by Ken Lopez
When I speak to an audience about the work A2L does (other than trial lawyers from large law firms), I sometimes hear the question, “Is the kind of work A2L does fair?” That is, is it fair to have trial consultants support a trial team and use the latest in persuasion science to advocate only one side of a case? In a group setting, my lawyerly answer is usually something like, “What does ‘fair’ mean to you?” Then we litigate the nuances of fairness.
What I really think, however, is that the work we do definitely tips the scales of justice in our client’s favor. Is that fair? Probably. After all, ferociously advocating one’s position using all available tools is one of the hallmarks of our justice system. But what if, as is typical, one side has a larger litigation budget than the other. Is it fair to have a firm like ours on one side and not the other?
I've heard others reply to this question by comparing the vast differences in trial lawyer quality and arguing that the system is designed to smooth these talent gaps out. I don't have a specific answer right now, so I I'll simply say that I think it's a fair question. Trial consultants do influence outcomes of cases, sometimes to an enormous degree.
Indeed, a branding firm, after surveying our customers and staff, once recommended that we use “Unfair Advantage” as our firm motto. I never really fell in love with the motto, and we didn’t end up really using it, but I understand the sentiment completely.
In more than 20 years and thousands of cases, I’ve never seen one that was not improved by the input of a trial consultant. I've seen losing cases turned to winners and damages swing in the billions of dollars. Consider 12 advantages that trial consultants offer – ones that your opposition might say are just not fair.
- A Fresh Pair of Eyes: Trial lawyers who like to get their answers questioned outperform those who are not open to much input. Trial consultants offer a safe place to bounce theories, narratives, demonstratives, voir dire strategies, trial presentation strategies and more off smart people who are on your side. See 7 Reasons a Fresh Pair of Eyes Are Beneficial Before Trial.
- An Experienced Pair of Eyes: If you've been in the litigation industry for decades like me, you've watched as trial lawyers who used to go to trial every year now go to trial only every three, five or even eight years. Meanwhile, trial consultants have moved in the opposite direction and often see dozens of trials per year. So high-performing clients and high-performing trial lawyers very sensibly rely on trial consultants to enhance the trial experience of the team. See With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now?
- Practice: One of my former colleagues turned judge was so right about this: “They call it the practice of law but nobody is practicing.” Trial consultants help trial teams practice effectively. This is critical because so few trial teams are really practicing. Those who don't practice in front of peers underperform others. Those who do, outperform most trial lawyers. It's so obviously correlated with good outcomes, I believe that the quality of practice is a reasonable proxy for the outcome of a case. See 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation.
- Even Michael Jordan Had a Coach: Name an athlete or anyone at the top of their game and you'll likely find a coach who helped them improve. That's what high-quality trial consultants do. They help bring out the very best in a trial lawyer. See Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators.
- Getting the Right Jury: Most jury research we engage in has a voir dire component. Conducting a mock trial with a voir dire component massively influences how juries are picked, and the makeup of a jury massively influences the outcome of a case. We've even released an entire book on this topic. See New and Free E-Book: The Voir Dire Handbook.
- Persuasion Science with Visuals: Understanding how visuals persuade people is a surprisingly new science, and many new discoveries are being made. Trial consultants bring a level of understanding regarding visuals that is not present in a law firm. There are visual persuasion tactics that knowledgeable trial consultants can use to influence juries. See Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? and 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations.
- Persuasion Science with Rhetoric: Similarly, there are rhetorical techniques such as the use of repetition and surprise that are now known to persuade juries. Just the way you start your opening will influence what a jury thinks. It's not malpractice to not know these things, but it is certainly not a good practice. See A Surprising New Reason to Repeat Yourself at Trial.
- Persuasion Science with Storytelling: We so often write about how storytelling can be used to persuade. We even recently interviewed some top trial lawyers and asked them how they use storytelling. Rely on a talented trial consultant and they will make you a better storyteller. See Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important.
- Trial Consultants Save You Time: You can delegate certain persuasion-related tasks to a trial consultant that allow you to focus on other elements of the case. This gives you a real advantage over opposing counsel who cannot do this. See Trial Consultants: Unfair Advantage?
- No Lost Opportunity Costs: My mentor likes to advise me in my CEO capacity by saying, “Only do what only you can do.” This advice works well for a trial team too. If you're editing PowerPoint slides, you're disobeying this good advice. See How Valuable is Your Time vs. Litigation Support's Time?
- More Poise = More Persuasion: The way you carry yourself influences your persuasiveness. Watch this video from Amy Cuddy and read my article about her new book. Trial consultants help give you real confidence by supporting you as a trial lawyer and they can also advise how to do this in those situations where you just need to fake it. See A Harvard Psychologist Writes About Presenting to Win.
- Using Trial Technology Well: Many lawyers think they can use technology effectively, but not many really have this skill. A good trial consultant will understand courtroom technology and will help you get a leg up on the other side. See 12 Ways to Avoid a Trial Technology Superbowl-style Courtroom Blackout.