Animation for the Courtroom

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City Firm Provides Animation for the Courts

November 6, 1996
By Micheal Eskenazi Staff Writer

High profile, high-priced criminal trials have convinced many Americans that justice can be bought, especially by the rich. Alexandria businessman Kenneth Lopez counters that the most flashy courtroom tools can be bought at rates available to the masses.

Lopez is president and CEO of Animators at Law, an Alexandria firm that creates computer generated animation to assist attorneys in courtroom visualization of events and circumstances.

While five years ago the costs of such trial technology were prohibitively expensive for most litigants, Lopez said, computer animation is increasingly finding applications in the simplest court proceedings.

Animators at Law is the most recent local entry into what has become a $200-300 million per-year industry, which is doubling annually.

"Now it's affordable," Lopez said, explaining why the industry has taken off in recent years. He said that services that would have cost $50,000 five years ago, now cost about $5,000. Animators at Law's services begin at about $1,500 per case.

Lopez, 28 on Friday, Nov. 8, sees himself uniquely suited to head such a firm. While in law school in 1994, he took up computer animation as a hobby. During his final year of law school, he saw an opportunity to combine his legal training with the training developed by this interest, and took it.

He opened Animators at Law with an existing computer animation firm.

While some Alexandria residents may remember Lopez as a West Potomac High School student, who 10 years ago pumped gas at the Exxon station on North Washington Street, members of the local legal community are rapidly getting to know him as one of the experts of a new and highly useful tool.

Lopez said his firm has a huge advantage in the burgeoning field of courtroom animation with his understanding of legal concepts and ability to translate that knowledge into something his staff of computer animators can work with.

"The world of attorneys and the world of computer animators are so different, and I've seen both worlds," said Lopez. "I speak both those languages and that makes me effective at what I do."

Animators at Law employs eight computer animators, and contracts out for services such as trial consulting firms, which provide insight into the type of visuals juries will respond to.

The firm's Mount Vernon Avenue offices are the embodiment of an attorney's needs meeting a computer animator's talents. Most of the office is occupied by long-haired designers, who adorn its walls with comic book figures and listen to 1990s rock music while working. Lopez's corner office, however, has the distinct feel of an attorney's quarters, with a large, clear desk, speaker phone and a PC, and a clean-cut CEO.

Lopez said he finds Alexandria the ideal home for his business, as Northern Virginia has the fastest growing hub of technology-based businesses in the U.S. Unlike California's Silicon Valley, and North Carolina's Research Triangle, which are the only two areas in the nation with a greater number of technology-based firms, Northern Virginia firms can target the courtroom-laden District of Columbia and the megalopolis from North of New York City to south of Philadelphia.

Lopez said his plan is for the firm to go public in three to four years.

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