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The Litigation Consulting Report

Still Think Persuasion is About Talking While Showing Bullet Points?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Mar 13, 2017 @ 09:51 AM


by Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

We recently asked three top trial lawyers about what makes them so successful in the courtroom. They are quite a successful trio. One of them is Bobby Burchfield of King & Spalding, whose bio notes, “Mr. Burchfield has never lost a jury trial.” That's an especially impressive track record as he's been in practice more than 30 years.

So what does winning take? Well, as we saw in previous clips from the same interviews, these trial lawyers believe, as we do, that storytelling is at the heart of building a successful case. Furthermore, as all demonstrative evidence consultants and most trial lawyers will tell you, combining persuasive visual evidence with persuasive oral communications produces a truly synergistic persuasive effect. Persuasion is a rare circumstance where 1+1 really does equal more than 2.

Of course, as we have long counseled, just because something is projected on a screen does not make it helpful at a trial. In many cases, as in the case of lawyers who use bullet points to summarize their arguments on screen, some visuals actually make you less persuasive. If yours looks like the image here, then you are certainly doing more damage than good.

For more on why that's true, please see our articles 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere), The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make, and Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors.

In this three-minute clip, we hear from the best of the best -- Bobby Burchfield of King & Spalding, Rob Cary of Williams & Connolly, and Patrick Coyne of Finnegan. And we certainly don't hear them talking about the power of bullet pointed lists.

Instead, you hear these trial-tested litigation experts talking about the use of animation, the value of timelines, and the importance of showing real evidence to ground your argument in credibility.

Burchfield said, “People learn both by seeing and by hearing, and if you can combine those two in one presentation, the more sensory perceptions you combine, the better off you are. Timelines are powerful persuasive tools. A timeline shows from left to right who did what and to whom. Sometimes you show in a timeline above the line what your client knew and below the line what your client didn’t know. It can be a powerful story to show contrasting events that were going on simultaneously. This helps the jury put the entire case into context.”

Cary noted, “When a jury can see something that visually displays the evidence, that cloaks you in credibility. That’s critical in earning their trust.”

Coyne pointed out, “People are predominantly visual. Most people need an image. They need it to tie things together. Ken [Lopez] and his people did a fantastic animation for us. The judge turned to the other side and said, ‘If I credit this animation, you lose. Do you know that?’ It was a very compelling animation. That’s what I mean by appealing to the judge by giving him a visual that explains what you’re trying to say.”

Watching lawyers like these work is a pleasure and their teams score high on our assessment of what makes a great trial team.

Other articles related to persuasion in trial, the use of bullet points, and trial presentation best practices from A2L Consulting:

persuasive storytelling for litigators trial webinar free

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Animation, Storytelling, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Timelines, Persuasion

How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Sep 18, 2015 @ 07:15 AM

by Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.
A2L Consulting

too many words powerpoint slides litigation graphicsLawyers love words. Lawyers love words on slides - tons of words on slides. Some lawyers think that the more words they use on a PowerPoint litigation graphic, the better.

They are wrong. Actually, using too many words on a slide will dramatically damage your effectiveness.

This damage is not aesthetic in nature. This is not about your look and feel. It is scientifically proven damage that affects how well you inform and persuade your audience. Indeed, it can be said the higher your slide's word count, the lower your persuasiveness.

At A2L, we see this every day. Sometimes the trial team prepares their slides in draft form and they have paragraphs of text. Sometimes a trial team just converts their Microsoft Word outline into Microsoft PowerPoint. Sometimes a trial team edits the PowerPoint slides that we create by adding more words.

There are many reasons this occurs. Some lawyers mistakenly believe they are creating a record by including the text. That’s not true. The trial record is something entirely different. Some lawyers want the text on screen so that they have notes to follow and can remember what to say. Some lawyers want to quote relevant text from documents in evidence.

In just about every case, they are making a mistake.

In a nutshell, here's why too much text is a bad idea. There is hard science behind each point:

In fact, probably the only time it makes sense to have lots of text on a slide is when you are specifically trying to obfuscate and confuse. That's a legitimate tactic, but you don't want to employ it unintentionally.

Below are a number of articles and resources discussing the use of PowerPoint litigation graphics that help you think about this text problem in more detail.

powerpoint litigation graphics consultants

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion, Information Design, Persuasion

5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 4

Posted by Ryan Flax on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 03:25 PM


persuasion-opening-statements-words-graphicsby Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

We have discussed four important tips for maximizing persuasion during your opening statement (See parts 1, 2, and 3). The last tip is the use of demonstrative evidence in connection with the statement.

You need to be aware that most people, other than lawyers, are visual preference learners. Most lawyers, in contrast, are auditory or kinesthetic preference learners.1 Most people teach the same way they prefer to learn – so lawyers typically teach by lecturing, since that is most comfortable for them. But this strategy does not help with the majority of jurors, who would prefer to be taught visually, at least in part. So bridge this courtroom gap with demonstrative evidence, including litigation graphics.

You cannot just relay information and be persuasive. A study has shown that lawyers who use PowerPoint in their opening statements enhance persuasion though jurors’ central and peripheral processing.2 In that study, the use of litigation graphics made the lawyers appear (in jurors’ eyes) more competent, more credible and more likable, helped jurors retain information better, and resulted in better verdicts.

Another study shows that you cannot just show some graphics once in a while during your opening statement, but you must immerse the jury in visuals throughout the entirety of your opening.3 Immersion means constantly providing visuals for an audience throughout a presentation.

powerpoint-litigation-persuasive-courtroomKen Broda-Bahm, Ph.D., tested this by presenting opening statements to jurors accompanied by no graphics, old-school-style flip chart graphics, sporadically shown professionally made graphics, and sporadically shown animated graphics. Surprisingly, he found that none of these techniques were persuasively distinguishable. Only when he used the immersion technique did he find that persuasion was significantly improved. With this technique, jurors were found to be more prepared on the evidence, they paid more attention, they felt the evidence was more important, they comprehended better, and they retained information longer.

However, you cannot just make some PowerPoint slides and run off to court and be persuasive. The easiest and most common way lawyers make their own trial presentations is by outlining or scripting an argument in Word and then copying and pasting that script into PowerPoint. This is worse than ineffective and all but promises to harm your case.

Interestingly, a recent study shows that the perceived cost of something matters.4 The study researched the effectiveness of placebos on patients with Parkinson’s disease and found that placebos were effective but that patients who believed they were getting more expensive drugs got significantly more effectiveness from their placebos. This translates to trial persuasiveness in that if your trial graphics seem expensive, jurors will believe that you and your case are better, all things being equal.

Never simultaneously say what you’re also showing in a graphic (this does not necessarily go for something you’re affirmatively quoting). A well-researched phenomenon called the redundancy effect happens when you do this and the result is your jurors’ brains are switched off and they stop taking in any information at all.5 You’ve subjected them to a cognitive load that their brains cannot handle and, so, they turn off. This is not desirable in an opening statement.

And never use bullet point lists as your graphics.6 No great presenter does this. This is often the result of the self-prepared graphics that I mentioned a minute ago where you transfer your script of outline to slides. Using bullets probably means your presentation is “text-heavy,” which is a barrier to effective communication. Also, people can read and understand faster than they can listen to you and understand: 275 words per minute vs. 150 words per minute. By using bullet lists you’ve challenged your audience to read your slides before you can explain their content, and your audience will win every time and stop listening.


The “Don’ts”

Finally, as an extra bit of info, here are some things to avoid in opening statements.

Don’t re-introduce yourself. Don’t waste your first 90 seconds of opening by re-explaining who you are. It’s likely that the judge has already done this or that the jury has heard it already. Even if that’s not the case, wait a few minutes to do it if it must be done.

Don’t pander. Don’t tell the jurors how important their job is or how great it is that they’re doing their civic duty or how thankful you are that they’re here. This is patronizing, and they’ll know it and resent you for it. If you must, simply say that you appreciate their time and are going to try and get them through the trial as efficiently as you can.

Don’t explain how an opening statement works. Don’t explain that your statement isn’t evidence. The judge might do that, but you sure as heck shouldn’t. Most likely, your jurors won’t distinguish between actual evidence, demonstrative evidence, and attorney argument. Why enlighten them?

Don’t tell jurors how proud you are to represent your client. I hear this so often and cringe every time. It’s not persuasive. It sounds insincere. It’s B.S. and jurors will know.

Don’t oversell your case. If you know you cannot prove something, don’t say you can. Promising more than you can deliver will hurt your case and, potentially, constitutes reversible error.

Other A2L Consulting articles and resources related to persuading with graphics, opening statements and using words and pictures in a complimentary way:

One-Question Survey  What Webinar Topic  Should A2L Cover Next?


[1] Attorney Communications Style Study (Jan 2, 2007) (available at http://www.a2lc.com/pressarticles/presslearningstudy.html).

[2] Jaihyun Park and Neal Feigenson, Effects of a Visual Technology on Mock Juror Decision Making, Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 27:235-46 (2013)

[3] Dr.Ken Broda-Bahm, Persuasive Litigator: Show, don’t Just Tell, http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2011/07/show-dont-just-tell-continuity.html (2011).

[4] Espay et al., Placebo Effect of Medication Cost in Parkinson Disease, Neurology vol. 84, No. 8, 794-802 (Feb 24, 2015).

[5] See, e.g., Mayer et al., Cognitive Constraints on Multimedia Learning: When Presenting More Materials Results in Less Understanding, J. Edu. Psych. Vol. 93, No. 1, 187-98 (2001).

[6] See, generally, research by Dr. Chris Atherton (e.g., https://youtu.be/OwOuVc1Qrlg).

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect, Opening, Persuasion

[Survey] What Webinar Topic Would You Like Us to Cover Next?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 @ 04:00 PM


free-litigation-webinar-a2l-consultingby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

A2L Consulting offered its first free litigation webinar just 18 months ago. Since then we've conducted six litigation focused webinars, all free, including:

These webinars may be viewed on our site anytime, and they have been viewed nearly 10,000 times already. I find that amazing.

Since each new webinar is a bit more popular than the one that came before it, it's a bit hard to tell which topics are really the most popular. So, I thought it would be helpful to ask our 6,500 blog readers what topic we should cover in our next webinar (likely May or June). Finding a good webinar presenter will not be difficult. On the A2L team, we have expert jury consultants, trial-tested litigators, experts in persuasion science, the top consultants in visual persuasion and many categories of litigation and persuasion experts. 

By looking at our web traffic and the searches used to find A2L Consulting or free information in the 400+ free articles we provide on our site, we can get a good idea of what is interesting to our audience. In the one-question survey below, I have included the top-ten topics our visitors look for plus a write-in option.

Please choose one of the ten topics below or write in a new topic, and we will develop our next webinar around the topic our audience favors most. When you answer the question, you'll be able to see the results tallied so far. Thank you for being a subscriber!

Tags: Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Litigation Technology, Jury Consultants, Animation, Jury Selection, Bullet Points

12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 @ 02:30 PM


combine oral visual litigation graphics consultantsby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

A lot of litigators express confusion about how best to use litigation graphics. Top litigators are asking smart questions like:

  • Should I pause to let a jury take in a graphic before speaking? 
  • Should I turn off my presentation while I am speaking?
  • How much text should I put on a slide?
  • How much of my slide should I read?
  • And, what's all this negative talk about bullet points (especially when the author of this very article uses bullet points to talk badly about bullet points)?

In many cases, it is litigation graphics consultants who are to blame for this general state of confusion. For decades, litigation graphics consultants have been telling litigators that combining oral and visual messages will increase judge and jury information-retention and understanding. That's correct, but most litigators have never been taught how to combine the two exactly, and getting good results depends entirely on the how.

To drive the home the need to use courtroom visuals, litigation graphics consultants have used science to emphasize their message. Most of us have heard of or talked about the much-cited Weiss-McGrath study. Among other things, it is reported to conclude that combining oral and visual messages will result in a 650% increase in people's retention of information.

So, what have litigators done in the face of all of these confusing messages? They listened and they adapted to the changing times.

Litigators started using graphics in earnest over the past twenty years. Printed trial boards were used at first, and then PowerPoint litigation graphics arrived in the mid-2000's. Despite these efforts to improve courtroom communications, I fear that many times the way oral and visual presentations are being combined is doing more harm than good.

Why? Well, I believe three key things have gone awfully wrong:

  1. Over the last 20 years, very few litigators received guidance from litigation graphics consultants about what works when combining graphics and oral communications.
  2. Without real guidance, litigators made an understandable mistake by using litigation graphics as a means to read bullet point filled slides to jurors.
  3. As for the science, despite thousands of citations to it, there never was a Weiss-McGrath study. Still cited by many trial graphics firms as their Raison d'etre, this report was recently proven to never exist by a diligent law libararian [p27-30 of this pdf]. Fortunately, the science supporting the use of litigation graphics turns out to be better than what this mythological study reported, and I'll describe it below. The fact that this study never existed just underscores the confusion that both litigation graphics consultants and litigators have suffered through these past 20 years.

So, I think we find ourselves in a time where litigators are trying hard to figure out what works best when using visual evidence, and litigation graphics consultants are not doing enough to help them. My hope is to remedy this problem by describing what we modern litigation graphics consultants mean when we promise that you will get better results if you do combine oral and visual presentations - the right way.

Here are 11 ways you should combine your spoken presentation and your visual presentation to achieve maximum persuasion:

1. Forget about bullet points in the way we've come to expect them (like the slide below). Yes, at A2L, we talk about bullets every third article or so, and for good reason. If you read your bullets (and you're likely to do so if you use them) you are almost certainly worse off than if you had not used litigation graphics at all. See these 11 A2L articles about bullet points for more. This applies only to presentations, not written materials where bullets can be quite valuable.

describe the image


2. Use speaker notes. Whether you simply print this information out or you use a dual screen set-up when you project your slides, having your notes available within PowerPoint is simple. Simply place them in this area shown below, and you will be able to print these notes next to your slides or print them alone. Either way, this will help you avoid putting everything you want to say on your slide.

powerpoint speaker notes litigation graphics


3. Never duplicate your spoken message on screen. Instead of reading your slides, plan to have some of your message spoken have some of it be visual. Try to think of yourself as a popular on-air meteorologist. While the weather forecast is easily conveyed with a simple graphic like the one below, it helps to hear additional details, story, and meaning from a person. It is a much more memorable experience to look at this chart while hearing someone say, "Wednesday's snowstorm will be crippling for parts of the DC region."

litigators compared to meteorologists

4. Create some graphics that you can speak to. It's okay - indeed it is possibly better - if you have a graphic that needs some explaining. It will give you something important to say and enhance your message overall. For example, this circa 1997 litigation graphic below does not stand on it's own since you really cannot tell what it means. However, if you explained, using this chart, that the standard of care requires a differential diagnosis (i.e. narrow the cause of several symptoms to a specific disease whenever possible) and Dr. Smith instead diagnosed and treated nine separate problems, you get a clear and memorable picture.

describe the image 

b key powerpoint5. Use the B-Key. Don't leave up or show a slide that is unrelated to what you are saying unless that is an intentional tactic used to distract from what you are saying. The b-key displays a black screen when pressed and returns you to your presentation when pressed again. If you think of a news anchor for a moment, wouldn't it look strange if Brian Williams was talking about the Winter Olympics while there was a video playing of a hurricane over his shoulder? Of course it would. Use the b-key to subtly tell your judge and jury to return their attention to what you are saying, not what you are showing.

6. You don't always need to be speaking, but you probably need to be always showing something. A recent study demonstrated that an immersive style of trial graphics presentation will yield the best results. The results of this study suggest that you should always be showing a visual when you can.

7. Pause. When you bring up a new graphic, let your silence encourage the jury to look at your litigation graphics and soak it in.

8. Subscribe to this blog. This is not (only) a self-serving pitch, I really mean it. If you are in litigation, there are only a couple of blogs that cover this information with real authority. If you are watching what we are publishing, you will stay ahead of others around you. About 3,800 of your peers subscribe already.

9. One concept per slide. Lots of people talk about the graphic below and how it is a great example of effective information design. It is beautiful, but it would make a terrible demonstrative exhibit at trial. Why? Because there is way too much information shown on a single graphic. At trial, keep it simple - one concept per slide. If you have to use a chart like this one, build it up over a number of slides and then display it as a printed trial board.

describe the image

10. Minimize text. In general, never use less than 28 point font size in PowerPoint, and you will be in good shape. This rule will force you to limit the amount of text that you use, and will keep your presentation legible at the same time. You don't want to try to mimic a Steve Jobs iPhone launch exactly, but you want to limit your text as much as possible.

11. Keep up with the science. Academics are turning their attention how one best persuades with graphics. In 2012, one of the most important studies to date was released. It showed specifically that the use of PowerPoint increases persuasiveness. Part of the abstract is shown below. You'll find this article helpful too: 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations.

powerpoint use increases persuasiviness


12. Practice, practice, practice. Don't spend time and money developing a great argument and great litigation graphics only to fail to practice combining the two. We advocate a 30:1 practice to performance ratio.

Combining oral and visual messages is the best way to communicate with your jury. This is based on commonsense, experience and good science. Many lawyers have never been taught the right way to do it, and I hope this article has been a help. I would welcome hearing from anyone interested in learning more or talking about how this applies to a specific trial presentation challenge.


Other A2L Consulting articles about litigation graphics consultants, PowerPoint use, and how best to combine oral and visual trial presentations include:

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Science, Psychology, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect

Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 @ 08:25 AM


do not read powerpoint slides juryby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I was just painfully reminded of how bad a juror's experience can be when we fail to put them first. Yesterday morning, like many of you recently, I had to complete a continuing education course. It was your typical recorded one-hour one-credit online course. That's one of the slides pictured here.

While listening to the instructor, it struck me that the experience I was having was eerily similar to most opening statements. It lasted about an hour, 119 PowerPoint slides were presented, there were lots of bullet points, almost no actual graphics were used, and the content of the slides was dutifully read to me by a well-spoken middle-aged gentleman.

And it nearly killed me.

You see, even though I have a law degree, I am much more like a typical juror than a typical lawyer. When someone presents to me with the intent of persuading and/or teaching me something, I expect a lot, and boy did this presentation fail to deliver.

I expect compelling visuals, I expect videos, I expect to be entertained, and I expect to hear scenarios and examples that I can imagine experiencing. I am a lot like most jurors, impatient and spoiled by twenty years of information being delivered efficiently online or on television. In learning style terms, I am a somewhat rare dominant-kinesthetic learner with a secondary preference for visual learning. In other words, I prefer to experience something when I am learning it, but if I have to, I am almost equally comfortable seeing it.

Click me

Most jurors are visual learners. Most lawyers are not. Most lawyers prefer to speak when they teach or persuade. Most jurors are wondering why we are not showing them more. The same is true for online training attendees like me, and that experience provides a valuable reminder for litigators, one that most of us can relate to.

Why does reading your litigation PowerPoint slides really cause a problem for people?

When you read a slide, you are actually worse off than if you had either only shown a slide and said nothing or if you had only spoken and shown no slide. This is true for at least two reasons, one is commonsense and the other rooting in neuropsychology.

The commonsense reason is that people read faster than you can speak. On average, people speak at 150 words per minute while people can read 275 words per minute. Unless you want to race against your listeners or properly combine oral and visual methods, it is best to choose one approach or the other.

The other reason one should not read litigation PowerPoint slides is not as obvious. It involves something called the split-attention effect and cognitive load. In plain language, our brains get overloaded when someone tries to show us something and tell us the same thing at the same time. The result is that our brains bounce back and forth between communication mediums and end up retaining and understanding less than they otherwise would have had we used only one method. 

To be clear, the opposite is true too. If we supplement good visual aids, like well-prepared demonstrative evidence, with spoken words, a jury will remember more and understand more than if you had just done either. A recent study [pdf] confirmed this fact.

So, for someone like me, I learned what I needed about conflicts of interest in this online module and earned the requisite certificate in the course, but I was miserable along the way. I was bored, I felt my time was not respected, and I felt that little effort was made to make my experience a good one. If I could have punished my lecturer, I would have, and that is precisely the opposite way you want your jurors to feel, right?

Articles related to litigation PowerPoint and using litigation graphics with juries:

using litigation graphics courtroom to persuade trial graphics a2l consulting

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Psychology, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Redundancy Effect, Opening

Free E-Book Download: How to Build Persuasive Visual Presentations

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 26, 2013 @ 11:33 AM


how to persuade visually persuasion ebookby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

In the last 15 years, businesspeople are increasingly being called upon to persuade visually. Whether it is a corporate PowerPoint, a political infographic or even a well-formatted Excel spreadsheet, visual persuasion is now part of what we are all expected to do — just like writing a business letter or running a meeting.

A2L is well known for its work developing persuasive presentations for the courtroom. However, for the past 18 years, A2L has quietly been helping non-lawyers and lawyers presenting outside the courtroom to develop stunning and persuasive presentations. These projects have included supporting the energy and aviation industries in their lobbying efforts, creating marketing designs for large Internet firms, developing pitch presentations for our legal clientele, creating animations for non-courtroom use and even developing high-profile web sites.

We have learned and taught others a great deal about developing persuasive presentations. It is something that our firm does every single working day of the year. Indeed, it turns out that the same lessons that apply to lawyers hoping to persuade a jury apply just as well to other audiences who need to be persuaded - whether they are a prospective client, a skeptical neighborhood group or potential voters.

We have put together a new e-book entitled “How to Build Persuasive and Engaging Visual Presentations.” We think the book will be useful for anyone who is called upon make a visual presentation, be it simple or complex.

This book compiles lessons and best practices from our experiences over nearly two decades, together with other resources, many of them gleaned from the research of leading scholars who have studied how the human mind receives, processes and stores information.

Among the topics covered in this book are “Persuasive Graphics: How Pictures Are Increasingly Influencing You,” “6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations,” “Demonstrative Evidence Tricks and Cheats to Watch Out For,” “In Trial Presentation a Camel is a Horse Designed by a Committee,” “12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad in Trial Graphics or Anywhere,” “Explaining a Complicated Process Using Trial Graphics,” “The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make,” “Information Design and Litigation Graphics,” “Teaching Science to a Jury: A Trial Consulting Challenge,” “Litigation Graphics: Psychology and Color Meaning,” and “Legal Animation: Learn About the Four Types Used in the Courtroom.”

I hope this book helps you develop effective, exciting and persuasive visual presentations. You can download this valuable new e-book here.

how to persuade visually arguments persuasive graphics



Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, E-Book, Animation, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, Bullet Points, Persuasive Graphics

7 Things You Never Want to Say in Court

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 @ 02:15 PM


things not to say in courtby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Lawyers say a lot of things in court – but here’s a list of seven things that, for various reasons, you never want to hear yourself saying in court.

Number 1: “Your Honor, could I please have a moment to sort out this technical issue.” The middle of trial is not the place to fix your technical glitches – yet one hears lawyers utter this sentence all the time. With few exceptions, technical problems are almost entirely preventable. And in any case, you always have a backup plan, right? Take a look at these related articles for more background on this:

Number 2: “My client.” I believe the phrase “my client” should be banished from the lexicon of all litigators. Can you imagine anything more distancing? When you think about it, isn't “my client” just shorthand for “this person or organization who is paying me to say this”? Instead, humanize your clients and even turn them into heroes.

Number 3: “You might not be able to see this, but.” Well, make sure they can see it! All too often we see one of the simplest mistakes being made -- failing to create a presentation with text that everyone can read. A good presentation environment includes high-quality projectors, high-quality equipment and the use of font sizes on slides that are always larger than 20 and usually larger than 30. One can easily avoid this problem, and no apologies or explanations will be needed. See these related articles for more:

Free E-Book Download - Click Here Storytelling for Litigators

Number 4: “Take my word for it.” Just as above, if you find yourself saying something like “take my word for it” or anything that attempts to excuse the inadequate quality of a visual, you're just trying to explain away your error. This could be colors that are too light, too similar or even issues with a projector. With all the testing tools that are available to a litigator today, there's simply no excuse for this. These related articles provide additional guidance:

Number 5: “Put yourself in his shoes.”  Long known as the "Golden Rule" in jury trials, we still see lawyers from reputable firms make this mistake. The Golden Rule is said to be violated when a lawyer asks a jury to put themselves into the shoes of their client. I don't think it's an entirely intuitive rule, so it is understandable how mistakes are made. After all one is really just trying to help the jury understand? However this is a bright line, and you should avoid statements like: "reward my client as you would want to be rewarded" or "imagine how this suffering would feel and then pick the right damages figure." Learn more here.

Number 6: "Looking at my next bullet point." In general, the use of bullet points on your slides must be avoided. Judges and jurors alike will read them and not listen. Plus, people remember and understand less of what you both speak and show at the same time. We have written about this many times before, but my favorite article on the topic offers twelve reasons why bullet points are bad.

Number 7: "Notwithstanding," "But for," "Whereas," "Assuming arguendo," "Aforementioned," or "Heretofore"  Alright, maybe sometimes you have to say "but for" when it is part of the law in question, but for (that one doesn't count) the most part you can strike (add that word to the list too) all of these from your courtroom vocabulary. Remember, you want people to relate to you. You want them to see you as approachable and trustworthy. You can achieve this by speaking to them as their family would speak to them and nothing more.

deliver great presentations inside and outside of the courtroom

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Technicians, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Technology, Trial Preparation, Bullet Points, Damages

Don't Use PowerPoint as a Crutch in Trial or Anywhere

Posted by Ryan Flax on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

powerpoint reading slides litigation courtroom ecardby Ryan H. Flax
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

The goal of a presentation is always the same -- to engage the audience, to move them.  This rule of thumb holds true regardless of the stage. It’s so in the courtroom, on the floor of the U.S. Congress, in the boardroom, and in the classroom. Litigators engage a jury to win their case for their client; professors engage their students so that they can best teach the subject matter. Engagement leads to better understanding, which then leads to better retention and enhanced persuasiveness. Retention and understanding are the keys to success.

As a student of presentation technique, I was especially lucky over the last summer to have two terrific sources of experiential information on the subject and a good deal of insight in to what works and what does not.  My sources were Ms. Shawn Estrada and Ms. Jessica Dunaye, two of our summer interns at A2L, who have some pretty specific thoughts about presentation style after having sat through over 2,000 lectures from many, many professors and students throughout their college careers. After having spent a summer with A2L, learning first-hand how great litigators operate and now they are counseled themselves by litigation and jury consultants, they strongly believe that the litigation presentation techniques espoused by the A2L team are relevant in many aspects of life.

Here are some of the interesting tidbits from these two.  They had so much to offer, I’ve divided their points into a series of articles. 

Don’t use PowerPoint as a crutch.

PowerPoint is a great presentation tool and the standard foundation for most courtroom, business, and classroom presentations.  It enhances a presenter’s points when used correctly. However, it can also ruin a presentation and make its user a tremendous bore.

It is easy to feel prepared after pasting a few words on a slide and/or committing your entire presentation outline to a series of slides, but we all know the result: the unprepared presenter; and its consequence; overwhelming the audience with a wall of text. It’s painful to watch such a presenter grappling with the technology, fumbling with their notes, and stuttering through their content.

deliver great presentations inside and outside of the courtroom

It doesn’t go unnoticed when a presenter seems to be hiding a lack of knowledge, a lack of mastery of the subject matter, or a failure to practice a presentation behind a PowerPoint slide filled with text, reading it word for word. During a presentation, it is important to convey your position as an authority on your subject matter, which is why it is crucial to prepare yourself thoroughly. The best ways to ensure that you are not using your PowerPoint as a crutch are to make sure that you know your presentation perfectly and to make sure that you are using graphics to supplement, not to direct your presentation. You should NOT be relying on the content of your slides to drive your presentation.

This is true for professors teaching a classroom of students and for students presenting as part of their coursework. Student presentations are a college classroom staple. Every semester it’s déjà vu: a nervous, obviously unprepared, student slowly walks to the podium at the front of the class to take his or her turn presenting something to the class. Usually their goal is to teach the class that day, and professors expect nothing but the best. It’s a reasonable expectation, too, as the subjects are straightforward and presenting is simply an exercise in corralling the facts into a neat package.

The biggest give-away that a presenter does not know what they are talking about and is uncomfortable making the presentation is reading directly from the PowerPoint slide. Not only does this almost instantly disengage the audience; it also shows a lack of command of the subject (this also goes for burying your head in note cards).

Also, a presenter needs to know his subject and presentation well enough to that he can dodge some curveballs. Some students will go to great lengths to “participate” in your discussion because they know it’s an easy grade booster. This sometimes means asking random questions just to show the professor they are trying to engage in the topic of the day. For an unprepared presenter, these students are their worst nightmare. Being prepared means researching your topic fully and practicing until you know your presentation by heart.

We can all plan to keep from using PowerPoint as a crutch. In fact, at A2L we have many tips on how to make PowerPoint your very best friend. The combination of a well-prepared presenter and a carefully-designed graphic is sure to be a recipe for success for any student or litigator alike.

Some related articles from A2L about delivering compelling presentations:


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Tags: Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Presentation Graphics, Storytelling, Bullet Points

[Complimentary 147-page E-Book] How to Deliver a Great Presentation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Sep 18, 2013 @ 02:37 PM

how to deliver great presentation speechby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Great speakers are not born; they learn their craft. Great speakers practice. A lot. Getting everything right takes time: Whether in the courtroom, in the boardroom, or on a public stage, delivering a great presentation is 90 percent preparation and 10 percent raw talent.  We often prepare, but we seldom prepare enough.

Our business at A2L is helping some of the world's best communicators communicate even more effectively. We want your presentations, at trial or in any legal venue, to be as persuasive as possible through good use of body language, cohesive storylines, and effective graphics.

We have put together a new e-book entitled “How to Make Great Presentations in or out of the Courtroom.” We think the book will be useful to trial lawyers, or indeed to anyone who is called upon to make a persuasive oral presentation in any setting.

This book compiles lessons and best practices from our experiences over nearly two decades, together with other resources, many of them gleaned from the researches of leading scholars who have studied how the human mind receives, processes and stores information. We have also looked at the work of scholars who have studied the history and effectiveness of story-telling. And we have taken advantage of the insights of Hollywood directors, who know how to capture a viewer’s attention and who will ask for innumerable takes as “preparation” to do a scene perfectly.

Among the topics covered in this book are “Five Keys to Telling a Compelling Story in the Courtroom,” “Ten Videos to Help Litigators Become Better at Storytelling,” “Great Courtroom Storytelling Articles From Trial Experts,” “Trial Presentation Errors That Lawyers Can Easily Avoid,” “Litigation Graphics Psychology and Color Meaning,” “The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes,” “New Study: A Graphically Immersive Trial Presentation Works Best,” “Practice, Say Jury Consultants, Is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well,” “Three Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation,” “Explaining a Complicated Process Using Trial Graphics,” and “Litigation Graphics Timelines Can Persuade Judges and Juries.”

I hope this book helps you use your preparation time efficiently and greatly improves the rest of your presentations as a result. Get started right away, give yourself enough time, and let me know how things go. You can download this valuable new e-book here.

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Tags: Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, E-Book, Presentation Graphics, Storytelling, Bullet Points, PowerPoint, Opening

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Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.

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Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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