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It seems to me that a good many sophisticated people, including a lot of lawyers, don’t fully understand the role of storyboards in developing an animation. A storyboard has been defined as a graphic organizer in the form of illustrations or images displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing a motion picture, animation, motion graphic or interactive media sequence. The first story boards were used by the Walt Disney animation team in the early 1930s, and at A2L, we use storyboards in exactly the same way – to pre-visualize an animation that we are intending to use at a trial. As longtime readers of this blog may know, I came to this business about 25 years ago, just after my law school graduation. I knew a good deal about computer animation in the Toy Story era, and I originally envisioned A2L as a trial animation company for attorneys, focusing in the intellectual property area. A2L has grown to become a leading trial consulting firm and a top provider of litigation graphics and jury research, but I’ve always had a special fondness for litigation animation. Animation remains a very vibrant part of trial practice, especially now that common tools like PowerPoint provide a basic animation function as a standard offering. It’s no longer necessary to bring in a specialized designer to provide animation for trial. We’ve written about this in articles like Legal Animation: Learn About the Four Types Used in the Courtroom, What Does Litigation Animation Cost? (Includes Animation Examples), and Patent Comes Alive! Turning Patent Drawings into Trial Presentations.

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Rapport, or lack of it, between a first-chair attorney, who is in charge of a trial presentation, and his or her trial tech can make or break a case. When this rapport exists, the result is akin to a well-choreographed ballet, a perfectly orchestrated symphony performance, or a beautifully planned newscast. Everything happens on time and on cue. There are no pregnant pauses, and visuals feel as if they support what is being said by the lawyer, rather than being used as a reminder to tell the lawyer what to say. When this relationship is not perfect, the trial presentation can feel like watching a streaming online movie that is constantly pausing to be buffered. When a presentation has not been sufficiently practiced between a first-chair attorney and a trial tech, you will see missed timing, flustered attorneys and a general unease that does not have to be there. Trial techs, of course, are the people whose job is to ensure that content flows in a smooth, pre-scripted fashion, making the trial lawyer look like a polished presenter. The trial tech controls the electronic presentation in court, brings in the evidence at just the right time, and plays audio and video of depositions in a way that helps the judge and jury appreciate and understand the case. A good trial tech, as I have said before, frees the lawyers and the litigation consultants to marshal the witnesses and the evidence to tell a compelling story. A great trial tech produces that seamless result. Some litigation graphics consultants can have only a limited interaction with the first-chair lawyer, and the trial can still be a success. That cannot be true of the relationship between the top lawyer and the trial tech. That must be outstanding. How can you make sure it becomes outstanding and stays that way?

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Trial Lawyers and the Power of Silence

One of my professional mentors had a saying: Let silence do the heavy lifting.  This is good advice in many business and personal contexts. When you want to hear what another person really thinks, stop talking and wait for him to speak. Let him finish his statement, and don’t “rescue” him by interrupting him. Two thousand years ago, a rabbi in the Talmud said, “All my days have I grown up among the wise, and I have not found anything better for a man than silence.” This principle is still valid, and it applies well in the context of communications during trial between attorneys, juries and judges. I’ve noticed that many trial lawyers all too often believe they have too much to say in too little time and are obsessed with pressing a great deal of information into the hands of the fact-finder. But endless words are not always your friend if you want to be a successful persuader. Recently I observed an opening statement in which a trial lawyer applied these principles perfectly. Her client needed to make a point about the existence of ongoing communications between two parties over the course of a decade. This point was so important that it warranted special attention during the preparation of the opening statement. So we designed a litigation graphic that focused on these communications. We made sure that these timeline events rolled out slowly to the jury, slowly enough that the brief periods of silence between them caused some discomfort. This tactic noticeably changed the pace of the opening statement. It set a tone that forced the jurors to pay attention. And it wouldn’t have worked as well if the lawyer hadn’t presented her statement quietly and at a slow pace. As this masterful trial lawyer went on with her statement, the room audibly went silent and the jury paid attention. This was an emotional moment that focused the jurors’ minds on the fact of the regular ongoing communications – an essential part of the case for this lawyer’s client. This lawyer let silence do the heavy lifting. We have done this before, in other contexts. In an airline merger case, we scrolled a list of past airline bankruptcies before the jury in a way that was slower than usual – and noticeable. The message was that the airline industry had long been suffering through a dire financial situation and that the merger should be allowed to go through to reduce further bleeding. In all of these cases, the key element is that a skillful trial lawyer can plan her exhibits slowly and carefully and let silence speak loudly.   Other A2L free resources about litigation graphics, timelines, and connecting with judge and jury include: 3 minute video: Three top trial lawyers discuss persuasion using litigation graphics A Must-Have Complimentary 50-page Guidebook for Those Who Use Timelines to Inform or Persuade 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint Connecting With Jurors by Turning Off Your Screen 3 Excellent Ways to Use “Top-Bottom” Timelines in Trial 5 Trial Graphics That Work Every Time 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document 4 Types of Animation Used in the Courtroom Why a Graphically Immersive Trial Presentation Style Works Best Stop Using Bullet Points Why the former President is a Master PowerPointer The Redundancy Effect Search our site for just what you need 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide" 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid Trial Timelines and the Psychology of Demonstrative Evidence Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make

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We at A2L constantly have the pleasure of working with trial teams composed of some of the nation’s best trial attorneys. The teams we work with can be composed of dozens of attorneys, but ordinarily there are three to 12 members. And sometimes, as can be true of any group that is assembled for a particular purpose, there is one member of the group who, without good reason, makes everyone’s life harder. The very presence of this person can have a dulling effect on the trial team’s morale and effectiveness. Any trial team can be seen as an elite unit, like an army platoon, that has a well-defined mission that everyone shares. That common goal of winning the case is usually enough to unite the trial team in a single-minded purpose and to enable everyone to do their best work possible in pursuit of that goal. This type of team unity correlates very well with ultimate success at trial. But when one team member has a difficult personality – for example, proves to be more interested in his or her personal achievements than in the success of the team as a whole – all bets are off. In our article, 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams, we outlined traits necessary for trial team success. A single difficult personality on a trial team can obstruct success in any of the key areas.  

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I have the privilege of working on a regular basis with many of the top trial lawyers in the nation, and they are an impressive bunch. In addition to their knowledge of the law, their capacity for hard work, and their practiced trial skills, they tend to carry an unquantifiable charisma. The great trial lawyer is a person who, when he or she enters a room, knows how to command the room. And although they are not arrogant, they do know that they have that ability and that they can turn it on or off. This means that the great trial lawyers can develop an ineffable rapport with jurors, a connection that is hard to explain and remarkable to see in action. Trial consultants are well advised to leave well enough alone, to “do no harm” when that connection is clearly operational; their job then is to simply sit back and observe this meeting of the minds and hope it will carry them on to victory. But these top trial lawyers, who have developed great sensitivity to issues of rapport and communication, often voice a concern to me. The concern is that they may be using some PowerPoint slides, say to highlight the themes of an opening statement, and then they wish to move on to a point that is not on the slides. But the jurors, they point out, are still staring at that screen, and the personal connection, instantly made, will instantly be lost. Should the jurors be looking at the screen or continuing their focus on the lawyer? It must be noted that the great trial lawyer knows not to make his or her case strictly via PowerPoint and knows how important it is to limit the use of this seductive trial technique. Still, there is a place for PowerPoint at trial and thus a corresponding concern. The trial lawyers’ concern is, fortunately, overblown and easily remedied. The remarkably simple solution is to press the “B” key on the computer keyboard. In PowerPoint, this instantly makes the screen go black, thus removing all competition for the jurors’ attention. Just learn to switch fluidly back and forth, using that key. This will not only preserve the crucial emotional connection between lawyer and jury; it will also lay the groundwork for the lawyer to assume the role in the jurors’ minds of trusted counselor and friend, someone who can make sense of all the evidence and tell a convincing story that puts it all together. I wish all trial lawyers’ dilemmas were so easily resolved. Other A2L Consulting free resources related to PowerPoint, connecting with jurors, and what makes a great trial lawyer include: 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial? The Redundancy Effect, PowerPoint and Legal Graphics 12 Things About PowerPoint You Probably Never Knew How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document New Webinar - PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide" Do Professionally Designed PowerPoint Slides Get Better Results? 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 14 Tips for Delivering a Great Board Meeting Presentation 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That?

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Litigation Graphics in Criminal Cases

Most of the work that a trial consulting firm like A2L does for its clients takes place in civil cases. However, criminal cases also present unique challenges for trial lawyers and for trial consultants, and some of our most fascinating cases over the years have been criminal cases.

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I've always been a creative type. In fact, it was my creativity 25 years ago that caused me to learn 3-D animation during law school and ultimately go on to launch A2L Consulting. In the 25 years since then, I've worked on thousands of cases advising trial teams and leading a team of people who advise top trial lawyers on conducting voir dire, running mock trials, managing complex trial technology, and my personal favorite, developing litigation graphics to simplify, explain, and persuade in complex cases. Focusing in on this creative side of the business, litigation graphics development, I have seen two types of trial teams interact with creative teams -- those that have the knack and are successful working with creative people and those that are not. The impact of these interactions turns out to be very significant. Cases have been won and lost because of a trial team's ability to interact well with a creative team. Like anything, it is a skill that can (and should) be learned. Over the past several decades, I've received feedback from hundreds of trial teams and I've seen feedback delivered to others by thousands more. Below are fourteen things to know about delivering feedback to the creative team.  When creative people create, they offer a piece of themselves up for criticism. Deliver your feedback with this in mind, and you'll be ahead of your peers. If you're a shouter, find someone else to work with the creative team. Say what you mean. It's incredibly important that you be honest about what you like and what you do not. Holding in your criticism in an effort to be kind is not the goal. The goal is to deliver feedback in a productive way.  Find the good and talk about it first. This one is a classic and is what is taught in art school. Simply, find something positive to say and then talk about what you do not like. Early feedback is the most important. If something feels “off” or wrong for the situation, don’t hesitate to give your feedback speedily. If you find yourself reading this list muttering something about sensitive snowflakes, you're not the best person to be working with creative people. Ask a colleague to be the messenger.

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Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently

I’ve written often about trial preparation -- and yet it seems like it’s never enough. I have a unique view of the litigation industry since I work with the absolute top-performing trial lawyers and with many other attorneys who aspire to be like them. What distinguishes the high performers from the mere aspirants is primarily their rigorous and intense preparation. Long-time readers of this blog might remember some of the articles we’ve written to try to help good trial attorneys become great trial lawyers. Here are some of them: 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do Sample One-Year Trial Prep Calendar for High Stakes Cases How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics? How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer and my absolute favorite in this trial preparation best-practices genre:  10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams If I had to summarize these articles, it would be simply that great trial attorneys prepare much earlier and much harder and with much more openness, communication and curiosity than merely good trial lawyers. They are comfortable with technology. They understand how to develop a courtroom presence. They practice relentlessly. I see it all the time.

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