Technology changes so rapidly and so often, we as consumers quickly forget what was on the cutting edge just a couple years ago. Tony Canzanella, right, does not. Once an aspiring advertising artist from upstate New York, Canzanella has built a considerable living animating the intricacies of technology for high-powered legal clients who stand to win or lose the occasional hundreds of millions of dollars in patent infringement suits centering on itty-bitty differences in the process. As the founder and principal of Resonant Legal Media, he oversees an operation spread among 25 artists and legal consultants in four cities.
Resonant opened its latest office at 12 Roszel Road late last summer but spent much of the ensuing time setting up. Much of the hold-up is due to the cycle on which the courts operate. Like school, courts conduct most of their activities between September and Christmas, then things slow a little until spring, when they go crazy again, only to level off for much of the summer.
With the autumn crush subsided and the spring crush still several weeks away, Canzanella and company are settling into Princeton. It is a perch from which Canzanella hopes to tap into the area’s considerable number of legal firms.
Resonant, founded in 2006, handles any type of case in which a legal team needs a visual aid. These aids can be anything from a simple PowerPoint with graphics to a narrated animation describing the process by which semiconductors are activated.
By spring Canzanella hopes to have at least four artists, including himself, stationed at Roszel Road. Stationed, but not by any definition of the word stationary. Though court proceedings generally follow bankers hours scheduled well in advance, attorneys and their teams follow exactly the opposite path.
Some months, Canzanella says, he sees more of the road than he does his home, flying out to “the war room” in some hotel or law firm in Texas, or hopping on a train to Delaware, where many major federal court cases happen.
“October was just a blitz,” he says. “In three weeks I worked about 300 hours.”
When not traveling, Canzanella lives in Robbinsville with his wife, Jennifer, with whom he used to work at a law firm in New York, and their baby daughter. Jennifer is originally from Manalapan and Tony from upstate New York, so they wanted a suburban life rather than a city one, he says.
After graduating from SUNY-Albany with a bachelor’s in visual communications and graphic arts, he wanted to be in advertising, but there were no jobs in New York City in the early 1990s. He saw an ad in the paper for a law firm seeking an artist and never looked back.
Over the years, Canzanella, now 40, honed not just his art but his business acumen, learning what it took to manage a company and not just an artistic enterprise. The time commitment is the biggest drawback, as attorneys often need things to happen right now — even if right now is 10 p.m. Attorneys in the cases he works sometimes have entire companies and hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, he says. It isn’t nickel-and-dime stuff that can be done some other time.
If the legal team breaks down, the consequences can be severe. And it isn’t just attorneys. Sometimes judges set deadlines for all supporting media materials that are more than a little inconvenient. Once, Canzanella says, a judge decided that she wanted all such materials in on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Canzanella spent dinnertime with his family, but not much before or after. It gets tough sometimes, he says, but one good thing is that his wife used to do the same thing for a living, so she understands, he says.
Members of Resonant’s team, based here and in Dallas, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., have been involved in a number of cases that most people would know — the O.J. Simpson trial; Exxon-Valdez; and Snoop Dogg’s 1996 murder trial, among others. They also have been involved in major corporate cases involving such players as Adobe, Advanta, and Ely Lilly.
When a legal team needs to make a visual point, Canzanella works through what the attorneys want to say, then helps translate enormous amounts of dense technology into something non-scientist juries and judges can understand. Sometimes it’s simple and direct, sometimes it’s full-blown computer animation.
Though not a scientist, Canzanella says he is endlessly fascinated with distilling science to the layman, and he is always learning. He does have an eye for the mechanical, though, and he credits his father, an auto mechanic from the Bronx, and his grandfather, a self-taught architect.
Under it all, though, Canzanella considers himself neither artist nor techie. “At the end of the day, we’re educators,” he says.