A2L supported a major win at trial last week, and the lessons from that win are extremely useful for any litigator.
The case involved two of the world's top litigation law firms and, respectively, two of their top litigators, both of whom have storied careers. A2L worked for the plaintiff, an inventor. The defendant was a multi-billion dollar technology company that had licensed the plaintiff's technology.
The dispute largely centered around the defendant's decision to stop paying licensing fees to the plaintiff. It was a complex case, and A2L's role was to help achieve a win through a combination of litigation consulting, litigation graphics and litigation technology.
Although we work on plenty of small cases, A2L Consulting may be best known for its work in cases with tens of millions, hundreds of millions, and frequently billions of dollars at stake. In these cases, simply making a clear and attractive PowerPoint slideshow is not what a litigation consulting firm gets hired for and certainly not all that a trial team needs. Instead, in big-ticket litigation, a litigation consulting firm's ability to deliver real value-add to the trial team will be the measured by its ability to:
- support developing an opening statement;
- run meaningful practice sessions with the 1st chair;
- assist in the development of a story and theme;
- ensure the story is one jurors will care about;
- make sure the message (both spoken and visual) is clear;
- incorporate lessons learned from any mock exercises into opening statements and litigation graphics;
- develop the litigation graphics so that their design adheres to the latest psychological studies related to persuasion.
Yes, it may be surprising to some, but this is what great litigation consulting firms do (see 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant and 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do.) The complexity of this work explains why you can count on one hand the number of firms capable of doing it.
In my experience, most trial graphics firms are not aware of their own shortcomings, and, unfortunately, many litigators are not aware of the distinction between a simple trial graphics vendor (usually a group of artists, project managers and courtroom trial technicians) and a truly world-class litigation consulting firm (typically led by litigators and Ph.D jury consultants). For example, the CEO of a quasi-competitor to A2L, himself a former law firm hot-seater, said to me, "why would you give lawyers advice since they are paid to have the answers, right?" My answer to him was simple. You, shouldn't give advice.
And this is the line that separates litigation consultants from mere PowerPoint trial graphics vendors. It's a bright line, and once you understand it, there should be no confusing who fits into which category.
Leading up to trial, A2L provided all of the services listed in the bulleted list above and more. I had a chance to see the opening statements in this case. Our client humanized his client and told a clear story. He told a story that jurors couldn't help caring about. Told by him, it was simple to get behind the client. Moreover, his litigation graphics were well-refined and simple. They incorporated the latest persuasion science that cautions away from the use of bullet points and too much text. Frankly, his opening was delivered well enough that it would have been hard to beat him.
I believe that most cases are won and lost in the opening statements. It is during opening that the jury normally picks a side to root for and everything else is heard selectively to fit into this framework that each juror builds on his or her own (confirmation bias). Accordingly, enormous time and effort must be invested in preparing for opening statements. This includes many practice sessions, mock trials, a long iterative process of developing litigation graphics for opening and attention to all the other details like trial technology. In this case, opening statements were only about three hours long in total, however the trial lasted three weeks.
I'm proud to share the news that our side won after just a day of deliberations, and the jury awarded what is likely to be one of the top 10 verdicts of 2014, north of $300 million (A2L is normally on two or three of these top 10 cases each year). I am immensely proud of my colleague’s work on this case.
Other articles and resources related to litigation consulting and storytelling on A2L Consulting's site:
- Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L
- Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer
- Free Download: Top 50 A2L Litigation Consulting Articles of All Time!
- Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That?
- Are You Smarter Than a Soap Opera Writer?
- 10 videos to help litigators get better at telling stories at trial
- Free Webinar: Storytelling for Litigators
- 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do
- 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant
- Free Download: Storytelling for Litigators
- 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion
- Storytelling Proven to be Scientifically More Persuasive