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May 22, 2020

Top tips & tools for better online presentations.

Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell share strategies for crafting a better online presentation experience for your audience.

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Dennis Kennedy

Dennis Kennedy

Dennis Kennedy is an award-winning leader in applying the Internet and technology to law practice. A published...

best legal presentation

Tom Mighell

Tom Mighell has been at the front lines of technology development since joining Cowles & Thompson, P.C....

Episode Notes

You may have been a masterful presenter before the age of remote work, but are your stellar presentation skills translating well online? If you’re not using your tech well, your presentations may very well be falling flat with your audience. Dennis and Tom delve into the entirely different skill set needed for crafting engaging online presentations and offer tips and tools to help you up your game.

In their second segment, they answer a listener question on how to find the best technology content on social media. If you have your own technology question for Dennis and Tom, they’d love to answer it! Call their Tech Question Hotline at 720-441-6820.

As always, stay tuned for the parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation that you can use the second the podcast ends.

Special thanks to our sponsors,  ServeNow  and  Colonial Surety Company .

Mentioned in This Episode

Show Notes – Kennedy-Mighell Report #261

A Segment: Presenting Online

B Segment: A Question from a Listener

Parting Shots:

LinkedIn Premium Accounts:

The Kennedy-Mighell Report

Top Tips & Tools for Better Online Presentations

Intro: Web 2.0, Innovation, Trend, Collaboration, Software, Metadata… Got the world turning as fast as it can, hear how technology can help, legally speaking with two of the top legal technology experts, authors and lawyers, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Welcome to The Kennedy-Mighell Report here on the Legal Talk Network.

Dennis Kennedy: And welcome to Episode 261 of The Kennedy-Mighell Report. I am Dennis Kennedy in Ann Arbor.

Tom Mighell: And I am Tom Mighell in Dallas. Before we get started we would like to thank our sponsor.

Dennis Kennedy: First of all we would like to thank Colonial Surety Company Bonds & Insurance for bringing you this podcast. Whatever court bond you need get a quote and purchase online at .

Tom Mighell: And we would also like to thank ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted, prescreened process servers, work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high-volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit to learn more.

Dennis Kennedy: And of course, we want to mention the second edition of our book, ‘ The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies ’ which is available on Amazon. Everyone now especially agrees that collaboration is essential and more than ever knowing the right tools can make all the difference.

As I like to say at the start of our recent podcasts, what a difference another week or two of pandemic makes.

In our last episode, we talked about ways to improve your audio and video presence and even to create your own production studio setting. In this episode we wanted to share some of our best tips on presenting online. We’ve done a lot of online presentations over the years.

Tom, what’s all on our agenda for this episode?

Tom Mighell: Well Dennis, in this edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, we will indeed be discussing ways to improve your online presentations.

In our second segment we will — ye, answer a voicemail question from a listener something we’d like to do more of, remember we have a voicemail and voicemail box at 720-441-6820, that’s 720-441-6820. That’s the number for our voicemail box and we’ll be answering a question on our second segment.

And as usual we’ll finish up with our parting shots, that one tip website or observation you can start to use a second that this podcast is over.

But first up, nobody have you noticed is doing really very many live or in-person presentations these days, it’s all moving online and as you might imagine presenting online content requires a different skill set than you might need for in-person presentations.

So in this episode we thought we would discuss some of the important things you might consider to make sure that your online presentation is on point.

Dennis, how many online presentations have you done lately?

Dennis Kennedy: Well really Tom, it’s all of them lately. Seriously though I taught half semesters of two classes online, law school classes and I’ve done several webcasts and I’ll be doing one on LinkedIn with the Allison Shields tomorrow. So it’s really been a quite a turn. So nothing live at all. I don’t really see much live coming for me and maybe even through the end of the year. What about you, Tom?

Tom Mighell: Well, I have to say it’s been kind of a refreshing break for me. I’ve given one presentation on guess what, Online Meeting Tools. So very timely, but I will tell you that working from home as a matter of course, pretty much all I do when I give presentations these days for my company is we do online webinars frequently.

So I am giving online presentations maybe once or twice a month sometimes depending on how often we do things and so I not giving as many as I usually have, but definitely has been — that definitely something that I’ve had a lot of experience with over the years.

And I think that, I think that we both agree that you need a different skill set to do something online. Dennis, what are your thoughts on what’s necessary for giving online presentations versus in-person?

Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think it’s — it really is as you said different set of skills to learn and the good news is and we’ll talk about this is that a lot of people have done the work on this in terms of online education and other things like that, so there’s a lot of resources out there that can help us and we’re just at the early stage of this and I know that for the fall semester, I want to spend a good amount of time the summer looking at online courses and how to do them better.

But I think the big one for me that I really noticed is that, if you don’t see the people you’re talking to and you’re not seeing the video of them, which I don’t think is an exact substitute for seeing people live and you can’t interact with them the same way you do at the live audience, that really changes everything, it changes the energy, it changes your approach, you don’t get a good sense of the reaction and it’s just a completely different skill set. But I really track it to the energy that’s missing that you get from doing a live presentation.

Tom, is that sort of you — you sort of feel like you don’t know what’s landing and and what’s not, you don’t necessarily see people’s heads nodding yes. So I don’t know, do you feel that, that loss of energy?

Tom Mighell: So my question to you is, can you see my screen, can you actually see the notes that I wrote down to talk about this point, because I have almost the exact same words that you’re using, because I think that when you are presenting to a live audience, there is an energy level and that you gain your energy from their energy. You can sense, you know I usually will glom on to the one or two people in the audience or maybe more hopefully who are nodding along and were saying we get it, we understand. I look frequently at them and that helps me move along better.

And I think even if I can give an online presentation where I could see a bunch of faces staring back at me on Zoom, would still give me a sense of that energy. But I’ll tell you the one presentation — well any webinar that I give, it’s like speaking into the void and you have no idea if you’re killing it, you have no idea if you’re bombing, there’s no way to tell if you’re — if something you say this funny is, is landing. I mean there are things that I’ve said in person that got great laughter and then when you say it there and you hear nothing in response, I mean it’s — it’s a terrible feeling at first when you first have it happen.

And frankly I think that what it can lead people to do is, it can actually lead you to be more tentative the longer that you go along, that you lose some of the energy and that’s kind of the danger that you run into and I think that’s one of the first tips we want to talk about is, don’t let the fact that there’s no audience there drag your energy level down, you have to keep it up like you are in front of an audience of 500 people and you’re killing it no matter whether you can see them or not or whether you’re killing it or not.

Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, it’s like one of those things that in terms you may use the same hand gestures you would use if you were talking live or like big gestures, just to kind of help your energy. You might decide to speak a little faster. So there’s some things like things like that, and it is weird when you do get the reaction.

So at the end of one of my classes I finished up and all the students started clapping, on Zoom and it was — it was really kind of a weird feeling but it was cool, but it’s like really hard to know that that things were going over as apparently well as is as they did.

Tom Mighell: Well, I will tell you real quick and I’m sorry for interrupting, but I’ll tell you real quick just to on the point that you have is, when I give my online webinars, I, I don’t do this on purpose. I just have started doing it just instinctively. I will start gesturing, I will start moving my hands around as if I’m on stage talking to people and I will tell you it does wonders for the way that I — it does wonders for my own energy, it makes me feel like I’m in front of people, I’m sort of pretending that I’m and I tell you it’s so much easier than just sitting in front of a microphone and talking into it, doing those gestures and kind of living, living like you’re giving that presentation really does make a difference.

Dennis Kennedy: So and then there’s two other things that I wanted to mention is that and they’re sort of related, but so one is that when you’re presenting online, there’s a lot more things that can go wrong. You can have a lot of moving parts. So you might have a chat session, you might have polling questions, you might have like Q&A thing, you might be sharing screens, you might be looking at who’s muted not muted, all these sorts of things can happen. You might have little internet glitches, you might have sound glitches.

So there’s — it can be a lot of moving parts and then in that sense, if you do decide to share screens then I think your approach to slides, you really need to rethink it, and I’ve still haven’t decided what’s, what’s better to go with like really sparse slides when you’re doing online, or to put more information, more like the traditional bullet point approach which I typically will never use going live and in-person.

But in some cases might make a little bit more sense when you’re online and sharing the screen, because it’s right in front of people, and then you also want to have a good understanding of where — and sometimes you just don’t of what people are seeing when you’re showing those slides or you just see a small box in the corner, if you’re co-presenting. Are we both on the screen at the same time. So there’s some things out there.

So those are sort of two big things that, that I’ve found as I’ve done more of these Tom.

Tom Mighell: Two quick things on that. I think that the fact that things can go wrong is a lesson that you really need to know how to use the technology that you’re using. You need to practice on it frankly if you haven’t practiced on it before.

And my example for that is, last week and this wasn’t a presentation, this was just a meeting with a brand new client and the one of my colleagues was getting ready to show a number of different documents, and she was verbally taking everyone in the meeting, there’s probably 10 or 15 people who are attending this meeting, taking them all through her entire mental process and she was saying out loud, oh that’s not working, oh, I can’t, oh, this, this is not happening the right way and oh, I can’t toggle between these screens. Okay, what if I do this. Maybe if I do this, this will work.

If you know your technology you’re not going to have those issues. I think that we all have had experiences when technology doesn’t go right, so be prepared so that you’re not — you’re ready to ad-lib in case your technology goes wrong, but I think the better lesson is, make technology go right for you or at least know how to use it.

Here’s my question to you Dennis about slides, because I’m sort of surprised that you haven’t said this yourself. I always fall down on the side of, I like to have more content than you prefer on a slide whether it’s live or whether it’s virtual. I want my — the people that I present to, to have some content to take with them rather than just what I say to them. I want them to have both.

But here’s what I’ve noticed after a month of being locked down and attending a lot of webinars, not everybody’s using slides. I’ve been in conferences where slides aren’t being used at all and people are just joining us from their dining room or their living room or their office and they’re just talking and there’s no slides at all.

So when we’re talking now about this new world of presentations, are slides necessary period?

Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, and then you also have to remember that people are attending your presentation in different ways, so some people might be on their phones, so even if you have slides they might not be looking at them or they might not be able to read them, some people are just on audio. Like I was on a webcast today where I just put in my AirPods and I don’t think I watched any of it, but I was just doing other things and walking around the apartment, and so whatever slides they had were meaningless to me.

So it all comes back to — some of the stuff just goes back to those basic presenting skills of like knowing your audience, learning your audience, no other preferences that sort of thing. You know that’s what I found, so yeah, I’m struggling a bit Tom with slides. I still think I’m going to end up in my comfort zone, rather than to try to over think it.

Tom Mighell: Yeah, no I — I actually prefer to have slides with some content on them, because I want my audience to have a takeaway. I want them to have something to take with them that’s not just my words, in case they’re not taking notes, in case they’re not — I need them to have some sort of documented proof that I did something.

So let’s maybe talk about some of the other issues. What else have we learned? I know that you’ve put here in the questions about whether or not it’s useful to have other people handle the tech for you, handle tech in questions, do you think that’s a good idea, a bad idea, ideal what — how do you fall down on that issue?

Dennis Kennedy: Well, I was — I did a class where I was sharing the screen doing breakout sessions and a number of other things, and I really wished to have somebody handling the tech. I’m a lot better at the questions than I used to be, but I think if you have somebody who can handle that especially if you’re concern about security and privacy where you have a waiting room and stuff like that, especially where you have the breakout rooms, it would be nice to have somebody who can handle all that stuff.

You know obviously, you don’t always get the chance to do that, but that kind of ties back to — I would say what I’ve learned so far are two big things. One is that I’m just beginning to learn and there’s a lot more for me to learn and that I just think you go simple, simple, simple until you develop familiarity and confidence.

And so having a bunch of things going on is, is tricky and if you have the opportunity to have that co-host who can handle some of the tech stuff and especially the questions and things that can really help you. Obviously it’s not going to happen every time.

Tom Mighell: Well, and so I agree with you about the tech. I think that having someone who can help with the technology is useful, but in one specific instance is it really useful and I noticed this when I — if I ever give webinars for somebody else and there’s some — a team to help you with that, the best, the best feature of that is you are always going to have someone trying to attend your meeting who is going to post in the chat or in the help saying, I can’t hear the audio or why won’t this work and they’re complaining and if you as the speaker are having to manage it, then you become distracted just like my colleague did and you don’t really focus on it.

Let someone else focus on it and I think that, that’s a good, a good choice of that. With questions, I have a slightly different approach, because I think that — I think that there’s two ways to answer questions during a presentation. I think that if they ask a question during your talking and it’s related to what you’re talking about, I think it’s appropriate to answer that question in line and in time with what you’re talking about, and that’s why I like to have the question show up on the side of the screen, so I can always kind of keep track of what the questions are and I can pick and choose.

But you know that there will always be someone in the presentation who will ask you this out of left field question that has nothing to do with what you’re talking about, and say oh by the way, what about this. Well those are the questions you can wait till the end.

So answer the ones that you need to answer and I tend to want to handle those myself. I feel like if there’s a moderator to ask the questions that feels less authentic to me, I’d rather answer them myself and talk about it myself, but obviously I don’t — that’s not a live or die on that, but that’s kind of how I prefer to handle it.

Dennis Kennedy: And the other thing I would say and this relates to questions is that what I’ve realized is that on these online presentations, online meetings that chat is actually a second channel, that’s can occur simultaneously. And Tom, as you know from when we used to do these podcasts and stuff in it, we would do anything by video, you would like instant message me with something and I would never look for it.

So now, I really use the chat and now I can see it a lot better than I used to. At the time I’m aware of it and there may be separate conversations going on, if you’re co-presenting with somebody, you might be responding somebody in chat and it’s just — as we move to more of a chat world, that I think awareness, that that’s going on. that’s why it can be kind of complicated to speak if you have a number of things going on, and you’re — it’s just you and you’re responding to the chat.

And again, part of my learnings have come from working with students who will even though they might not want to raise their hand or to speak out in front of people, will ask me questions in chat, so you have to pay attention to it.

So I think as a speaker you need to be aware of what’s happening in the chat session, which again is, shows how many different things are going on as you’re trying to do a presentation.

Tom Mighell: Which I think is a new thing. I mean chat wasn’t always the thing that you describe in online presentations. I think more people are making use of it and I really think that the reasons you describe, back-channel between speakers to talk about things, legitimate questions that people might be asking are great, but I will tell you I’ve been to a couple of online conferences where they’ve left the chat open and it’s really open season, it’s where they — somebody will ask a question, why would the speaker say X & Y and then another attendee will come in and say well because they said this you dummy, and then they almost get into a fight and have these kind of side conversations that don’t make any sense and are actually distracting.

And so I don’t really know how to fix that. I’m not sure that you can or want to, but I think that there’s a good way to use chat and a not so a good way to use chat and I think we’re seeing both of those.

Dennis Kennedy: Then also I think there are some other things. So one thing I have a question about is and that I prefer that when I’m watching people do online presentations, that they actually are quite close to the screen so that their face takes up most of the screen, as is my preference, but what I’ve heard from a lot of people is they don’t like that. They prefer that you – that feels too close to them.

Dennis Kennedy:   What I’ve heard, from a lot of people is they don’t like that. They prefer that you have — that feels too close to them and so you see more people sitting further back and I actually decided to sit further back from the camera than I used to but I don’t — actually when I’m looking at the screen while I’m talking, I don’t like that. I would prefer to be closer. But it’s kind of –- you need to kind of figure out what — again it’s like, what is the — what does the audience like, you cater to that and then I want to look at the research as well. I have to say, hey are there — I’m not going to say best practices but that’s sort of the way they think of it. Like does it makes sense to sit at certain distance, what signal does it give people if you’re closer, you’re far that sort of thing. So I don’t know — I think Tom, you’re one of the people who might have told me that I was too close to the camera but —

Tom Mighell: Well I think what’s useful about this discussion is to let the audience know that we’re watching each other on video right now and Dennis is very close to the camera and I am further back from the camera. So I am the opposite, and I’m a little closer to the opposite. I should be closer, doesn’t really make sense with this computer and this desk but I tend to agree. I think that closer up is a better experience. I think the farther away that lens kind of a distance, I think that from a technical perspective, if you are farther away, it’s — if you’re not using the right equipment, it can be harder to hear you.

I think, I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve been farther away and they’ve been using the microphone on their computer. So it really is like listening to somebody on a speakerphone and it’s just a horrible experience. But, I tend to think that the closer view tends to be the better, I think it’s a more — although frankly when I say that I like to gesture a lot with my hands, I maybe having enough room so people can see you gesture and have you talk like a real person also make sense. So I’m kind of –-

Dennis Kennedy: I can see both sides of that but I would tend towards a closer view of a speaker.

Tom Mighell: Yeah I don’t know. It’s time we probably need to wrap up, I know we have a number of things and maybe we can tick through some of them. I am starting to explore more how to use interactivity and polling during presentations, just because you’re saying is people don’t like to just sit and watch a talking head for an hour. So you want to add some things in. I would consider putting videos into a presentation just to do something a little bit animations, definitely to do something a little bit different. I probably do — I consciously think more of roadmaps to say, here’s what’s going to happen, and here’s what’s coming up and here’s where we’ve been and then this is something people don’t do a lot of but if you’re co-presenting, I think you really need to put the extra effort into identifying the speakers and think of how you do the handoffs and if people aren’t watching or paying attention that sometimes we do this on the podcast. We’ll go like, so Tom what do you think of that or and this just kind of helps people identify who’s speaking and what’s going on and personalize is a bit.

So it goes back to, what do we learn when we’re watching TV and other video presentations and then I said, for me I just wanted this summer dig into a lot more of the research that’s already out there, so what works for online instruction. I don’t know Tom, do you have like a few things you want to be sure to cover?

Tom Mighell: Sure a couple of things, I totally agree with you about using polls. I see a lot more speakers in person using it. I think it’s actually even better for online presentations because people have closer access to the web and can participate in the polls. I think easier from their computer than when they’re sitting out in an audience and they’re having to scramble to get to stuff and the internet might not be as good and I just think its better.

Two tools that I recommend are either Poll Everywhere, Slido is another one that I know that gets good reviews. Dennis, I don’t know if there’s any other tools that you use you’d recommend that we can include in the show notes.

Dennis Kennedy: Yeah I don’t know. I’ve done things just using the polling, building to Zoom and I think that blue, I can’t remember when I use BlueJeans whether that had, had something and Webex may have polling built into it. It sort of depends on the platform. I have this feeling that everybody’s, all the different tools are going to get referred to as Zoom before too long.

Tom Mighell: Eventually it will all be called Zoom. So the other thing to think about, especially if you’re going to use PowerPoint is consider about whether you want to use subtitles in your presentation because now new PowerPoint allows you to put in subtitles which means that — and you can do them in any language. So if you happen to be presenting to people in a different language, you could actually do your subtitles in any almost any language around the world.

But it might be good if people maybe don’t have a good connection, or have trouble hearing or need some help, having those subtitles might not be a bad idea. I think that what we talked about in our previous podcast about audio and video, all those same things apply to online presentations.

Have a good microphone so people can hear you, have a good camera if you’re on a video presentation so people can see right. Make sure that you have good lighting so that it doesn’t look crazy. I think all of those same rules apply for giving a presentation. I wouldn’t really, I think those are all very similar things. I think that one of the things and I’m probably springing this on Dennis by saying this is that, we’ve talked in general about whether we want to host maybe some live events using Microsoft teams and they have live captions that are part of that. They could have live captions, they have recording, think about whether you want to record a presentations that you give, and your ability to do that. So just a couple of things to think about taking that online presentation game up a level, some of the things that Dennis and I are going to be probably trying out here over the next couple of months.

Dennis Kennedy: Yeah and I just real quick want to mention, breakout rooms because in the right situations they can work really well to get your audience involved and so the breakout rooms you can basically either randomly or pre assign people to rooms in smaller groups and then they automatically go into that group and they can have a conversation there and then come back to the main, the main meeting our presentation, and in the right situations that’s just a, that works really, really well.

Tom Mighell: Yeah. Totally agree. Zoom is very good at that. Microsoft teams are going to get that same feature soon but not sure when on the roadmap that’s going to happen.

All right before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick break for a message from our sponsors.

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Tom Mighell: And now let’s get back to The Kennedy-Mighell Report. I am Tom Mighell.

Dennis Kennedy: And I am Dennis Kennedy. We love to get questions from you. Tom, even more than me and our voicemail line is 720-441-6820 and we love even more to feature those questions in this our B segment. In this episode, we have a great question that we got from Mike in South Carolina and let’s play that now.

Mike: Hello. Thanks for all the great content that you guys are putting out during these times. It’s very much appreciated by people like me and I just wanted to call to thank you and secondarily, I was just wondering if you could recommend some people, or companies, or resources that you like to follow on social media like Twitter. Thanks.

Dennis Kennedy: So Tom, do you want to start us off on the answering Mike’s question.

Tom Mighell: Sure. So unfortunately Mike, I’m not going to name a lot of names because once I name one, I feel guilty for not naming them all. So I’d like to talk in terms of themes instead. I follow a lot of tech news sites. I will give a name The Verge is one of my big favorites. I think that they do a great objective job of reporting technology. But there are a lot of other tech news, Twitter pages that can keep you up to date on technology news, Wired Magazine, just a bunch of other Twitter feeds that are from tech news outlets.

In legal tech, I like to follow people who I know from a legal tech world, who I’ve seen speak at conferences. So if I am watching a conference and I like a presentation, I’ll go find them on Twitter. I’ll follow them. There’s a lot of very smart people who are part of the college of law practice management. If you go to the College page and you look for the members, there are a lot of really smart people there who I do like to follow. They have a lot of good things to say.

And what’s interesting is that once you start to follow them, pay attention to, if you’re following the legal tech pages – I mean excuse me the technology reporting sites, follow the reporters, the reporters have their own Twitter feeds and they have their own interesting things that they like to talk about beyond what’s going on, on those specific journalists sites.

And then also watch out for who all of those people re-tweet, that’s where I have actually found a lot of people to follow, because if people I enjoy following on Twitter are also tweeting about people they enjoy following, then I might enjoy following those people too. So I find that it’s useful to see who else I like.

If you want to be a little stalkery, you can actually go on Twitter and go to the profile page of somebody you like and see who they follow because you might get some inspiration from that also.

I will say that who I don’t follow a lot of are vendors. Most vendor tweets are too promotional, they are way too promotional and there are not enough good solid content. The exceptions I make are for big companies. I think Microsoft, Apple, Google, a lot of their content can be a lot more substantive, so I am more likely to follow and look at their stuff, but even during, I hate to say, this is sacrilege, even during ABA TECHSHOW, most of the vendor tweets are, come to our booth and learn about our new product for doing this, and I would really rather know — give us something substantive about what you do or something substantive about legal technology, I will be more likely to follow your product.

So sorry, that took a little bit longer than I expected, but Dennis, any tricks you follow or anybody you specifically want to mention?

Dennis Kennedy: Yeah. So I think you touched on this. So in the early days of blogging, the very early days, people used to do this thing called a blogroll, which would say, here are the blogs that I read and then what you typically would do is you would try some of those out and you would go oh, I like reading this person’s blog so I will read some of the blogs that they read and then you would sort of build your own list from that.

So I think that Twitter can be the same way. So it’s kind of like you kind of leverage what other people are — what they have already identified and then build what makes sense for you from that.

I kind of agree with Tom in a lot of ways that you are looking — Twitter seems a place where you get the best stuff from individuals, so you might — if somebody is like in the vendor world, you would want to see people who are kind of the evangelists for a company or like a CEO of a company who tweets a lot, say like a Kevin O’Keefe at LexBlog, who has been doing it for a long time. Sort of institutionally there are some things that I like that I have been involved with, like the LTRC feed and the Law Technology Today feed, that can be a good starting place. But I think for me it’s primarily individuals and finding some of the journalists.

And then my big advice on Twitter these days is get yourself outside the US on the people that you follow. There is really interesting stuff being tweeted on legal tech, tech in general, legal innovation from all over the world and kind of tapping into that can be really cool, but kind of follow your own inclinations and the things that you like and just kind of slowly build and see what you like and follow the path that it leads you on.

So now it’s time for our parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation you can use the second this podcast ends. Tom, take it away.

Tom Mighell: All right, I have two parting shots and they are both frivolous, time-consuming addictive websites to go find kind of random, but I am totally enamored with both of them.

One is called Listening Together and what it is, is it’s — I think it’s by the music service Spotify and what they do is they say what are the chances that two people start listening to the same song somewhere in the world and it’s happening a whole lot and so you can just click a button and it will show you that so-and-so in São Paulo, Brazil started listening to this song at the same time as someone in Moscow at the same exact time started listening to it. I kept watching that for probably 30 minutes just to see what songs and where the people were that listened to them.

Likewise, a site called Astronaut, I will give credit to Recomendo, the great newsletter that we talk about all the time, it featured this, it’s called Astronaut and what it is, is it’s a feed of YouTube videos that have like one or two views. Nobody is viewing them, they are things you don’t expect, they are not terribly interesting, but they are also fascinating. They are usually things that just individuals have filmed, whether it’s of their church service, because lots of churches are doing their own in-home sermons now or a yoga class or people just walking down the street but it is fascinating to watch all of these and they just keep on going in a continuous cycle of things within the past week that get very little views.

I am totally mesmerized by it, I can’t stop watching it, so I need somebody else to foist off this addiction too, ; I will make sure that the links are in the show notes. Dennis.

Dennis Kennedy: So I have to do two as well Tom. So one is we were talking about this beforehand, you see all these people now, especially in the legal field who have discovered collaboration and how important it is and there are these tools out there and gosh Tom —

Tom Mighell: Shocking, it’s just shocking, isn’t it?

Dennis Kennedy: Tom, you and I, we wrote a book to this, ‘ The Lawyer’s Guide To Collaboration Tools And Technologies’ , so I am going to mention it because we go into like how you need to think about collaboration tools and what’s out there and all the categories and it’s a darn good book. I just can’t stop myself from saying that it’s a good book that people should look at.

My other one is as — and I think that lawyers put on a brave face that nothing is really changing, but there are a lot of layoffs and other things. You are starting to hear about more and more people losing their jobs and changes coming and clients with business problems, all sorts of stuff happening.

And so I go back to LinkedIn, which has got to be really valuable when you are in a situation where you either need to find a job, you have concerns about your current job, you need to develop new business maybe and develop a new practice area. So what I want to mention are the LinkedIn Premium accounts, which I think are really valuable because you can do them for a limited period of time, but if you are actually looking for a job or you are trying to market your business, there are there two Premium accounts I think is great.

So one is the Career account, which is $29.99 a month and that’s going to give you a set of extra tools that are helpful when you are looking for a job. And the Sales Navigator account, which is $79.99 a month, which is great when you are trying to market in a very granular way what you are doing because it gives you tons of information and ability to search and to reach out and to categorize leads and all sorts of things. And like I said, you can turn them on and turn them off, but in this environment, just truly valuable tools for actually a very modest price.

Tom Mighell: And so that wraps it up for this edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. You can find show notes for this episode on the Legal Talk Network’s page for this podcast.

If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or on the Legal Talk Network site where you can find archives of all of our previous episodes with transcripts. If you would like to get in touch with us, reach out to us on LinkedIn or remember, I will give that number again, please leave us a voicemail, that number is 720-441-6820.

So until the next podcast, I am Tom Mighell.

Dennis Kennedy: And I am Dennis Kennedy and you have been listening to The Kennedy-Mighell Report, a podcast on legal technology with an Internet focus. If you liked what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcast and we will see you next time for another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report on the Legal Talk Network.

Outro: Thanks for listening to The Kennedy-Mighell Report. Check out Dennis and Tom’s book, ‘ The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together ’ from ABA Books or Amazon, and join us every other week for another edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, only on the Legal Talk Network.

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Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell talk the latest technology to improve services, client interactions, and workflow.

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best legal presentation

When you enter a courtroom, you want to believe that the person with the best argument will walk away with a verdict on their side. Although this is generally true, a great trial presentation can help sway the outcome of a case. There are a plethora of psychological studies that demonstrate that people think in pictures. So what does that mean for your trial presentation?Most importantly, it means that people will conjure up their own images unless you can provide one for them. It’s important for jurors to come away with the same information, even when your presentation has been filtered through personal beliefs and biases. Modern television has also influenced the way jurors think about the court system, and many come into court expecting photographic evidence and 3D recreations. Of course, each case is different, but the following tips can help you present compelling visual evidence at trial:

1. Be the person who does the simplification

Don’t give your audience room to draw incorrect conclusions. Although you can leave some room for interpretation when necessary, especially when you are legally unable to spell things out for the jurors, it’s still important that you are the person who connects the dots for your audience. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, and can help bring people together in agreement with you when the jury retires for deliberation.

2. Reinforce specific themes

There will be places in your presentation where you have the opportunity to make important points through your use of titles. Slide and presentation titles are much more interesting when they pose a question, make a statement, or reinforce a theme.  For example, “Timeline” and “Personal History” are weak titles and underutilize one of your best opportunity for imprinting themes and posing questions. Instead, consider using a title such as “What Were John Doe’s Motivations?”, which poses a question that your audience knows you will answer. Luckily, because titles are easy to change, you’ll be able to swap things out on the fly, even if a judge objects to a title you’ve chosen.

3. Enhance your presentation by cutting the copy

Keep your bullet points short and your slides sparse. Although visual impact is an important part of your overall presentation, you should have minimal words on the page. You don’t want your audience to be distracted as they try to read ahead or catch up. Don’t read verbatim from the slides. When you keep your sentences short and simple, you also remove the temptation for yourself!

4. Assume a short attention span

Plan to lose everyone’s attention. Of course, ideally your audience would be rapt the whole time and hanging on your every point. However, it’s best to assume that you need descriptive graphics to keep people tuned in. Graphs, 3D animation, photos, sketches and other visual elements, are much more interesting than plain text.

5. Play to your audience

Finally, you should always try to play to your audience. Consider who they are, and their interests, beliefs and biases. Craft your argument with a specific type of person in mind. The jury is not made up of blank slates. You must consider what kind of evidence your audience can grasp, and provide visual images and contexts familiar to them.

When your presentation is well practiced and well structured, you’ll deliver a common visual experience for those in the courtroom. When you control the visuals, you can guide and shape the narrative to better bolster your own case. Visuals also enhance the ability of your jury to retain case facts and essential information. A great trial presentation can turn the tide of a case by crafting an overarching story that is most beneficial to your client.

For more information on trial presentations, or for help creating some of the compelling visuals we’ve discussed above, reach out to our Trial Presentation department at (800) 889-0111.

If you have questions on any of our services, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

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Music for Business & Ads

Download Legal Background Music for videos and presentations

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Pablo Olóndriz

May 8, 2023


The importance of music copyright on the Internet

You don’t need copyrighted music in your presentations, epidemic sound, where to download free music with creative commons license, royalty-free music does not have to be free of charge, not typically used in commercially oriented projects, requires attribution to the author for his work, the license is subject to future changes, social network algorithms may identify the song as illegal, they reduce the originality of your video, faq – frequently asked questions about background music for presentations and videos, introducción.

Whether for work, family, or educational environment, video presentations are an ideal method of transmitting information.


However, the visual aspect is only half the job.

To have a 100% complete presentation you must take into account another essential factor: the music.

You should know that no matter how well done your presentation is, without music, it will not get the attention it deserves.

This is not something we say, science says so.

According to a study conducted by Stanford University in 2007, music makes the brain pay more attention than it would without music.

In other words, any visual representation has a greater impact with a musical background.

And why else do you think TV commercials have music playing in the background?

Because marketers know the scientific effect that music has on the viewer.

Now that you know this too, you can take your presentations and videos to the next level.

But to do so, you need to discover the best platforms with background music :

Rotate your phone or swipe in order to view properly this table.

We will talk about each of them in detail later on.

But we anticipate that all of them are platforms with royalty-free music, a factor of great importance. 

You may be asking yourself, why should I consider copyright when looking for music for my presentations? Why is it so important?

Copyright is, by definition:

“The rights of a personal and patrimonial nature that attribute to the author the full disposition and the exclusive right to exploit his work without any limitations other than those established by law”.

In short, it can be said that the author of a musical track is the only one who can use his work.

important copyright in background music

In most cases, a considerable amount of money must be paid to the PROs to obtain a temporary license that allows the use of the song under certain conditions and for a set period of time.

What does this mean?

It means that:

Ignoring these three details could cause you serious problems.

This is why we want to highlight the importance of copyright regarding music.

However, it is also important for you to know the following:

Acquiring copyrighted music is a time-consuming, complex, and costly process in terms of money, which does not usually compensate video creators financially.

Fortunately, there is an alternative with better conditions: royalty-free music.

This type of music will best meet your needs for your videos and presentations for 4 simple reasons:

But where can you find this type of music for your videos?

The 3 best royalty-free music platforms

At LegisMusic we have tested the vast majority of online platforms with music for presentations and videos.

And among all of them, we have been able to choose for you what we consider the 4 best ones.

Legis Music

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Launch of three exclusive plans in 2023

We consider it vitally important that our customers can access royalty-free music easily and cheaply .

Therefore, these plans have been designed so that you only have to pay once to get them, allowing you to enjoy unlimited songs for life and have the peace of mind of not having to worry about copyright claims in the future.

Thus, you can choose the plan that best suits your needs:

As you can see, if there is one thing that makes our licenses stand out, it is the opportunity to enjoy them forever and paying only once.

Below is a table with the three plans and their respective prices.

epidemic sound licenses

You can enjoy a huge music catalog that today exceeds 100,000 soundtracks between songs and sound effects.

All of them are of the highest quality, created by independent professionals from all over the world.

To find easily the music track you are looking for, Epidemic Sound has a simple filter system that will allow you to save a lot of time searching.

You can filter songs by Moods, Genres, Vocals, Duration, and BPM, as well as a host of other sub-filters.

Epidemic Sound also provides you with two exclusive tools that will give you unparalleled editing and searching freedom.

The first of these is Stems.

descargar musica de tiktok sin marca de agua

The other one is Find Similar, and as its name suggests, it will give you the possibility to find music tracks similar to those you have liked.

This will make it easier to create a sound pattern in your videos and presentations.

In addition to all of the above, Epidemic Sound provides you with the following advantages:

To enjoy all that this platform has for you, you only have to choose one of its subscription plans, among which are:

Whatever plan you need, Epidemic Sound has a gift for you: a free 30-day trial period for you to test the platform without obligation.

This way, you can make sure if the platform fits your needs for free. To get this gift, click on the button below and start enjoying Epidemic Sound.

Artlist is one of the platforms that is attracting the most attention among video creators and large companies.

In fact, it has provided its services to corporate giants such as Netflix, Coca-Cola, Nike, Google, or Mercedes.

In its less than 5 years of history, it has managed to come up with a revolutionary music solution that I will tell you about next.


It doesn’t matter if you have a channel with thousands of subscribers or you make personal videos as a hobby.

Whether you are going to use the songs for family photo videos or corporate presentations, it is irrelevant.

You will have full and absolute coverage against potential copyright claims.

With Artlist, you can have the peace of mind you are looking for when using background music in your work.

In addition, the platform provides you with more than 12,000 music tracks, a number that increases weekly.

Finding just the one you are looking for will be a simple task thanks to its menu system, which you can access at any time.

In a couple of clicks, you will have in your hands a selection of music tracks that you can filter, preview, save, share and even download with a watermark.

But to fully enjoy all of Artlist’s benefits, you’ll need to access one of its three subscriptions:

Apart from price, the difference lies in access to music, sound effects or both, but all of them deliver the following benefits:

When you take a look at the platform you realize how complete and simple it is from the inside.

That’s when you understand why Artlist is a good decision and why big companies use their services.

If you also want to use their services, you can benefit from 2 months free on your subscription.

All you have to do is choose the plan that best suits your needs by clicking on the button below.

You have seen so far the best paid platforms with royalty-free music.

However, many readers ask us if there are free options for adding music to their videos and presentations.

The quick answer is “yes”.

This is music under Creative Commons licenses : a type of free license that allows you to use the music under certain limitations.

We can tell you that one of those limitations is that you will not be able to use this music in commercial projects.

free background music for videos legis

Anyway, later on, we will show you the things you should take into account before using this type of music in your projects.

But before that, we present you the list of platforms we promised you: the 11 most popular portals to download music for free presentations.

What to consider before using background music for free videos

Previously we mentioned that music under Creative Commons licenses had certain drawbacks.

Below we will explain the most important limitations of music under this type of licenses.

There is a trend to think that what is known as royalty-free music is the same as free music.

But, in terms of payment, this type of music does not have to be free of charge.

The creator of the song can set a one-time usage fee or a subscription, just as was the case with previous platforms.

Finding out whether you should pay for the song will depend on your ability to research it.

One of the characteristics of music under Creative Commons licenses is that it has certain limitations.

These limitations are established by the author of the work and condition the reproduction, distribution, dissemination, and copying of his work.

One of the most common is the commercial limitation, known by the acronym NC (Non-Commercial) .

Most of the free Creative Commons songs have this limitation.

Therefore, they cannot be used in monetizable videos and presentations.

Another limitation on the use of Creative Commons music is that of attribution.

This means that, in order to use the songs legally, you must attribute the work to the author of the work with a message similar to this one:

Odyssey Drums, by Kevin MacLeod ( is subject to a Creative Commons license (Creative Commons – Attribution International 4.0 – CC BY 4.0).

Adding this message to a video or presentation is to make it clear that you have not paid for the music used.

Something that can have a negative impact on your professional image and credibility.

When an author puts a song under Creative Commons licenses, you should know that he does not have to keep it for life.

There have been cases in which, after a while, the artist has decided to stop sharing his song for free to sell it through a record label.

If you have used that song, you could find yourself in legal trouble.

You are probably familiar with YouTube’s Content ID , as well as other monitoring algorithms used by social networks.

When you upload a video with an associated music track, the algorithm looks to see if it might be a copyright infringement in terms of the material used.

In the vast majority of cases, using Creative Commons music is to risk receiving warnings from this type of algorithm.

Repeatedly doing so can mean the removal of your account and all your videos.

Free music presents a major problem: everyone can access it without any problem.

That the background music used in many presentations and videos will also be used in many other projects that are on the Internet.


To create a good video, it is not only the visual aspect that matters but also the sound aspect.

And to prove it to yourself, imagine for a moment the uncomfortable situation in which you could find yourself in front of your superiors when presenting a video or presentation without sound.

To avoid this unpleasant situation, you know what you can never miss in your presentations: music .

We remind you what science says about it:

Music helps to maintain attention and convey emotions.

Therefore, if you want to impress your audience and surprise them with your video presentations, you must add a good musical background.

Now you know 3 sites where to find it: Legis Music , Epidemic Sound and Artlist .

These three platforms will provide you with huge repertoires of royalty-free music that will give you the peace of mind you were looking for regarding copyrights.

Choose the one that best suits your needs and get the music your presentations need.

Do you still have unanswered questions?

Here is a list of frequently asked questions from our readers and our own answers.

The answer to this question can be very varied.

And it really depends on the theme.

For example, good songs for photo videos of friends will be those that convey joy and good memories.

However, background music for corporate videos and business presentations will tend to be more serious and give an image of professionalism.

In short, you should set the purpose of the slideshow, and then adjust the music to your audience.

Adding all the steps here would make this article extremely long.

However, you can take a look at our article on how to add music to your Google Slides presentation where we go through the process step by step and in detail.

Throughout the article, we have provided you with what we consider to be the best 3 platforms with background music for corporate videos and presentations.

If you still need us to recommend one more service, we still have a platform that you will love.

It’s called Audiio, and it’s revolutionizing the royalty-free music market with an unprecedented license.

If you want to know more about this platform, we have an Audiio review that will answer all your questions.

In the article, we have mentioned up to 11 free platforms to download Creative Commons music.

You already know the limitations of this music at a professional level, but if you don’t need to monetize your videos or presentations, here are 6 additional platforms:

If the presentations are for personal use, you can opt for the free platforms we have compiled throughout the article.

On the other hand, if you need music for commercial PowerPoint presentations, you should opt for paid platforms such as Epidemic Sound or Artlist.

The options you can find are many: from its own music library to paid platforms.

So that you don’t have to look for the solutions on your own, we have created a specific article about buy music for YouTube .

In it, we give answers to this and many other questions.

Unlimited Access to our Music

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Pay once, use it for life!

Need background Music?

Visit our own royalty-free music library with the easiest licenses that you will find out there.

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As a content creator, finding the right music can make or break a project. Legis Music’s library of royalty-free music is extensive and their lifetime licenses are unbeatable in terms of cost . I especially appreciate the peace of mind that comes with not having to worry about clearing channels or getting copyright strikes.

Rebecca testimonial

As a video editor, I used to dread the thought of finding the right music for my projects. But Legis Music has made it so easy and affordable. The lifetime licenses are the cherry on top. I can now focus on creating amazing content without any stress about music rights. Thank you!

Paul testimonial

Video Editor

As a small online business owner, it’s important to make smart investments in all aspects of our operations, including music. Legis Music’s business plan and lifetime licenses are what we needed. Not only are they affordable, but they provide the peace of mind that comes with not having to worry about clearing channels or getting copyright strikes.

Victoria testimonial

Business owner

Finding the right music to set the mood for my stories can be a challenge. But with Legis Music, I no longer have to worry. I can now use the music for all my projects without any fear and the fact that you don’t even have to create an account is great. This has become an indispensable page for my work as an audiobook creator.

Jason testimonial

Audiobook creator

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From the Blog

How to choose trial presentation software that is right for your team.

Complete Legal Icon

By Complete Legal

Published january 03, 2019.

Businessman and lawyer consult information in the lawsuit.

Trial prep has evolved over the years. There are now countless presentation tools. What you choose can make the difference between a smooth trial and one riddled with missteps. Over the years I have assisted countless clients in choosing the right software. To fully determine clients’ needs, I begin by asking these questions:

From there I can help determine what software will serve best. Let’s look at different presentation software tools, and what I recommend as the best for different trial scenarios.

Less Than 50 Exhibits (and No Video)

If under 50 exhibits and no need to display video, I recommend the free TrialDirector for iPad app .

TrialDirector for iPad is a straightforward app that any tech-savvy attorney or paralegal can run with minimal training. The app offers basic annotation tools; split screen for showing up to two documents at a time; and a simple pinch zoom to easily navigate documents.

No matter how tech-savvy, I still recommend downloading and practicing with the app before opening statements begin to help ensure a seamless presentation.

Less Than 200 Exhibits (and No Impeachment Videos)

If less than 200 exhibits and no impeachment videos, I recommend using the TrialPad for iPad app . It offers a professional looking presentation with multipage views and more functionality in terms of annotations and organization than the free TrialDirector for iPad app. If someone on the trial team is tech-savvy and comfortable troubleshooting technology on the fly, this is a good option. The TrialPad app is a one-time purchase of around $130.

TrialPad cases can be carefully organized to accommodate larger cases. A good consultant can assist in organizing and building a database for such circumstances. You can also edit and load video clips ahead of time as a workaround if you want to use video with TrialPad. While a laptop is best, if the user is most comfortable on an iPad (or it’s the only available resource), a trial technician can make recommendations to make it work.

Here is a good blog that outlines how to use TrialPad .

200+ Exhibits and/or Impeachment Videos

If there are hundreds of exhibits or deposition impeachments, the game changes. Using TrialDirector for iPad or TrialPad for iPad requires scrolling to find what is needed, making it difficult to organize and find exhibits. Beyond that, the slower processor of an iPad isn’t equipped for larger cases and may result in lag time when you try to pull up the exhibits you need. That is why I recommend a laptop-based program with a more robust and professional database for cases with 200+ exhibits and/or impeachment videos.

Two good options for laptop trial presentation software are  TrialDirector 360  and  OnCue . A robust Windows laptop computer is needed to run these databases. Specs can be found online, or you can ask any trainer or trial consultant. Both have many annotation and video options plus other great features such as:

TrialDirector is a yearly subscription and more user friendly to a beginner. OnCue is a monthly subscription that may take a bit more training for the beginner. Both are stable professional programs. So, it usually comes down to a personal preference. These programs are typically a good option for a professional hot seat operator or courtroom technician to run, but other team members can learn with the right training. Keep in mind, a professional technician will often be more efficient than a member of the team who already has other responsibilities with the trial. Also, a technician will be able to consult on best practices, especially when using a database with many options that a new user may not be aware of.

Keep Courtroom Technology  In Mind

The courtroom and its available technology matter in the selection of presentation tools. Some courtrooms have a full, up-to-date system that makes it easy to just plug in. Some courtrooms do not have great Wi-Fi or any audio/video equipment. Worse, some force the utilization of old, outdated systems. It is important to prepare, scout the courtroom and assess your technology needs prior to opening statements so everything can run smoothly. If unsure on what’s available in the jurisdiction, or how to connect, contact a professional trial consultant technician for assistance.

Contact Complete Legal for a Free Consultation

If you are going to trial and researching presentation options, contact Complete Legal for a free consultation. We offer training, database building, video editing, syncing to transcript, graphics and consultation on all matters related to trial presentations.

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VR-Powered Legal Presentation Training

Practice. present. proceed..

Sharpen your presentation skills in a highly realistic, totally immersive virtual courtroom. JUST’s intuitive software makes it easy for attorneys, firms, and law students to gain valuable courtroom experience and prepare for real-world trials, arguments, and depositions.


Courtroom skills are invaluable to every attorney’s career. They are essential to the success of their firm and their clients. However, it can take years to gain the firsthand experience needed to hone these talents. And thanks to the current pandemic, time in the courtroom is scarcer than ever. JUST uses cutting-edge, Virtual Reality technology to compress years of trial experience into a matter of weeks.

JUST is the world’s most sophisticated platform for trial presentation training. A highly realistic courtroom space truly captures the feeling of being at trial so attorneys can practice arguments, depositions, and other legal presentations under true-to-life conditions. Others can replay the performance, viewing it from the bench, jury box, witness stand, or anywhere else in the environment.

When you don your JUST headset, you’ll experience total immersion in what feels like an actual courtroom. You can even use whiteboards, videos, photos, demos, and other real-life tools during your presentation.

The immersive content creators at Funnel 33 collaborated with a team of legal pros to tackle an industry-wide issue: the lack of opportunities for trial experience. Together, they reimagined how attorneys could practice vital courtroom presentation skills.

VR presentation skills training is exciting and valuable, and it’s also just the beginning! We are actively working toward expanding JUST into a suite of comprehensive software and content solutions for the legal industry.

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“ I wish I would have had this as a young lawyer or in school! ” Steven P. Wieland Managing Partner - Mooney Wieland

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National Academies Press: OpenBook

Legal Issues Related to Implementation and Operation of SMS for Airports (2018)

Chapter: v. presentation and discussion of survey results.

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21 V. PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF SURVEY RESULTS A. Demographics of Survey Participants Nineteen individuals from thirteen different air- port sponsors were interviewed over the course of several months. These thirteen airport sponsors own and operate Part 139 airports that have either implemented SMS in some form, participated in the FAA pilot studies, or both. The nineteen individuals were a mixture of airport directors/managers, attor- neys, risk managers, and SMS managers. No more than two individuals were interviewed for any given airport. Again, because of the sensitive nature of the material discussed during the interviews, the indi- vidual airports and interview participants are not identified by name in this Legal Research Digest. In addition to airport representatives, two SMS consultants with a significant role in SMS imple- mentation at airports were interviewed for back- ground information and to identify additional potential survey participants, but those interviews are not included as part of the results in this Legal Research Digest.140 B. Overall Findings Overall, interview participants reported few sig- nificant legal issues associated with the implemen- tation of SMS. Most interview participants reported that they (or someone in their organization) were at least aware of the potential legal issues with SMS implementation, but very few participants reported that any of these issues has yet presented much if any practical challenge to their implementation efforts. While all participants reported at least some level of SMS implementation, nearly all sponsors reported that they have not yet undertaken full-scale imple- mentation of SMS because of the absence of a final rule from FAA. Several interview participants reported that their upper management or legal departments had specifically recommended or ordered the opera- tional staff to delay certain aspects of SMS implemen- tation for fear of triggering legal issues that would only be further complicated when a final rule is actu- ally promulgated. In particular, sponsors varyingly have declined to undertake certain implementation actions that are most likely to trigger legal issues, such as the follow- ing: identifying an accountable executive, drafting 140 For instance, if the consultants reported that one of their clients experienced a legal issue, that report was not included in the survey results unless a representative from the airport was also interviewed. • Developed or implemented additional SMS- related training for sponsor and/or third-party employees, • Prepared an SMS Manual or implementation plan, • Renegotiated any contracts with aeronautical tenants as part of SMS implementation, • Established a confidential hazard reporting system, • Designated an “accountable executive,” • Purchased any additional software to accom- modate SMS implementation, or • Developed any new internal hierarchy or re- porting structure. If participants answered any of these items in the affirmative, they were asked to further describe the sponsor’s implementation actions for that item. Par- ticipants were then given an opportunity to describe any other specific steps the sponsor had taken toward SMS implementation. Based on the specific actions taken at each airport, participants were then asked a series of questions on their awareness of particular legal or operational issues that had been encountered during or after the implementa- tion of SMS. These specific issues included: • Open records requests for SMS documents, • Open records requests for incident or hazard reports, • Lawsuits filed against the sponsor or an indi- vidual or executive related to alleged safety viola- tions or negligence at the airport, • Contract negotiations or disputes with ten- ants or potential tenants concerning safety-related issues, • Discussions about or changes to insurance policies or premiums, • Discussions with labor unions regarding SMS or safety-related issues, • Complaints from employees regarding new safety procedures, and • Revisions to governing documents. Interview participants were then given an oppor- tunity to discuss any legal or operational issues that were not already mentioned earlier in the interview. Finally, participants were asked about the internal structure of their organization, the role of their legal staff in SMS implementation, and the extent to which the legal staff would be involved in SMS going forward.

22 produced its SMS Manual and implementation plan. The representatives reported, however, that the SMS Manual and implementation plan, and the sponsor’s liability or standard of care under those documents, have not been presented or used in the case thus far. The litigation is still ongoing as of this Legal Research Digest. Numerous airport sponsors did report that they were the targets of other safety-related litigation involving slip-and-fall accidents, workers’ compen- sation, landside premises liability, and cracks in the airfield pavement, but all of those sponsors reported that such litigation is relatively common notwith- standing SMS implementation. These sponsors reported that these lawsuits were not necessarily affected by SMS implementation; in other words, the lawsuits did not involve records from the confi- dential hazard reporting system or any internal SMS documents or policies.141 Notably, sponsors indicated that in most of these cases they expected the state’s government immunity statute to protect the sponsor from liability, and in some instances the cases had already been dismissed on those grounds. In addition, many representatives (though not all) reported that the legal departments at their respec- tive sponsors had at least preliminarily assessed the possibility that full implementation of SMS would change their liability, but had concluded that even if the sponsor’s liability increased, the state’s immu- nity laws would likely be broad enough that they would continue to provide nearly complete protec- tion from tort lawsuits. One interview participant noted that even if the state immunity statute did not completely protect the airport sponsor, the stat- ute provided for a very low damages cap that would provide at least some protection in the event of a lawsuit. In two cases, however, interview participants stated that their sponsors’ legal departments were at least somewhat concerned that full SMS imple- mentation would increase the sponsors’ liability and that the government immunity statute may not be sufficient to protect the sponsor. Both of these spon- sors have declined to pursue full SMS implementa- tion or preparation of an SMS Manual in part because of this uncertainty. One sponsor has begun preliminary legislative efforts at the state level to clarify and potentially expand the scope of the gov- ernmental immunity statute to help allay some of these concerns. 141 Several interview participants from airports with less robust implementation noted that even if they had a fully implemented SMS program, they did not anticipate that the types of lawsuits they were currently experienc- ing would implicate any SMS issues. or finalizing the SMS Manual and implementation plan, implementing confidential hazard reporting systems, implementing SMS training programs, discussing changes to tenant leases, revising gover- nance documents, engaging insurers in discussions about rate changes, or updating safety policies. Respondents at many sponsors reported a cultural struggle with either their legal departments or upper management (or both) because of uncertainty in implementing SMS without an explicit require- ment to do so. While those sponsors generally reported an internal recognition of the potential benefits of SMS, they found it difficult to make sig- nificant progress, secure funding, or get definitive approval to take certain actions perceived as legally risky without the federal requirements in place. Thus, the results of this survey could be charac- terized as somewhat premature and may not accu- rately represent all of the legal issues that sponsors implementing SMS may face in the future. While sponsors did report some legal issues associated with implementation and that information is cer- tainly valuable, it may not reflect the overall land- scape once more sponsors implement SMS, and especially when the more legally difficult elements of SMS are implemented. However, this result is itself an instructive conclusion—it appears that the biggest legal issue facing airport sponsors today in implementing SMS is the uncertainty surrounding the lack of a final SMS rule or definitive FAA direc- tion on implementation steps or requirements. C. Analysis of Previously Identified Legal Issues Although the majority of interview participants did not identify significant legal issues associated with implementation of SMS at their airports, a minority of sponsors did report that they have encountered some legal issues. This subsection reviews the results of the survey as related to each potential legal issue identified in Section III. 1. Sponsor Liability and Lawsuits Only one airport sponsor, which has nearly com- pleted implementation of SMS, reported that it was involved in a lawsuit that significantly implicated SMS or a potentially expanded scope of liability for the sponsor. In this case, a contractor’s employee was struck by lightning on the airfield and killed. The worker’s estate filed a lawsuit against the spon- sor, the airport director, and the airline consortium at the airport. The respondents reported that one of the legal issues presented in the case is whether the airport sponsor was responsible for detecting poten- tial lightning strikes. In discovery, the sponsor

23 could eventually translate into litigation against the sponsor, most expressed the same sentiment as above—that the state’s government immunity stat- ute would most likely protect the sponsor from lia- bility. In addition, these interview participants indicated that they received these types of requests regardless of the status of SMS implementation. Regardless of whether sponsors have received open records requests for SMS-related information, several have taken steps to protect themselves from liability in the event that SMS information is made public. One sponsor who has not received any open records requests but maintains a confidential haz- ard reporting system reported that, initially, the sponsor advertised it would “investigate and keep confidential reports” submitted through that sys- tem. The sponsor’s legal team recommended that this language be amended to include the phrase “to the extent allowed by law” to prevent the appear- ance that the reports would definitively be confiden- tial.142 Another sponsor reported that upon launching its confidential hazard reporting system, it included similar “to the extent allowed by law” language and also added a statement disclaiming sponsor liability for hazards reported through the system. Another sponsor who has received open records requests reported that its confidential hazard reporting sys- tem was maintained by a third-party software com- pany, at least in part in an attempt to make open records requests more challenging for requesters.143 A different sponsor reported that although it does not yet maintain a fully operational confidential hazard reporting system, it has recently refrained from attaching police reports to incident reports because of concerns with recurring open records requests. Nearly all sponsors that maintain confi- dential hazard reporting systems permit the report- ing party to remain anonymous. Most sponsors reported that if the operations staff receives a haz- ard or incident report that may result in legal action, that report is forwarded to the legal staff to ensure that they are aware of the incident and the informa- tion that has been collected. The same sponsor who refrained from including police reports in its data was also the only one to report that it received a public records request for internal SMS documents. The sponsor reported that, at the time that request was received, the SMS 142 One of the SMS consultants interviewed also stated that a client who has not yet implemented its confidential hazard reporting system was considering similar language. 143 This interview participant acknowledged, however, that the information was likely subject to disclosure even with this third-party arrangement, and another represen- tative confirmed that at least one open records request had been granted. 2. Accountable Executive Liability and Lawsuits Only one airport sponsor reported that its accountable executive was the target of a lawsuit that involved any SMS issues — the lightning strike case discussed above. While the sponsor’s account- able executive was named as a defendant, the spon- sor successfully moved to dismiss the accountable executive as a defendant because of immunity under the state’s governmental immunity statute. Similar to the reports on the liability of the spon- sor itself, most interview participants generally stated that to the extent that the accountable execu- tive shouldered any liability as a result of SMS implementation, they expected that the state’s immunity statutes would protect that individual. Only one sponsor reported that its legal department was concerned that the government immunity stat- ute might not sufficiently protect the accountable executive, and stated that implementation was being delayed in part due to this concern, though it was not the primary reason. This same sponsor also reported preliminary legislative efforts to expand the scope of the state’s governmental immunity statute. 3. A Note on Liability and the Absence of Lawsuits To a certain extent, it should not be surprising that few sponsors have yet to encounter liability issues or lawsuits that directly implicate SMS issues. The concept of SMS for airports is (relatively) new, and many sponsors have not yet implemented key parts of SMS that might be affected by such liti- gation. While accidents or incidents that might give rise to a lawsuit do occur, the chances of such an incident occurring at an airport that already has implemented SMS remain slim. Furthermore, liti- gation is slow by nature, so any lawsuits that may implicate SMS may be pending. In short, the absence of lawsuits that involve SMS should not be surpris- ing, nor should it be taken as an indication that such lawsuits will not arise in the future. 4. Freedom of Information or Open Records Issues Five airport sponsors with varying levels of implementation reported that they had received at least one state-level open records request for SMS- related data from the airport’s confidential hazard reporting system or an analogous system if a confi- dential hazard reporting system had not yet been fully implemented. The sponsors reported that, in general, they received these requests after an acci- dent or incident at the airport, and did not regularly receive requests for hazard reports outside of those instances. While several of the sponsors indicated some concern or awareness that these requests

24 Outside of mandatory reporting, other sponsors reported positive results from informally or formally building a culture of hazard reporting. Sponsors with SMS working groups that included airline and other tenant representatives reported that they pre- ferred this approach to mandating reporting because they felt it built a positive culture and in turn resulted in more reports with better information included in those reports. One sponsor also reported that this informal approach allowed the sponsor to better protect confidential airline information because it was not entered into the sponsor’s data- base. However, other participants reported manage- ment or legal department hesitance to engage airlines (or vice versa) because of the absence of a final regulation and/or the need for further steps in the implementation process. One sponsor described releasing quarterly hazard reporting data and the statistics on the resolution of the reports to encour- age additional reporting from tenants and airlines, and stated that the legal department had no com- ments on publicly releasing that information. 6. Existing Contracts and Leases No sponsors reported any conversations with their tenants about amending leases or contracts to account for SMS implementation, and none reported that SMS implementation issues were raised by either party in recent negotiations of new agree- ments. To the extent that any sponsors were consid- ering making changes to these agreements in the future, they reported that, without a final rule, they did not believe that they had leverage to demand additional contract terms (mandatory reporting, open records, etc.), and several reported that longer- term agreements were not set to expire for several years. As discussed above, sponsors instead have predominantly chosen to engage their tenants and encourage compliance through SMS panels and informal safety-related working groups. 7. Employment and Labor Issues No sponsors reported any legal issues or prob- lems associated with their own employees and implementation of SMS. Several sponsors did note that as a practical matter, implementing SMS was more successful when the culture at the airport was built from the top down and upper management was wholeheartedly in support of SMS implementation. One sponsor noted that it revised its internal employment policies as part of SMS implementation and made compliance with the sponsor’s SMS poli- cies mandatory. Additionally, no sponsors reported any issues sur- rounding training of their own or tenant employees. Sponsors that have formalized an SMS training Manual and implementation plan were in draft, were several years out of date, and were provided to the requester without objection. The interview par- ticipant expressed little concern about providing those specific documents to the requester because they were not particularly relevant given that they were outdated, but stated that he felt future disclo- sure of final documents could be more problematic because of potential shifts in the sponsor’s standard of care and other liability issues. While only one sponsor has received a request for its SMS Manual, it should be noted that many sponsors reported they do not currently have an SMS Manual or have held off on finalizing it while waiting for FAA to publish a final rule. 5. Other Data Protection and Collection Issues Sponsors reported one other practical issue related to data collection and protection that is also connected to the sponsor’s existing contractual rela- tionships. Several sponsors with varying levels of implementation mentioned their concern about receiving accurate and comprehensive reports from non-airport employees. Sponsors reported taking a wide range of approaches to this issue. Four sponsors reported internal discussions regarding renegotiating leases with tenants to require reporting of hazards by those tenants’ employ- ees.144 Respondents reported that none of their spon- sors had yet approached their tenants with this strategy and cited a variety of reasons. An interview participant representing one of these sponsors noted that he would be concerned that mandatory report- ing language could operate to destroy the indepen- dent contractor relationship between the sponsor and a third party. Another interview participant indicated that because most of the leases at that airport were not set to expire for several years, there was little opportunity to renegotiate at this time. One other interview participant that had considered including mandatory reporting language was concerned that mandated reporting would produce too much data which the sponsor was currently not equipped to handle. One sponsor stated that although his air- port’s contracts did not contain mandatory reporting language and the sponsor had apparently had no dis- cussions with tenants about including such language, all of the contracts at the airport contained a broad “audit clause” that would allow the sponsor to access the tenant’s documents and internal reports if necessary. 144 One sponsor has mandated reporting of incidents and accidents (not necessarily hazards) through revisions to its rules and regulations as part of its SMS implementation. This approach is discussed in more detail elsewhere.

25 which both individual participants attributed in part to the implementation of SMS.146 That sponsor reported that since SMS implementation, the air- port has experienced fewer incidents and the insur- ance company sees the organization as a lower risk enterprise, resulting in lower rates. This sponsor also pointed to mandating compliance under the sponsor’s rules and regulations, which the insur- ance company viewed favorably. Two other sponsors reported that although they have not seen a reduc- tion in rates, their respective insurance carriers have been actively involved in the implementation process by participating in safety risk management panels, assisting with the development of hazard reporting software, and providing input on the drafting of the SMS manuals. One other interview participant reported that he felt the sponsor lacked leverage to negotiate changes in rates or insurance policies in the absence of a final rule. 9. Governing Documents As discussed elsewhere, one sponsor reported making significant changes to its rules and regula- tions and employee policies as a result of SMS implementation, and another reported adopting ordinances to assist with enforcement of safety issues. Several sponsors also reported that they had made changes to their training programs, as also noted above. Other than those instances, no sponsors reported making any changes to existing governance documents, with most noting that they were specifically waiting to make such revisions until a final rule is published. Most sponsors did, however, report that they were aware these docu- ments would need to undergo review and revision (including by the sponsor’s legal staff) as part of SMS implementation. D. An Overarching Issue: Regulatory Uncertainty The overarching legal issue identified by the sur- vey participants was the continued uncertainty of the FAA’s rulemaking process and the resulting delays in implementation of SMS. Nearly every interview participant mentioned that their sponsor had delayed some aspect of SMS implementation — including several who have delayed implementation significantly—in anticipation of the final rule, and that this uncertainty permeated their SMS imple- mentation efforts. Outside of particular implementation delays, interview participants also discussed the regulatory 146 The interview participants explained that a recent shift in the management of common areas to an airline consortium also likely contributed to these reductions. process reported that they train their own employ- ees on relevant SMS job duties and use their badging process to capture third-party employees. However, most sponsors have not fully implemented a formal training process because of the uncertainty sur- rounding the scope and substance of the training requirement in the final rule. Two sponsors with near-full implementation did, however, report some legal issues with the employees of tenants or contractors that required additional enforcement measures. One sponsor reported that it revised its rules and regulations as part of its SMS implementation plan to mandate the reporting of incidents and accidents, and the wearing of safety vests when employees are in the air operations area and to prohibit smoking in the movement and non- movement areas. The sponsor reported that several airline employees have since violated those revised rules and regulations, and the sponsor subsequently stripped those individuals of their SIDA badges. The sponsor reported that it has not received any com- plaints directly from the airline as a result of this policy, but did receive informal complaints from the union representing the workers who had their badges revoked. The sponsor has not had continued issues with compliance for some time. Another sponsor undertook similar measures by developing an ordi- nance and notice-of-violation system to enforce safety issues, which the sponsor can use to cite carriers, ten- ants, or their employees. This sponsor reported that the ordinances have been revised several times to provide for greater penalties for violations in an attempt to encourage ongoing compliance. 8. Insurance Issues For those sponsors that reported any involve- ment with their insurance carriers, they generally reported positive trends with policies and rates.145 Sponsors with more robust SMS programs reported that they had, at the very least, provided informa- tion about their programs to their insurance carri- ers. Although some reported that the insurance carriers had provided no response or had made no changes to the policies or rates, others reported more promising results. Several sponsors that have actively involved their insurance carriers (or had insurance carriers that chose to become heavily involved) in SMS imple- mentation have seen reduced premiums and deduct- ibles as a result, though the sample size is small. One sponsor reported a significant reduction in insurance premiums and a complete elimination of the sponsor’s deductible over the past five years, 145 We did not survey any insurance carriers in the preparation of this Legal Research Digest.

TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Legal Research Digest 36: Legal Issues Related to Implementation and Operation of SMS for Airports provides a review of potential legal issues, an in-depth analysis of identified issues, and the benefits experienced by airports that develop and operate a Safety Management Systems (SMS).

Implementation of SMS in the airport and aviation sector has been an ongoing process since the early 2000s in the United States. As of 2018, few airports have implemented SMS and even fewer have reported legal problems with early adoption. This report relies upon data from airports that have voluntarily implemented an SMS program.

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    Read chapter V. PRESENTATION AND DISCUSSION OF SURVEY RESULTS: TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Legal Research Digest 36: Legal Issues