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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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Environmental Litigation and PowerPoint

Environmental law is something that I have found fascinating for decades. In fact, I was involved in environmental litigation even before I founded A2L more than 23 years ago. It was a topic I focused on during law school and during the summers when I worked for a major pharmaceutical company. Since then, A2L has been involved in more than 100 environmental and energy cases involving more than 10,000 cleanup sites. These cases have ranged in size from a few million at stake to over $20 billion at stake. All these cases have a few things in common. First, most clean air and clean water cases necessarily involve with complex scientific concepts. Often topics such as plume migration, organic chemistry, and the concept of parts per million must be explained to the jury, the ultimate factfinders, in an understandable way. For the last ten years, another thing has become ubiquitous in environmental and energy cases -- the extensive use of PowerPoint. Here are three examples of the use of PowerPoint to show how complex topics can be translated into easier-to-understand pictures. First, here is an example of PowerPoint (converted to video format for easy viewing) that shows how one can illustrate both historical contamination issues and modern soil sampling by combining PowerPoint, photography and some simple illustration. This presentation is typical of those presented by experts in groundwater contamination cases.   This next example is really a contract dispute with energy and environmental issues embedded in it. It is an example from one of the so-called Yucca Mountain cases. In this line of cases, because the government failed to build the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, it is on the hook for ongoing damages for the costs of storing the waste, particularly spent nuclear fuel rods, at each nuclear power plant facility. Litigation occurs when the government and the plant operator cannot agree on the costs of this storage. This is an example of a PowerPoint that combines extensive technical illustration and PowerPoint to explain the hundreds of steps and the levels of complexity in removing the reactor pressure vessel and fuel rods from one facility. Hundreds of illustrations are loaded frame by frame into PowerPoint to create the feeling of an animation.

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This week, Regina Hopper takes the reins as A2L's Managing Director of Litigation Consulting. In her new role, Regina will be responsible for directing the efforts of A2L's 20+ litigation consultants, litigation graphic artists, and trial technicians nationwide. For A2L clients, who are most often trial attorneys from large law firms representing large companies, her experience brings added depth to A2L's already robust 23-year-old litigation consulting and litigation communications practices. Regina comes to A2L with an extremely broad background in litigation, trade association work, public policy, and the media. She joined A2L in 2017 and she also serves as senior vice president for global public policy of GRIDSMART, a company that develops smart, cost-effective technologies to improve the safety and efficiency of the nation’s transportation system. Before joining GRIDSMART, Regina was president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, and deployment of intelligent transportation systems to improve the nation’s surface transportation system. The group has taken the lead in introducing Congress, the media, and the nation to the concept of driverless cars. She also served for four years as president and CEO of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a trade group that advocates for the development and utilization of natural gas resources. While there, Regina first encountered A2L who she engaged to support ANGA's advocacy and persuasive communication efforts. Regina also served as executive vice president of US Telecom and of the American Trucking Associations. Prior to that she was senior vice president of litigation communications at Weber McGinn, a leading public relations firm. Regina was a D.C.-based correspondent for CBS News, where she won an Emmy award for her work on the “48 Hours” show. In her various trade association positions, Regina developed an expertise in assisting industry leaders communicate legal and public policy initiatives to the public and federal, state and local policymakers.   Regina is a graduate of the University of Arkansas School of Law licensed in Arkansas. In 2012, CEO Update selected Hopper as one of the nation's top association CEOs. In that same year, The Hill named her to its annual list of top lobbyists. “What pulls my whole career together is my interest in storytelling and my ability to tell a story,” Regina says. “Whether someone is doing advocacy for a trade association, testifying as an expert witness, or reporting a story as a White House correspondent, it’s always a matter of working with a team to tell a story. It all has to be concise, understandable, well-written and logical.” Regina succeeds Tony Klapper who is now Assistant General Counsel for Products, Regulatory, and Litigation at Volkswagen. Tony succeeded Ryan Flax who is now an Administrative Patent Judge at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Regina Hopper can be reached at 703.548.1799 or hopper@A2LC.com. Additional articles and resources available from A2L related to litigation consulting, litigation communications, litigation graphics, litigation storytelling, and litigation technology include: Top trial lawyers talk about working with A2L Top trial lawyers explain why storytelling is so critical for persuasion 10 Things Litigation Consultants Do That WOW Litigators Free E-Book: What is the Value of a Litigation Consultant? 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant 3 Types of Litigation Graphics Consultants Free Webinar: Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool Free E-Book: Storytelling for Litigators Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere 10 Types of Value Added by Litigation Graphics Consultants Explaining the Value of Litigation Consulting to In-House Counsel 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Top 7 Things I've Observed as a Litigation Consultant 9 Reasons Litigation Consultant is the Best Job Title in Litigation

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Any time it is feasible, I prefer to price our work using alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) of some sort. They give our customers, which are generally major law firms, predictability and a sense of control. In addition, they provide predictability and control to the ultimate client that is paying the bills, which is typically a large corporation. For A2L, alternative fee arrangements, such as fixed fees, fee structures with a floor or a ceiling, or bonuses for winning a case, offer enormous benefits as well. We achieve the same financial predictability that our clients seek, and AFAs allow us to create closer relationships with our clients. And for firms like ours, our clients, and their clients (the major corporations), alternative fee arrangements do something much more important than creating financial controls. They return the focus to winning.

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A Surprising Lesson From Voir Dire

I get excited when I am called for jury duty. After all, my entire 25-year professional career has been focused on persuading judges and juries. Serving on a jury is a rare opportunity to get a view from the inside. It allows me to confirm everything I routinely watch in mock trials and have learned. For example, see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said. When I get called, and yesterday was that rare day, I watch everything -- from how potential jurors are organized to the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the pool, and every little choice the lawyers make, from clothing to tactics. Unfortunately, the fact that I am a litigation consultant always comes out during voir dire. The last time I was on jury duty, I made it through voir dire and served as foreman in a small traffic case. My fellow jurors said, “You know more about this than the rest of us, so you be our foreman.” That made sense to me, and I know myself to be a good facilitator of group discussions. It was all less formal and only five jurors were seated. Today was different. Thirty-six potential jurors were called for a 12-member jury. So I knew we were going to be facing a criminal matter. Ultimately, I was dismissed, but not before I had a chance to observe the process once again as a juror and to make some observations. Once voir dire began, I noticed that the prosecutor focused very heavily (probably too much) on potential jurors who had a connection with law enforcement and the legal industry. In the process, she exposed many government-friendly law and order jurors, doing herself a disservice. She also exposed me in a discussion around witnesses who lie – something that I had seen in a recent matter that A2L consulted on. Defense counsel put on an aggressive voir dire. She visibly angered many potential jurors by using deeply complicated hypotheticals and double negatives. Jurors turned against her, she invited many objections, and the judge ultimately turned against her as well. Her techniques exposed many jurors who were likely to be biased. However, her unapologetically brash approach distanced her from every juror. So, for the defendant's sake, I hope that her co-counsel is putting on the opening. This was not just my opinion. After being released, a group of 10 also-released jurors rode down in the elevator with me. They were abuzz with negative comments about defense counsel. I asked, so did she piss you off? The universal answer was hell yes. The lesson is that although there’s no question that it’s a good idea to weed out certain types of jurors, trial lawyers must never forget that they are dealing with human beings, not computers. It’s possible to antagonize the very jurors whose votes you need as early as the voir dire process. Don’t do anything that can stand in the way of building that fragile rapport that a trial lawyer needs to develop with the jury. Other free A2L Consulting articles and resources about voir dire, jury selection, being likeable, and more: 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said A Jury Consultant Is Called for Jury Duty 5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always 5 Voir Dire Questions to Avoid The Voir Dire Handbook | Free Download | A2L Consulting Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 7 Tips to Take “Dire” out of Voir Dire 10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You 10 Signs of a Good Jury Questionnaire 13 Revolutionary Changes in Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It? 12 Insider Tips for Choosing a Jury Consultant Do I Need a Local Jury Consultant? Maybe. Here are 7 Considerations. Who Are The Highest-Rated Jury Consultants? Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said  

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Quite frequently, defendants in major cases will decide to form joint defense groups. Joint defense groups are intended to provide defendants with significant efficiencies that result from common effort in facing a common adversary, whether in a patent case against the same patent holder, tort litigation against the same set of injured people, white-collar criminal actions against the government, antitrust litigation against the same plaintiff, and so on. But joint defense groups, which by their nature bring together several high-powered lawyers at a single defense table in the courtroom, can present unique challenges. Sometimes, joint defense groups will work as planned and the defendants will reap the benefits of their cooperation, and sometimes they will break down. Here are some best practices for joint defense groups to follow at trial that will help them succeed rather than fall apart in the heat of trial. Clear Leadership. The group should pick a clear leader. Studies of organizational behavior and dynamics show that for “pop-up businesses” with limited durations and specific tasks to accomplish, like movie production crews or trial teams, success is associated with the early selection of a team leader. Many trial teams may be afraid to antagonize a lead attorney for one of the parties who is not chosen and may thus hesitate to make a choice, but it is best to pick a leader and move forward that way. Just Enough Consultants. The group should pick one consulting firm for each trial-related task – for example, one consultant to handle all graphics and litigation consulting. The “too many cooks” phenomenon is definitely present if the group decides to select multiple vendors for key consulting roles in the trial. The attorneys should be focusing on their case, not on resolving disputes between vendors.

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The Top 21 Litigation Articles of 2017

Every year going back to the start of this blog in 2011, I have paused to look back over the past 12 months of articles and see which were deemed best by our readers. Some articles have been read 90,000 times while others, often surprisingly, are only viewed a few dozen times. In this method of article ranking, every reader view is a vote. This year's top 21 list is consistent with recent years. Articles about storytelling and voir dire are the most read. The #1 ranked article, in particular, was very popular because it was not only about storytelling but features three top trial lawyers (all clients of A2L) talking on video about how they incorporate storytelling techniques into their advocacy. Enjoy these articles and please do encourage a friend to subscribe (for free) to this blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Soon, we will have more than 10,000 subscribers. Each of these articles can be tweeted or shared on Linkedin using the buttons below the article. Click the titles to view the articles. 21. What Trial Lawyers Can Learn From Russian Facebook Ads 20. 5 Key Lessons You Can Learn From Mock Juries 19. How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer

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