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John Moustakas

John Moustakas
John joined A2L Consulting after trying more than 45 jury trials as lead counsel. Throughout these cases and in his role training younger lawyers in the art of trial advocacy, John has paid particular attention to building effective narratives and persuasive trial presentations. He now shares that experience with A2L's clients as A2L's Managing Director, Litigation Consulting & General Counsel.

Most recently, John was a partner in Goodwin Procter’s Washington, D.C. office (from 2004-2018), and a partner at Shea & Gardner (from 2000- 2004) before the firms’ merger. During his tenure at Goodwin, John was named a Washington, D.C. Superlawyer 7 times (2007, 2013-2018).

John served more than six years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, where he was responsible for criminal prosecutions in both federal and local District of Columbia courts. During his tenure as a prosecutor, he specialized, among other things, in complex cases involving public corruption and government fraud. He has structured and overseen long-term investigations leading to successful prosecutions involving mail, wire and bank fraud, money laundering, tax offenses, bribery, false statements, obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy. He has also investigated and successfully tried several homicide cases.

In private practice, John has represented clients in connection with allegations of criminal misconduct involving mail, wire, and securities fraud, conspiracy, tax fraud and evasion, money laundering, economic sanctions, export controls, bribery, kickbacks, gratuities, and espionage, among other things. He has led domestic and cross-border investigations on behalf of major corporations and represented individuals, including senior U.S. and foreign government officials, in government investigations. In addition to criminal trials as a prosecutor and defense lawyer, John has had an active civil litigation practice, representing leading corporations, institutions, and individuals in a wide variety of legal disputes, including insurance, securities regulation, toxic torts, real estate, employment, discrimination, civil rights, shipping, and contracts.

John graduated with honors from both Boston University in 1986 and Cornell Law School in 1989, where he was a Note Editor on the Cornell Law Review. He clerked for Judge Joseph L. Tauro in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts and for Judge Robert Boochever in the Ninth Circuit.

John has appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” weekly news program and a documentary aired on the Discovery Channel in connection with his representation of a client wrongly accused of being “the most damaging spy in U.S. history.” He has appeared on other U.S. news outlets, including, among others, NBC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post. In addition, John has appeared as a commentator on Swiss television in connection with the Justice Department prosecution of Swiss banking giant, Credit Suisse.
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In a recent post here, I confessed my guilty pleasure: watching NBC’s hit reality singing competition, ‘The Voice.’ But I also acknowledged my frustration over the format: too much inconsequential fluff that’s got nothing to do with singing. For one thing, there’s the vapid bantering between the coaches and the inevitable and insincere implication that every pairing of performers compels a decision as agonizing as Sophie’s Choice. And then there’s the over-dramatization of many contestants’ personal stories that can feel a bit cringy when the judges purport to empathize with issues around, among other things, body image, bullying, sexual orientation, and loss. (In fact, watch for a future blog post about the importance of authenticity). These personal subplots help explain why, as I previously pointed out, the most exceptional voice rarely wins ‘The Voice.’ And in all of this is a lesson about jury trials. Who wins ‘The Voice’ depends on who decides who wins ‘The Voice.’ Succeeding in the early rounds depends upon winning over elites – judges who are experts in vocal performance. One would expect qualities like timbre, tone, pitch, range, resonance, phrasing, articulation, dynamics, as well as good taste, among others, to feature prominently in an assessment of the best voice by the music judges. By contrast, audience members are far less likely to be capable of similar discernment. While the public can authoritatively say what it likes, it is not sufficiently trained or experienced to identify the superlative voice the program promises. Yet, to win on ‘The Voice,’ a contestant must ultimately win over the less discerning voting public and not the elite judges. What it takes to succeed with subject matter experts is quite different from what it takes to win over an essentially unsophisticated TV audience. In fact, their very unsuitability for discerning technical vocal quality with sufficient granularity to distinguish among a field of talented singers may explain why audience members likely consider a broader (and more accessible) range of criteria, such as the performers’ feel-good back stories. Perhaps, in that sense, ‘The Voice’ imitates life, where it is as important to be lucky, and liked, as it is to be superlative. Just as a contestant on ‘The Voice’ must manage the transition from being judged by experts (musical superstars) to being judged by lay people (the viewing public), so too must the trial lawyer. Most of us have spent an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of our professional time and energy persuading the minds of other well-trained, elite legal professionals – in-house lawyers, opposing counsel, and, at the top of that heap, judges. We know precisely how to talk to them because we speak the same language.

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Part 1 of a multi-part series. I have a shameful secret: I watch NBC’s ‘The Voice.’ In fact, to come entirely clean, I guess I should say, “I faithfully watch ‘The Voice.’” The revelation of this guilty pleasure would come as a surprise to people who know me because of both my specific contempt for “reality TV” and my more general disdain of formulaic dreck. Ironically, ‘The Voice’ is both – in spades. Apart from the musical performances, there is a surfeit of contrived drama: the competition and bantering between the judges, and the often cloying back stories of the performers. Ugh. But there is no curious conundrum to resolve here: I like ‘The Voice’ despite the fact that it is unabashedly formulaic reality TV (a sin that technology helps me minimize). For those of you who don’t know it, ‘The Voice’ is a singing competition. And I happen to be captivated by musical talent. I get completely floored by a 14-year old girl with the vocal timbre of Billie Holiday or Amy Winehouse and am left slack-jawed by the burly former linebacker with the range and falsetto of Philip Bailey. But it’s not just the surprise of those incongruities. For me, it is almost exclusively about the quality of the performers’ pipes and, occasionally, the musical instincts and insights of the “superstar” musicians who first judge, then coach, the contestants. Now, I suspect that my television viewing habits hold your interest just about as much as my love of pudding, but there is a substantive point behind this confessional. Useful lessons about trial presentation and persuasion can be learned from ‘The Voice,’ which first aired in 2011.  First, some background. ‘The Voice’ is a complex, intensely dramatic version of the old-fashioned talent show. At the end of each season, one singer, drawn from the ranks of thousands of Americans who believe they have musical talent and have entered the competition, is crowned the winner and signed to a recording contract.

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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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Because (apparently), if we only had 15 more minutes, we could all save 15% or more on car insurance, GEICO has run a series of amusing TV commercials that imagine surreal sources of wasted time, including a Pictionary-playing sloth, Emperor penguins betrayed by faulty GPS, and an interstellar commander who loses his spaceship’s keys in the midst of an alien attack.

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