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There are so many legal industry "best of" surveys that I have a hard time keeping track of them. Just about every month in one of them A2L is voted the top firm in either jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting, litigation consulting, or for our trial tech/hot seat services.    I am grateful for our clients and blog readers who take the time to help and vote for us. It is a very big deal for me to see the company I helped build these past 24 years be recognized. While I know our people are the best at what they do, it is still it's nice to hear other people say it too.   In a sea of surveys, one rises above the rest — The annual Best of the National Law Journal.   A2L has been named #1 in this NLJ survey before. Today, I'm asking a favor of our readers.   Would you help us be voted #1 in the nation again? It takes 2 minutes to help us be (publicly) recognized as the nation's top litigation consulting firm.     We are nominated in four categories. Here's how you vote: Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BestofNLJ2019 before November 1, 2018 Answer at least questions 11, 55, 58 & 59 Click through the next buttons until you click DONE.                        

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When Preferred Vendor Programs Go Bad

It has become quite common for major corporations to institute preferred vendor programs for their legal representation, under which a limited number of law firms pre-qualify to do legal work for the corporations and the corporations turn exclusively to these law firms. As an article on the American Bar Association’s website noted in 2014: Companies create preferred counsel lists not only to cut costs but also to build relationships with subject-matter experts relevant to their industries in their most important geographical areas. By consolidating work across fewer firms, companies deepen their counsel’s familiarity with their issues and get more consistency in their representation. Corporations are also using preferred vendor programs to select other types of outside professionals – including, significantly for our purposes, litigation consultants, jury consultants, litigation graphics consultants, and trial technicians. A few years ago, in fact, we published an article here suggesting no fewer than 17 best practices that should apply to the implementation of a preferred vendor program for trial consultants. The third of these suggested best practices perhaps should have been listed as the first, since the way I see things in our industry, it is the most relevant to what is going on today. It was: Remember, litigation is generally a one-time thing: You never want to be so focused on price that you overlook this. For trial support, you generally only get one bite at the apple, and vendors, especially new ones, can be a risk. So, as you consider procurement, be mindful of quality. Trust me, all firms are not created equal in this industry.

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We have written many times about what separates good trial teams from world-class trial teams. One article collectively written by many people inside and outside of A2L stands out to me as seminal. It can be found here: 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams If I could have all trial lawyers read only one of our articles, it would be this one. It is one of more than 600 on our site, but it succinctly reflects our leadership's best thinking, and it best summarizes what most of the other 599+ articles say. This simple list of 10 criteria, especially when used as a trial team self-assessment tool, is a thing of magic. In arriving at this deceptively simple list, we captured hundreds of years of trial experience. At first, we identified 50 trial team traits that set the great ones apart from the ordinary (you can see these in this article). When we reduced these 50 traits to 10 key criteria, I think we revealed the secret ingredients of a successful trial team. And in the two years since that was published, I have not seen any reason to revise the criteria. In fact, I’ve seen this list turned assessment tool perform consistently: Trial teams with low scores lose cases; trial teams with high scores win cases. Nowhere on this list do we explicitly use the term groupthink, but our thoughts on the subject are certainly implied through our selection of these 10 traits. First, what is groupthink? Wikipedia says: “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.” During trial preparation, members of a trial team can easily put not wanting to be wrong or different ahead of challenging a group decision. We have written about trial teams becoming dysfunctional under severe stress several times before in articles like: 5 Signs of a Dysfunctional Trial Team (and What to Do About It) When a Good Trial Team Goes Bad: The Psychology of Team Anxiety Groupthink is a little different than the nearly complete group breakdowns described in these articles, however. It's a little more subtle and not quite as nightmarish. Still, groupthink can derail a case -- and it often does. Although groupthink can raise its head at any time, we often see it emerge when a trial team is evaluating an opening PowerPoint deck under development, particularly if there are more than five people doing the evaluating. Members of the team will avoid challenging everything, including the specific slides, the order the story is told in, and what not to say during opening. Instead, they will give the appearance of agreement by staying silent. This is groupthink and it does not help win cases. It does the opposite. Here are nine ideas for solving these problems in a trial team. Get the “buts” out of the room: This is an expression we use at A2L. When you are doing creative work, nothing shuts down the creative mind more than someone who jumps in to say why something won't work. These statements usually start with the word “but.” See, Dealing With That ‘Bad Apple’ on Your Trial Team. Establish rules for your trial team meetings: Here are two we often use: silence is acceptance, and no spectators allowed. Ask your litigation graphics team for variations to stimulate thinking. Looking at one litigation graphic may generate some discussion, but looking at two variations guarantees it. Ask for this from your provider. See, 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important.

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This weekend, television news is sure to be dominated by Hurricane Florence. Many of us will watch the all-too-familiar scenes of high waves hitting the coastline and reporters being blown about by powerful winds. It's almost routine from a TV-watching perspective. But one unusually persuasive graphic caught my attention this week. Did you happen to see the Weather Channel’s storm surge simulation? I think it’s brilliant, and it potentially offers some lessons for forward-thinking trial counsel. The simulation begins at the 55-second mark in the video below:

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I’ve been watching the baby powder/talc trials closely for the past several years. They feature some of the world’s best lawyers, and they are pushing the boundaries of scientific evidence. For anyone in the litigation business, the talc trials, as well as the trials involving the alleged cancer-causing properties of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, form a fascinating window into how big-ticket cases are being tried right now. In both lines of cases, plaintiffs are showing early dominance, and I think the defense accordingly needs to adjust both how it handles demonstrative evidence and how it deals with scientific evidence. Interestingly, both of these types of trials can be watched on the Courtroom View Network (CVN). I have long advocated that trial attorneys should be watching other trial attorneys on CVN because there’s almost no other way to see today’s great lawyers in action. In the most recent talc trial, famed plaintiffs lawyer Mark Lanier of Houston took on Johnson & Johnson, which makes talcum powder products. He asserted that his clients, 22 women who used the products, were exposed to asbestos found in talc and that this exposure caused them to contract ovarian cancer. The case is notable for many reasons. The result was certainly remarkable as this past July, plaintiffs were awarded nearly $4.7 billion in damages by a jury in a Missouri state court. The case is also one of the most high-profile cases to utilize genetic evidence. And that aspect was particularly interesting to me as this is an area that A2L and its partners at Innovative Science Solutions have been discussing for the last couple of years. We even held a conference on the topic of the use of genetic evidence in civil litigation. So let me discuss two aspects of this case. First, while I am not an expert in analyzing genetic evidence in civil cases, I do understand how to use it and how to present it. In this case, the defense was clearly reluctant to use genetic evidence, and it only lightly cross-examined plaintiffs’ genetics expert. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll speculate that like other defendants, Johnson & Johnson may have feared that by presenting genetic evidence as a defendant it would position the plaintiffs as a so-called eggshell plaintiffs, making liability easier for plaintiffs to prove. See takeaway #6 in this article where we discuss why this thinking is specious. Whether or not defendants were concerned about the role of genetics in conveying to the jury that these may be eggshell plaintiffs, Lanier appeared to adopt this approach anyway. He utilized genetics to affirmatively allege that the plaintiffs were especially vulnerable to the effects of talc. This highlights an apparent growing trend of the plaintiff utilizing genetics to demonstrate plaintiff susceptibility to alleged toxins and a need for the defense to effectively address and rebut this assertion. I haven’t seen that tactic before. and similarly situated defendants must get ready for this tactic in other cases. A good place to start would be talking to my friend and frequent collaborator Dr. David Schwartz at Innovative Science Solutions who is doing pioneering work with the group ToxicoGenomica. The second element of this trial that I found fascinating was Lanier’s use of demonstrative evidence. In most big-ticket litigation demonstrative evidence is exchanged a day or so before it is used, to allow for objections to be made. Clearly, Lanier has figured out a workaround by drawing (or having his colleague draw) a highly prejudicial demonstrative that for whatever reason the defense did get excluded. It's the featured picture in this article, but let me show you what I mean in this clickable video clip and transcript below from our friends at CVN. Here Mark Lanier perfectly combines the eggshell plaintiff approach with an objectionable piece of demonstrative evidence to powerfully drive a point home. His message is that some people are genetically more susceptible to cancer-causing agents like asbestos and that Johnson and Johnson and their baby powder products pushed plaintiffs over the cliff where cancer happens. Other free A2L Consulting resources related to genetics in civil litigation, litigation graphics, and demonstrative evidence include: With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? 7 Key Takeaways from the Genetics in Civil Law Conference Free slide decks from the Genetics in Civil Law Conference Free E-Book: The Litigator's Guide to Combating Junk Science - 2nd Edition Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 3 - Understanding the Bad Science The Importance of Litigation Graphics in Toxic Tort Litigation 10 Key Expert Witness Areas to Consider in Your Next Toxic Tort Case Free Download: Using Science to Prevail at Trial or As an Advocate 7 Reasons the Consulting Expert is Crucial in Science-Based Litigation Using Trial Graphics & Statistics to Win 12 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Trial Graphics Consultant Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 1 Teaching Science to a Jury: A Trial Consulting Challenge 5 Valuable (and Free) Complex or Science-Focused Litigation Resources Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers

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Trial teams frequently wrestle with questions surrounding how simple a trial presentation should be. It’s a good thing to worry about. They worry about coming off as condescending. They worry about the story being impossible to simplify. They worry about what order to tell the story in. These are all understandable questions to wrestle with. Unfortunately, on the question of how simple a case should be made, I think most trial teams end up talking themselves out of the right answer. So here’s the answer in five parts.  A trial presentation should be so simple that: 

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You don’t have to take it from me. There’s a good reason that Bread – the 70s band that virtually invented California soft rock with unforgettable hits like “Baby I’m-A Want You” and “Make it With You” – hit #4 on the Billboard Chart in the spring of 1971 with “If.” (“If a picture paints a thousand words . . . “) Pictures do, in fact, paint a thousand words. It is a universal truth. Images are evocative; they engage the viewer and hold her attention; they can convey abstract concepts more efficiently, and often better, than words; they can level disparities in literacy, language, and intellect. For us here at A2L, the adage is not a subject of mere lip service, but an article of faith – a conviction that your presence here signifies that we share. All that being the case, why aren’t you all insisting upon having me, your litigation graphics and persuasion expert – or someone like me – present at your mock trial and focus group exercises? You certainly should. Just as the purpose of a mock trial or focus group exercise is to test-drive the arguments that the lawyers intend to present verbally at trial, it is also a crucial opportunity to assess how well the litigation graphics visually echo and even amplify, those arguments to create winning impressions. To create those impressions, you’ve brought together a team of professionals to produce a compelling factual, legal and visual presentation and to assess the impact of that presentation on your likely jurors. If you believe, among other things, in the power of compelling visuals to sharpen the focus and boost the potency of your arguments and themes, then leaving your litigation graphics consultant home is one big mistake. Just as we coach you to integrate litigation graphics in ways that avoid divided juror attention, we counsel against splitting the attention of your team and diluting the quality of its members’ observations by doubling up their responsibilities at mock exercises. To assure maximum performance, let every member of the team serve his or her highest and best use – think Indy 500 pit crew. This includes a principal member of your litigation graphics team: let him or her focus squarely on the jurors’ engagement with and reaction to the visuals. With their words, gestures, body language, attention or disinterest, mock jurors tell us how well our litigation graphics accomplished their intended purposes – what worked and what didn’t. They can tell us what they understood and what left them confused. However they “tell” us what they think, if the jurors do not exhibit the desired response, it is the time to change the graphics to evoke a better one. Who better to pose carefully tailored questions in real time to gauge the visuals’ punch or to scrutinize and take away for productive use in reworked visuals these crucial real-time impressions than the professional responsible for creating them? Testing the strengths and weakness of your case is a fundamental purpose of mock trial and focus group exercises. So much of what the format unlocks is intimately tied to being present in real time. In that respect, nothing beats watching real people grapple with the real issues and actually engage with, study, and even poke holes in the real mock trial graphics. It makes the most of the exercise and is the best way to ensure continuity as the team takes the litigation graphics to the next level for trial.  Hearing about it secondhand is no substitute. Not even financially. Since the recordings of the exercises can be stopped, rewound and restarted when studied after-the-fact, any significant cost savings intended by leaving the litigation consultant behind are seldom realized. Since a picture paints a thousand words, let’s practice what we preach: insist that your litigation graphics consultants watch your mock trial and focus-group exercises, rather than simply read about them. Other free A2L Consulting resources related to mock trials, focus groups, and litigation graphics consultants: Why You Should Pressure-Test Your Trial Graphics Well Before Trial 5 Ways to Win Your Trial by Losing Your Mock Trial 9 Things That Define the Best Litigation Graphics 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics Free Webinar: PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design™ 13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck Trending: Mock Trial Testing of Litigation Graphics AND Arguments 3 Observations by a Graphic Artist Turned Litigation Graphics Artist 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant 6 Triggers That Prompt a Call to Your Litigation Consultant 11 Small Projects You Probably Don't Think Litigation Consultants Do 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest 11 Ways to Start Right With Your Litigation Graphics Team 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint Presentation Graphics: Why The President Is Better Than You Using Litigation Graphics in Bench Trials: How Different Is It From Jury Trials? 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations 8 Videos and 7 Articles About the Science of Persuasion Please Pretty Up These Litigation Graphics How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?

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If a director of a motion picture or a play loses his or her audience, the result will most likely be disastrous. The same is true for a trial lawyer. As a lawyer, if you lose your audience, you'll more than likely lose your case. And there are many ways to lose an audience. You might, for example: fail to use images to simplify a case sufficiently for a jury to understand it fail to engage the jury with effective teaching techniques alienate jurors by being unaware of local customs and lingo behave in an unlikable fashion read long passages to a jury, quickly losing the jury’s interest fail to develop a story that a jury can care about fail to use storytelling techniques at all fail to use or fail to defend against reptile trial strategies One other major way to lose an audience is to fail to develop characters that a jury will care about. If you don’t develop such characters, your jury will either not care about your side or will turn against your client from the start. Unfortunately, about half of all trial teams fail to properly develop the characters in their litigation story, and their cases suffer terribly for it. The excuses are numerous: from “We’re a big company, we don't have individual characters” to “Everyone on our side is perceived as bad.” These are just excuses. I can guarantee that 99.9 percent of the time, there will be characters that can be developed.

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