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Alex Brown

Alex Brown
Former A2L Director of Operations, Guest Blogger, and Consultant at The McCormick Group, the largest independent executive search firm in the Washington, D.C. area. Alex can be reached at [email protected] or 703.841.1700 x244.
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Dr. Robert Cialdini has identified six basic principles of persuasion. One of them is liking. If people like you, they are more likely to say yes. Why is that important to a litigator? Quite simply, any litigator wants to persuade a jury, judge or other adjudicator to agree with her, and if the adjudicator likes her, she is more likely to win her case.  The key to getting someone to like you is to remember that it’s not just a momentary feeling but a sum of everything that the person thinks about you – and that the feeling is not permanent, but you can at any time do something to improve or to detract from the person’s feeling about you. As a litigator, you are always one misstep from losing the audience.  Here are ten things you can do as a litigator that will make you more likable: Focus on how you are perceived. In 2015 Jimmy Fallon put U2 in disguise and had them play at the 42nd subway stop in New York City. Even with cameras around, and the odd fact that the lead singer sounded just like Bono, they were largely ignored. Jimmy then framed the band (again in disguise) as a local band wanting support. Suddenly, once it was known they are U2, everyone went crazy. The most remarkable part was seeing an adolescent looking at them when in disguise as if he is waiting for a car crash, but the next time you see him, after the reveal, he is dancing and completely loving what he is hearing. They music did not change, just the framing. How you appear to your audience will set the stage for how they react and their willingness to give you the benefit of the doubt. See also, Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom. Ask questions. It is human nature to be helpful, and we all have the desire to share what we know. When someone appears to need our help, we tend to like them more because we are the ones providing answers. Just remember HOW you ask them is crucial.

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting I read an article today that can be applied to our industry so well that I thought I should apply its lessons. The article was written by Eddie Shleyner and is titled: How to Defeat Your Most Dangerous Writing Habit: 7 Ways to Lift 'The Curse of Knowledge' The article highlights the concept of being cursed due to knowing too much. The issue refers to someone who has studied a subject so thoroughly that it becomes difficult to explain it to people who don’t know as much about the subject. As an example, he discusses the book, Made to Stick, where the Heath brothers provide an example: “Think of a lawyer who can’t give you a straight, comprehensible answer to a legal question. His vast knowledge and experience renders him unable to fathom how little you know. So when he talks to you, he talks in abstractions that you can’t follow. And we’re all like the lawyer in our own domain of expertise.” Cognitive bias is what we are talking about. Shleyner notes that this is particularly dangerous to writers, since in conversation, a listener can ask questions to clarify the issue. But litigators, when giving an opening or closing statement, are in the same boat as writers since they are unable to ask or receive questions from their audience. So, how can you defeat this curse? Ironically, more knowledge is the answer. The more you know about the curse, the less likely you will succumb to it and the more persuasive you will be. Let’s take a look at his seven best practices to combating this curse and apply them to our industry. 1. Know your audience’s base subject knowledge. Jury Research. Focus Groups, Mock Exercises. Basically, you need to know your audience. Not only to know how they think, but why, what, who, where and the often forgotten wow. Learn how they think, learn the history to know why they think this way, but most importantly, figure out how to say it in a way that will wow them and be remembered. Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom 5 Reasons Why Jury Consulting Is Very Important Group Psychology, Voir Dire, Jury Selection and Jury Deliberations

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting While I was working on a case with one of our clients, it came to light that the opposition was using a trial technician for trial. At first our client did not want to bear the expense and did not feel that the case lent itself to the use of a full-time “hot seat” operator. I asked the client a few questions: What percentage of potential jurors carry a smartphone? Of that group, how many have tablets? Of those people who are “connected,” how many will be impressed by the flash and professionalism of a skilled trial tech? As you would expect, the numbers were high. It was obvious to everyone that if you are on a case and one side is using trial software, you have to match the other side or be left in the dust. People expect to see technology in the courtroom, appreciate the effort if it is made, and do not understand if one side does not use it. If your opposition is using modern technology and you are using the overhead and drawing on flip charts, your message will be lost. In this instance, we helped our client find a solution that did not permit the opposition to make it look unprepared and unprofessional. Here are 10 good rules for using trial presentation software to the best effect.  Provide training. Make sure if you are going to use it, know how to use it or find someone that does. The software is designed to make your presentation effective and seamless. If you are not getting that result, bring in someone who can. Use the right tool. Sanction, TrialPad, TrialDirector (laptop or iPad), and OnQue are the top platforms today. Use the one that’s best for you. Ninety percent of trial teams that use this type of software use TrialDirector, simply because it works. This should not take away from the other platforms. Sanction has improved, and OnQue is the new kid on the block and seems to handle video much better than the alternatives. But comfort is paramount, so use the platform that is most comfortable to the one presenting. Remember, you are not the one running the presentation. They are there to support you.

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting Nearly every person can recognize a successful and persuasive public speaker when he or she hears one. But it’s not always so easy to identify the specific traits that nearly all successful speakers share. As a longtime observer of oral advocacy and persuasion, I have compiled a list of the things that all speakers should do if they want their audiences to listen and care about what they are saying – especially if their audience happens to be a jury or judge. Start strong. As you know, your opening statement will win or lose the case. So it makes sense that the opening of your opening – the very first few sentences -- is vital. Use this as your chance to set the stage. The majority of people on the jury do not want to be there or see their jury service as a waste of time, so don’t waste their time. Catch them quickly and hold their attention.  Know your audience. Make sure you are speaking to your audience, and not at them. Do you understand their background, their culture, their education level, and their socio-economic standing? Can you identify who the likely leaders will be, and can you get them on your side? Do you already know who your advocates on the jury will be? Sounds hard, but if you have a top-notch jury expert, they can give you the ammunition to know these answers before you open your mouth. 

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6 Ways to Become a Better Storyteller

by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting As we have mentioned before in this blog, the art of storytelling is a crucial skill for a trial lawyer. From the very beginning of a trial, many jurors will envision the facts of the case in the form of a story. Our brains are wired to tell stories, to listen to stories, and to remember stories. Storytelling began with the caveman and the campfire and is still the best way to present information to an audience. Think of the difference between these two statements: I went to the market. I went to the 7-11 at midnight to buy a Diet Mountain Dew and to play Pokemon Go because I am addicted to that game. Statement 1 is just a flat statement. It has no specifics and does not draw the reader or listener in. Statement 2, on the other hand, intrigues the reader or listener. Why did you go that late at night? How did you fare in your session of Pokemon Go? What happened when you got home? And so on. It is potentially the beginning of a story. As a trial lawyer, you will be telling stories. You want your audience to be drawn in and involved. Here are some points to consider in developing a story: Have a purpose. Who wants to hear a story when you know that the storyteller has no destination or end in sight? You feel trapped. Or worse, you zone out and stop listening to save yourself the pain of the journey. Your audience, a judge or a jury, is human and will react similarly.

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting My oldest daughter is a volunteer for our local congressman. At dinner last night she heard some quotes from a current presidential candidate and proceeded to excoriate them. Usually I toss in the old adage “If you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything.” This time I didn’t and instead talked to her about our 16th president. Many of you might know the story of Lincoln’s Letter to General Meade. On July 4, 1863, Lincoln realized that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was trapped between the Potomac River and a fast-moving Union Army behind him, and sent an order to General George Meade to move in for the kill and end the war. Instead, Meade held a war council and got multiple points of view. While he was doing so, Lee was able to escape over the Potomac with his soldiers. Lincoln was furious. He wrote a letter calling out Meade for his stupidity and lack of fortitude and questioning his ability to command. We will never know Meade’s reaction because Lincoln never sent the message. Instead, he thought about things from Meade’s perspective, and the fact that they had just finished a bloody battle in Gettysburg and how that might have affected Meade’s willingness to engage at a random location with so many variables. Lincoln also realized that dressing down his general would do nothing to help morale and would not change what had already happened. Lincoln gave us the perfect example of how to be a communicator. This is a lesson that we should reinforce in everything we do. We should be aware of these lessons when we are dealing with witnesses, experts, jury, judge and even support personnel and litigation consultants. You are always being watched, and people will always judge you on how you act with those you meet. What are the keys to communication?

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SPICE Is the Key to Persuasion

by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting

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