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Attorney Doug Passon uses Surface to pursue personal and professional passions

Written By published August 11, 2016

We designed Surface to help people pursue their passions and be as limitless as their imagination. That means we get to meet Surface fans every week that truly embody this spirit – doctors, engineers, lawyers, students, architects, designers, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs, developers and others who are truly amazing and inspire us every single day. Today we’re highlighting Surface user and fan, Doug Passon.

Doug is a veritable Renaissance man—a lawyer, an entrepreneur, an award-winning film maker, a writer, a musician, teacher, and father who uses Surface because “it is actually the most powerful and lightweight laptop computer I’ve ever owned.” A frequent flier with demanding technology needs, Doug relies on Surface to pursue his personal and professional passions.

For the majority of Doug’s career, he’s been a defense attorney. And for over a decade, he has been combining his passion for filmmaking with his practice of law by producing short documentaries for use in litigation. He is nationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of visual advocacy and teaches legal professionals across the country how to effectively integrate emotionally evocative images into their practice. 

Doug first heard about Surface from his sister, who works at Microsoft, and it has changed how he pursues all his ventures. He’s started a business called D-Major Films to help other lawyers learn a) how to use photos and film in cases and b) how they can use time-tested storytelling techniques in their practice to cultivate empathy for their client.

Surface partnered with Doug so he could share some of that learning en masse at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco during a session called “The Art and Science of Visual Advocacy.” Doug’s talk followed a session with famed Hollywood screenwriters/producers, David E. Kelley (The Practice, AllyMcBeal) and Jonathan Shapiro (The Blacklist and Boston Legal). Their discussion was a fitting lead in as they discussed how shortened attention spans are increasingly common, which requires that attorneys be superior storytellers who incorporate multiple “wow” moments in their presentations.

Attorney Doug Passon speaking at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco
Attorney Doug Passon speaking at the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco

This is precisely the issue that Doug tries to help his fellow attorneys address. In civil cases, mini-documentaries can help juries understand the impact that an incident had on the plaintiff and in a criminal trial, they can be used to show the impact on a victim’s family or to help humanize a defendant. During his presentation, Doug helped reassure the crowd noting that if someone is intimidated by trying to create a short film, doing something as simple as including photographs in the body of a brief, rather than in the exhibits, can dramatically improve a judge or jury’s connection to the person and situation at hand.

Beyond the legal profession, Doug also uses his Surface as his songbook when playing music.

“Instead of a traditional music stand with sheet music, I mount my Surface on a tripod and use a wireless foot pedal to turn the pages during live performances.”

Doug Passon

He actually ended up using that same foot pedal during his aforementioned ABA presentation because it gave him the flexibility to use both his hands while talking to the crowd.

Given how often Doug is on the road, he needs a device as powerful as a Surface. Before his presentation at the ABA, he shared with me that “the really cool thing is the juice this machine has. My work sometimes requires managing a terabyte of digital video and editing those files down to a 10-minute movie. I can do video editing on the road, which is amazing.”

I enjoyed meeting Doug, but was especially intrigued by the sense of community he feels when he sees someone else with a Surface. “I remember when I was younger and a friend got a Corvette. I learned that there is this thing between Corvette owners that when one passes another on the street, the drivers nod at each other. The same kind of thing happens with the Surface. Then the talk inevitably turns to what cool gadgets we use with it, like the Arc Mouse, the wireless adapter, etc.”

Even his kids can’t get enough of Surface. Doug’s got two boys who are avid gamers so “it’s a challenge keeping my Surface to myself because it is more powerful than either of the computers they use. Also, when I told my 12-year-old about the facial recognition feature on Surface Pro 4, he thought that was about the coolest thing ever.”

We look forward to sharing more stories of how Surface fans (and apparently their children) are doing great things in the weeks to come.