by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Jury Consulting
I once asked an actuary why he chose that profession, and he replied, “Because I didn’t have enough personality to become an accountant.” The truth is, though, that nearly everything is interesting in some way. It’s the rare case, for example, that’s really dry as dust.
But many cases have aspects that are, at first glance, boring. As an advocate, what do you do when faced with one of them? Here are some suggestions.
1. Use the boredom to your advantage. There may be facts that are not advantageous to your side. Don’t emphasize them, and they may not draw attention.
2. For points that are advantageous, create excitement. Use verbal “drum rolls,” as in “Now THIS is really important.” Or, “If you remember just ONE thing about this case, it should be . . . ”
3. Create visual distractions. Your graphics don’t have to be black and white blow-ups of Excel spreadsheets. There are many ways to put forth the same information, but making them interesting takes a professional and an artist/designer, not a paralegal or an associate with no training in information graphics.
Another approach is to create a memorable experience by evoking discomfort. For example, you could simply present a list of airline bankruptcies and say that no one wants to see one more, or you could develop an uncomfortably long scrolling list that presents the same information in a thought-provoking way.
4. Work with the jury. Acknowledge that there is information in the case that may be less than interesting, but add that you will do your best to keep it moving. Then keep your word.
5. If the stakes warrant it, pre-test the case through mock-jury research, searching for ways to streamline the case so that the trial is neither longer nor more tedious than it needs to be. Learn the themes that emerge, the ways that lay people express the issues in their own terms, what they find confusing, what matters to them, and what aspects of the case, if any, they don’t view as boring. Perhaps the most exciting point is damaging to your case. It’s better to know in advance.
6. Bring out the significance of your expert instead of assuming that the jury knows it already. Here’s where name-dropping can be helpful. “Our expert has a doctorate from Harvard and trained at the London School of Economics.” Or, “Our expert worked on these issues for the largest accounting firm in America.” Make sure that the expert exudes confidence, but not arrogance, looks the part, and speaks in language lay people understand. Bring out the expert’s accomplishments graphically and explain them in a way that the jury will understand.
7. Use graphics to keep things moving. If you show jurors (and judges) something good to look at, it keeps them interested, reinforces memory, makes you appear more competent and organized, and cuts down on boredom.
8. Use mixed media. Don’t present everything in a PowerPoint. Mix it up, switching at a comfortable pace between slides on screen to enlarged boards, from static images to animations, etc.
9. If appropriate, use humor. Instead of being the egghead with the nerdy information that no one else can relate to or appreciate, bond with jurors by seeing it from their perspective. If you can’t do that, add someone to the trial team who can.
10. Now THIS is really important and if you remember just ONE thing, it is that nothing has to be boring. It’s up to you. The moment you acknowledge that it is, and find a way to link it to other people’s experience, especially in ways that are potentially universal, teach people in a way that is painless and aesthetically pleasing, and find a way to tell a story about it, ta da! It isn’t boring any more.
Other articles about using litigation graphics, use of humor, being likable and more from A2L Consulting:
- 10 Things Litigation Consultants Do That WOW Litigators
- Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom
- Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools?
- Knock, Knock. Misuse of Humor in Litigation and the George Zimmerman Trial
- 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint
- 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials
- 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said
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