting information for the courtroom
can enhance and improve the quality and style of presentation graphics.
In a pretrial stage, it is possible to submit a number of different
versions of a chart with varying degrees of information which can be quickly
created and modified. This allows creation of different versions, some
of which may be more likely to be admissible and other which may be less
likely to be admissible.
Drafts of the graphic images may be printed out on laser printers available
in the law office. Color transparencies and overhead transparencies are
available by sending the files by phone to service companies which can
messenger them back to your office within a day. The draft images printed
in the law office can be copied and used as handouts while color slides
and transparencies can be available at the actual trial or other presentation.
One way to help settle cases is the thorough preparation of a settlement
brochure. The settlement brochure explains liability and damages (or lack
thereof) to opposing counsel and their client in a persuasive manner. The
settlement brochure shows that you are sufficiently organized to go to
trial and have the evidence available to back up your contentions. By including
charts and graphs, you are better able to communicate the basic ideas of
your case that you intend to convey to the trier of fact should you get
to trial. Persuasion generally involves the communication of simple ideas.
Important is that simple ideas be retained in the recipient's mind long
enough for someone to act on them. Graphical images then can communicate
important ideas likely to be remembered by the person whom you are trying
to persuade, whether that be opposing counsel or a settlement conference
In the law office, there is often a need to communicate how procedures
to office personnel. A checklist for filing documents with various courts
can be shown graphically with large bold print. The output printed by a
laser printer can then be three hole punched and placed in a notebook of
standard office procedures. Similarly, file organization can be graphically
displayed and placed in the standard office procedures notebook.
A typical area in which graphics is helpful is in diagramming a complex
case--whether that be the case you or an important precedent for your case.
Graphics programs are generously loaded with boxes, circles and arrows,
all mixable with a variety of styles of text, allowing you to quickly portray
the case in a readily understandable manner.
Clients can more readily grasp complex situations when they are presented
with graphic images. The graphics may be used to provide a foundation from
which the client can supply additional information to the lawyer.
Specific Types of Graphics Available in Graphics Programs
Some graphics presentations simply include text. The manner and the
typestyle in which the text is presented allows it to be a forceful communicator.
Typical formats are single and multiple column lists. Subpoints can be
preceded by a bullet, checkmark or other form of emphasis. Both the purpose
of the charts and the limitations because of the inherent size of the text
requires that the phrase entries be extremely brief. Most programs permit
mixing text with graphical images. Thus, a bullet chart might have a logo
or other symbol means of enhancing particular entries.
Given numbers to convey, for example, damage calculations are be readily
translated to graphs and pie charts. Different types of graphs are available
such as bar charts, stacked bar charts, line charts and time varying charts.
Pie charts are often useful to quickly convey relative proportions. For
example, a pie chart can show the flow of royalties from distribution of
a product. Multiple linked pie charts can then show a segment of the pie
appearing as the whole of a pie from which a further percentage is cut.
Income and revenue sources are often displayed in pie chart format. Pie
charts can be used to show sources of income and revenue from your office
or show sources of income and revenue of a party to litigation.
The organization chart can be used in its traditional role to depict
a hierarchy in a company or it can be used in other creative ways. In larger
offices it might be used to display office procedures used in litigation.
It can be used to display the causes of action in a lawsuit, and the elements
required to prove each cause of action. That type of chart is useful, both
as a guide in developing a case, in showing your cards to your opponent,
in explaining the case to the settlement conference officer or the judge,
and in appropriate circumstances possibly even to explain facts to a jury.
Flow charts can be used to map out complex financial and legal transactions,
with text information within boxes, arrows to show the direction of transactions
and text above the arrows to explain the transaction.
Harvard Graphics is simple and adequately flexible to be very useful
in a law office. Very little resort to the manual is required. The program
uses cascaded menus and has extensive context sensitive help screens. In
use, the opening menu selection of either the creation of a specific type
of chart or free form drawing. The types of charts selectable include text,
pie charts, bullet charts or graphs. With a chart type selected, you are
then given additional selections as to the specific chart configuration.
Given a chart configuration, a screen prompts you to enter information
in a specific format. You are shown where to type in the subheadings, and
a footnote. For graphs, you are shown where to enter numerical information
and labels for the numerical information. Pressing function key 2 [F2]
brings an image of the graph you have created on the screen.
You may change the attributes of virtually any portion of the image.
The size of the text may be enlarged or reduced. The colors of particular
portions of the chart may be changed. The type style or font may be changed,
for example to italics or bold and from "Executive" to "Roman".
Any chart can be associated with text. Circles, ellipses, boxes, lines
and arrows can be added to any chart already created, whether that be a
pie chart, bullet chart, organization chart or graph. Lets assume you wish
to diagram a case. You can use boxes or circles to represent parties, and
arrows between boxes to represent transactions between parties. The boxes
can be of varying thickness, color and style, as can the arrows. A time
saving feature is an adjustable grid which is overlaid on the chart being
created, yet which does not appear on the final printed chart. The grid
simplifies chart creation and forces beginning and end points of various
symbols and drawing elements, such as lines, boxes and circles to terminate
on end points. Any drawing elements or text entered on the screen can be
copied, moved, enlarged or reduced. A spell checker is included for help
in correcting text.
Often the format of a completed chart can be used as a basis for a template
for other charts. Existing chart formats can be saved as templates.
The output of Harvard Graphics may be displayed on a HP Laser printer.
Various formats for the display are possible. The chart can be displayed
in a draft format, in which the images are rough around the edges, or in
a high resolution format. Older laser printers are generally not able to
print out a full chart in high resolution format. Higher resolution format
also takes a longer time to print out. While the draft mode is somewhat
rough, it still provides a rather presentable chart. The chart can be printed
out on many dot matrix printers. The quality of the dot matrix printer
is less than desirable, but it does provide a workable, if not polished
presentation image. If color is a concern and a color plotter is not available
in the law office, the computer files can be sent to an outside service.
While not likely to be frequently used by a law office, "slide
shows" are available in Harvard Graphics. A slide show is a series
of charts each displayed for a limited time period on the computer. The
first slide, for example might show a chart of income and expenditures
during one month, followed by charts displayed five seconds later showing
income for the next few months.
"Symbols" as that term is used in Harvard Graphics, are pictures
which may be added to a chart. A library of illustrative pictures comes
with the program and others are available separately for separate purchase.
Symbols include people, industrial images, transportation vehicles, city
and country maps, flow chart symbols, arrows, office equipment and other
images. Images of your own choosing can be imported, assuming you have
the knowledge to access and import those images.
The symbols may be directly overlaid on top of the chart being created,
and sized and proportioned in any manner desired. Symbols add interest
and sparkle to otherwise less interesting presentations of factual information.
Symbols readily communicating information can direct the viewers thought
in a particular direction. A symbol can also be used to identify and distinguish
information readily. Thus all information related to a particular subject
can be identified with a corresponding. An exceptionally simple communication
program which comes with the Harvard Graphics program allows you to transmit
the graphics files direct from your desk immediately by modem to order
color slides, transparencies and color prints. The time it takes to set
up the program is only a few minutes, and once an account is set up, it
is a simple fast procedure to have it transferred by telephone.
Harvard Graphics is simple to use. Very little resort to the manual
is required. The program uses cascaded menus and has an extensive context
sensitive help screens.
Draw applause is a full featured graphics program which requires a VGA
or EGA color monitor. It is designed for use with a mouse or "puck
and tablet" and is highly awkward to use without either of these devices.
With a mouse, creating charts is simple and quick. The program takes up
the full 640K of memory and the current version (1.1) does not work with
expanded memory. Resident programs and programs such as DesqView or Software
Carousel must be unloaded to use the program. It is sufficiently slow in
repainting the screens so that a fast 286 or 386 type computer and fast
video card is recommended if the program is used to any significant extent.
Apart from these limitations, the program provides considerable flexibility
in the development of charts, graphs, pictures and placement of objects
on the screen. Tracing of objects is possible using the puck and tablet
approach with the program. However, that is not likely to be a necessity
in the law office.
Special features of the program include the ability to create a color
background gradated from lightness to darkness from the top to the bottom
of the image. Three dimensional and multiple image effects are possible.
The program comes with a library of pictorial images. Characteristic of
"Draw Applause" is the ability to create sharp brilliant colors
on the screen. Ashton-Tate has its own processing facility, and it is possible
here as well to send the images directly by modem and directly from the
program, for quick delivery of finished color prints, color transparencies
and color slides, as well as black and white thermal images.
In addition to boxes and circles, elements which can be drawn in include
arcs, wedges and polygons. Dramatic effects can be created with features
which permit creation of spirals, shadows, and gradated backgrounds. For
any image placed on the screen, a mirror image can be made. The image can
be stretched and rotated. A feature called "distribution" allows
you to take a shape, distribute the shape from one position to another,
where the shapes are repeated between the locations, changing the color,
size, rotation and width of each of the distributed images. Groups of shapes
can be linked together so they move as a group and can be reproduced elsewhere
on the chart. A grid is available both as a guide in creating charts and
for forcing elements of the chart into alignment. The grid can be either
vertical, horizontal or both and can be adjusted for spacing both vertically
Variations in color is a strong feature of Draw Applause. Various palletes
of colors can be readily selected and are available for view in the lower
left hand corner of the screen as a chart is drawn.
In conclusion, graphics programs are likely to be used more often by lawyers because they are inexpensive, easy to use and create dramatically persuasive displays of information.