Very often, trial lawyers face what feels like an impossible dilemma. The case that they want to present is extremely complex, intensely tedious or worse yet, both.
However their audience, the very people who need to understand the facts of the case and render a verdict in the client’s favor, are jurors – everyday people with full-time jobs and often without any relevant technical background. Enter the litigation consultants.
Whether a case involves a patent dispute over electronic circuits, or an environmental issue involving leaking storage tanks, or an antitrust prosecution where complicated business strategies are being tested, it’s pretty certain that the jurors who are the ultimate decision-makers will have little or no previous knowledge of the topic. Let's hope they can muster an interest - most jurors can - for a reasonable period of time. With this pretext in mind, the good news is that there are proven strategies employed by litigation consultants to solve these very problems, and these same strategies can be used by trial counsel in any case.
So, how does one prevent jurors from being bored and tuning out the trial presentation? After all, a great case on the law and the facts is useless if the jurors aren’t listening.
The answer is: Use any one (or a combination) of these 5 proven trial presentation techniques used by litigation consultants to provide entertainment value while you, as trial counsel, educate and persuade.
Create a Compelling Visual Experience: When people watch the news, they now typically receive it in 30-second sound bites, YouTube presentations, and color photographs, diagrams, and graphics. Like it or not, the days of families gathering to watch Walter Cronkite each weekday evening are gone.
Decades ago, many daily newspapers, prodded by the success of USA Today, started putting data about everything from baseball averages to political poll standings to vaccination rates into color-coded charts and graphs. The Internet, where most people receive the majority of their news today, only magnifies that trend.
Good litigation consultants use the same visual communication methods to help trial counsel create a compelling experience for the jury -- one that communicates with them on a variety of different levels. So, instead of using PowerPoint exhibits only, also use printed trial boards in combination to mix the mediums and enhance the viewer’s experience. Instead of showing documentary evidence only, consider including some appropriate animation. Rather than showing your presentation entirely on a screen, show some photos on an iPad as well.
Create a complete experience using information design tactics that touches all senses and all three learning styles. It’s all about the total trial presentation – not just the answers that the witnesses give on the stand and the summations to the jury.
Create a Memorable Experience: Lawyers need to provide the jurors with a memorable experience if they expect the jurors to pay attention. Trial lawyers can mimic the memory techniques used by experienced litigation consultants. Even with a “boring” or “technical” subject, if you use the right tools, jurors will remember.
Consider the use of scale models or physical models in the courtroom to make a case more memorable for a juror, especially those with a kinesthetic learning style. Remember also that color coding and the use of alliteration can further imprint the memory of the listeners and keep their attention, so do not discount these simple devices to help jurors track information and key facts.
Also consider using an image that sticks with a jury. In the example below, in order to convey the notion that an expert gives different business valuations to different audiences, we use a memorable image of the two-sided man. Obviously the goal here is to undermine credibility of the opposition’s expert.
Use Interesting Analogies: A good analogy can be delivered orally or by video, diagrams, animations, three-dimensional models, or anything that will keep jurors’ interest. A lawyer can use this strategy regardless of how large or small the client’s pocketbook is.
For example, if the case is about software and whether the modifications constituted an invention, use a familiar analogy to tell that story instead of continuing to show line after line of code. Putting an abstract concept into everyday terms can help eliminate confusion and can sometimes create the added value of a more emotional connection to the facts.
- Animation in Some Form Works: A top-rated litigation consulting and animation company knows how to build exhibits (whether the budget is severely limited or not) that convey information graphically and in a manner that piques the viewer’s interest. Keep in mind that animation can be as simple as movement of information on a screen, ghosting (dulling) images or text to spotlight specific content at the pace desired by the presenter, or highlighting a key statement from a document. Animation takes many forms and can allow the litigator to take control of even the most mundane information and present it in a far more interesting way.
Litigation consulting companies, from their years of practical experience in managing trial exhibits, know what will work and what will not. A well-prepared animation will always capture a jury's attention. Some forms of animation can be produced in-house, and others require the help of litigation consultants. Learn about 4 courtroom animation styles in this article.
- Tell Great Stories: The job of any trial lawyer is to advocate for his or her client’s interests as zealously as possible within ethical limits. Today, that responsibility includes making sure that the jurors remain awake, interested, and entertained. Litigation consultants use information design techniques in litigation to help tell great stories.
For example, if the case turns on the credibility of a key witness. Tell a memorable and emotional story about them. In a corporate fraud and bankruptcy case, we successfully undermined the credibility of the plaintiff by pointing out his mixed motives in the case and his pattern of "wearing many hats" to suit that which benefited him most financially.
Consider any or all of these top 5 winning litigation consulting techniques whenever you prepare to present and you can be certain that your presentations will be the better for it.
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