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The Litigation Consulting Report

Dan Pink, Pixar, and Storytelling for the Courtroom

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 @ 10:02 AM

pixar storytelling format courtroom trial litigation dan pinkby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

We talk a lot about storytelling in our A2L blog articles. Our books, webinars, and articles that are focused on storytelling -- like Storytelling for Litigators 3rd Ed.Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool, and 5 Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion -- are among our most popular.

We believe that effective storytelling is central to winning cases, and we've talked about the kind of results you can get when storytelling is used well in $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation and Patent Litigation Graphics + Storytelling Proven Effective: The Apple v. Samsung Jury Speaks.

We've also written several times about how to structure a good story or opening statement for trial in articles like How to Structure Your Next Speech, Opening Statement or PresentationPortray Your Client As a Hero in 17 Easy Storytelling StepsThe Top 14 TED Talks for Lawyers and Litigators 2014, and 5 Keys to Telling a Compelling Story in the Courtroom. However, there are many ways to put together an effective story, and the format matters a great deal.

I had the pleasure of seeing the popular speaker, author, and friend of A2L, Dan Pink, present recently at a marketing conference. Dan has written extensively on the social science behind the sales process, the real nature of human motivation, and the future of American business. Part of the talk that I heard at the conference was about storytelling. More specifically, Dan focused on the oft-discussed, highly successful Pixar storytelling format.

If you have not heard about this format before, it's worth learning. After all Pixar is just about the only movie studio that can make us care deeply about an animated character, whether a fish, a robot, or a kids’ toy. And we certainly want our factfinders to care about our clients the way we all cared about Andy saying goodbye to his toys or what happens when Wall-E is reset and is brought back by his robot girlfriend. But how does this work -- especially when our clients are multi-billion dollar companies, hardly the most sympathetic creatures?

As Dan pointed out, Pixar follows a relatively simple storytelling format, and it is one you can use in your next trial to achieve fantastic storytelling for the courtroom results. The format appears in the first image in this article.

It's pretty simple. Every Pixar film follows this format, and there is hardly anything simple about those plot lines - especially how they make us feel. In case you're reading this in a text-only format, it is:

Once upon a time there was _________. Every day, _________. One day _________. Because of that, _________. Because of that, _________. Until finally _________.

It's a format that could be used for any opening statement, minus the “once upon a time” part, of course. Here's how Dan put together a series of slides to illustrate this point about blogging at the conference I attended.

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Tags: Litigation Consulting, Patent Litigation, Storytelling, Daniel Pink, Persuasive Graphics, Opening, Persuasion

What Can Lawyers Learn From The Presentation Style of Top Educators?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 @ 11:30 AM


lawyers educators presentation style professorby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I sit on the board of a university, and I am passionate about delivering high-quality advice and guidance to the institution. To improve the quality of my work and our board's work, board members are afforded the opportunity to attend a conference focused on how higher education can best be managed and delivered.

At this three-day conference, a mix of keynote speeches and a series of small-group sessions creates an environment for learning about topics like effective university marketing, managing a university in an era of tight budgets, the value of a liberal arts education vs. skills training and much more.

The conference material is interesting and valuable for me. However, my full-time job of helping litigators present at their very best is always on my mind. So, I love that a conference like this gives me a chance to see how others present, and I learn something about presentation technique from every presentation.

There are two types of presenters at this conference. Several, like Dan Pink, are hired, world-class presenters who are well-known for their speaking quality. Most others, are university leaders and other experts in the field of higher education.

Dan Pink's one-hour presentation was flawless. He delivered high-value content, he used visuals to complement his message, he morphed his message to match the needs of the audience, he delivered to all three learning styles, he used humor very well and he used a variety of rhetorical techniques to make his message memorable and understandable. He, a Yale-trained lawyer himself, presented like all litigators should present. Full disclosure: since Dan Pink mentioned A2L (then Animators at Law) in his second best-selling book, I'm certain he can do no wrong. With that caveat, he was still a perfect presenter.

This brings me to the other presenters at the conference. A reminder, these are some of the world's top people in higher education. So, how well did they present? Imagine the worst CLE or classroom setting you've been in with a presenter reading bullet points. This was worse. Much worse. And I am disturbed by it.

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I attended four break-out sessions with fifty or so people in the room. Each room had a screen and projector set up. Did the presenters use the technology? Not once. Not even in the session about technology in education! I've not seen anything like it in this century. Some of the best people in higher education failed to show any understanding of how people actually learn. Yikes.

So, what can litigators learn about presentation style from some of the world's top educators? To quote a famous song, "Absolutely nothin'. Say it again."

Well, that's not entirely accurate. Lawyers should actually pause for a moment and reflect on how far they have come these past twenty years. After all, the state of presentations in higher education is apparently quite similar to where the legal industry found itself in the 1990s. Many courtroom presentations and even many CLE presentations are actually quite good now.

When I say "good" I certainly don't just mean pretty. Good presentations deliver results. They inspire, they inform or they do both. They use every trick in the book to do so. If you are still reading a lecture to a group of people and you want them to understand complicated material and take action, you are truly showing up to a gunfight with a knife.

To help any presenter, whether a trial presentation in the courtroom or a corporate presentation, I have listed below some of A2L Consulting's most important articles related to making good presentations. If you are a presenter who is using visuals aids, using complementary rather than competing graphics, avoiding bullet points, not reading your slides, you're ahead of 90% of your peers and you are far ahead of higher education. Use these articles and resources below to become your best.

Other A2L articles and materials related to delivering a great presentation:

deliver great presentations inside and outside of the courtroom

Tags: Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Presentation Graphics, Daniel Pink

Leadership for Lawyers - New Book by A2L's Litigation Consultants

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 @ 07:30 AM

leadership litigation law firm litigation consultantsby Ken Lopez
Founder & CEO
A2L Consulting

It has been said that management is either dead or dying. That is, when defined as the act of telling people what to do, management is needed far less than it used to be.

After all, good people don't often need to be told what to do. Instead, they need the room, the tools, the support and the runway to do great things in service of a common vision. Accordingly, most modern businesses are focused on attracting good people and not on management but instead on leadership.

Today we are releasing a new and free eBook on leadership for lawyers that can be downloaded here. I hope that it will be useful to legal industry leaders, whether in charge of an entire law firm, running a practice group, directing a litigation support division, or leading a single trial team.

Law firms and traditional corporate entities both struggle to provide better leadership within their organizations. Comparatively, however, Law firms are at a disadvantage. In the corporate world, leadership is enhanced through the specific teaching of the subject in business schools and often followed by focused professional educational programs designed to enhance leadership abilities. In law firms, leadership development is mostly trial and error.

However, in spite of all of their flaws, I believe that the businesses of the future will more closely resemble the modern large law firm than the modern large corporate entity – in at least one way. Corporate America will become far less burdened with administrative overhead and will become far more intellectually top-heavy. There is and will continue to be much less need and demand for “support” roles in business as more and more is handled easily by technology and those that know how to use it. This growth in brain-power will result in less need for traditional management and more need for managerial leadership. If you are a top-tier litigator, you know that good managerial leadership is a necessity to a winning trial team no matter how intelligent your lawyers may be.

For years, it seemed that law firms were lagging behind in business fundamentals. More often than not, their structure was loosely defined. Management was more of a suggestion than a dictate. And accountability was a new term for many. Internal law firm hierarchy was (and to a large extent still remains) based on whether you are a partner, years of tenure, and not much more. Conceptions of “power” within a firm, based on rainmaking or litigation successes, seemed to play the dominant role in who takes the lead in management responsibilities (overlooking committee and managing partner elections).

But what is fundamental in business is changing.

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With thought-leaders like Dan Pink advocating for more autonomy in the workplace, with fewer low-skilled jobs being created, and with the rise of the Results Oriented Work Environment (ROWE), it appears that workplaces of the future will be semi-virtual collectives of smart problem-solving people with very few low-skilled laborers. That's right, somewhat similar to large law firms. But, as we know, without careful leadership and management on litigation teams, a lot of wheel spinning and lack of focus is likely.

Note that I say similar - not exactly. Until subjects like "project management" and "value" are not novel and the subjects of legal conferences, law firms will still have some catching up to do with the rest of the business world.

Our leadership eBook covers important topics like dealing with anxiety in the workplace, analyzing litigation as a business and the economic outlook for 2013. It is largely focused on litigation, as this is the focus of our litigation consulting firm. So, there are many tips for the effective use of demonstrative evidence, using trial consultants and getting the most out of mock trials.

We, as a litigation consulting firm, struggle with issues quite similar to those of a law firm. Most of our leadership team, me included, are player-coaches. That is, none of us are full-time leaders. Instead, we must, like many in a law firm, balance our leadership responsibilities with the time we spend delivering for our clients.

I hope this book is helpful to you. I would enjoy hearing from you and encourage you to leave a comment below (contact information is not published).

Download Free E-Book Leadership for Lawyers

Tags: Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Litigation Support, Psychology, Management, Daniel Pink, Leadership

7 Articles You Probably Missed in the Litigation Consulting Report

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Oct 9, 2012 @ 08:00 AM

litigation consulting report blog needle haystack articleby Ken Lopez
Founder & CEO
A2L Consulting 

Not every article we publish in The Litigation Consulting Report is destined for glory. Some are widely circulated throughout the legal industry via social media and get read by thousands.

Yet others, whether because of content, publishing time, holiday schedules or other factors, get read by relatively few people.

This article is designed to highlight 7 previously published articles that I consider "diamonds in the rough" that somehow I'm guessing you overlooked. 

trial team group dynamics1. The effects of anxiety on a trial team. Anyone who knows me well in business has probably heard me say that the theories of Wilfred Bion are the most important I've ever studied. As the person who introduced me to Bion says, "It just explains everything." Time and time again I've watched, usually helplessly, as members of a trial team become agitated under pressure and step through Bion's predicted behaviors like actors in a tragedy. This article is will introduce Bion's group dynamics model in the context of a trial team.

2. 10 Video Tips for Litigators. We published an article with this video back in January and as of this writing, only 313 people have had a chance to watch it. I think these tips are very useful for litigators and paralegals alike and want to highlight it again. The video features tips from three consultants at A2L Consulting, including yours truly.

litigation graphics horse designed by committee3. What happens when many members of a trial team try to design litigation graphics together. As this article was published on a Friday afternoon, it understandably did not get a lot of attention. I believe that the way a trial team goes about agreeing on proposed litigation graphics is important - and many teams do this differently. Some approaches do indeed work better than others. We provide our recommended approach for trial teams in this article.

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mind mapping for litigators attorneys and trial teams4. Learn about how mind-mapping can have a dramatic effect on your litigation strategy. We first wrote about mind-mapping for litigators back in March of 2011, and since then we have created dozens of mind-maps for trial teams in cases throughout the country. We've learned that a printed mind-map can be an important strategy tool for the trial team and that electronic versions just do not have the same impact unless you regularly use mind-mapping software. This article introduces mind-mapping and provides a link for a free download of a sample mind-map.

trial prep trial presentation appeal defense build a case5. Focus on both building a case and on presenting a case early. My colleague, a patent litigator and litigation consultant, called this approach to trial preparation a two-track approach. In this article he encourages litigators to focus on both approaches well before trial. Unfortunately, we see too many trial teams doing last minute trial prep and forgetting to focus on how to explain a case to a judge or jury. This article makes the case that you can't win without a good approach on both tracks.



dan pink applied to litigation6. Applying the lessons taught by author (and attorney) Dan Pink to litigation. I am a huge fan of Dan Pink's work and was lucky enough to have my company mentioned in one of his books. His 2005 work predicting the transition to a "conceptual economy" has proved remarkably accurate with fewer and fewer skilled people being employed to do basic tasks (e.g. cashiers, document reviewers, etc.). In this article, I share the theories discussed in Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind and relate the concepts of Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play & Meaning to litigation. If you have not read Dan's work on what motivates people, it is also a must-read for anyone in a leadership position at a law firm.


bet the company litigation7. Embrace an unlimited budget approach to trial preparation even when you don't have a good trial budget. Understandably, in these budget-constrained times, our articles with tips for saving money while conducting mock trials, preparing litigation graphics or using on-site courtroom technicians get read dramatically more than articles like this one describing a no-holds-barred bet-the-company approach to trial. However, regardless of budget, I think it is better know what is a best practice and to try to follow as many tips as one's budget will allow.

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Tags: Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Litigation Consulting, Articles, Daniel Pink, Leadership

Daniel Pink, Conceptual Thinking and Trial Consulting

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 @ 11:56 AM

Daniel Pink's 2005 bestseller A Whole New Mind changed the way business leaders thought about the future.  His futurist thinking of six years ago presciently describes the current economic transition the U.S. is facing.  He also gave business strategists a vocabulary to discuss the emerging conceptual economy, and he inspired young business minds to focus less on traditional and easily outsourced MBA studies and focus more on deeper problem-solving business pursuits. Most importantly, he highlighted our firm, Animators at Law (now A2L Consulting), as an example of one of those companies already living in the conceptual economy.

Daniel Pink Whole New Mind Animators at Law Trial Consulting

It was a great honor to have been noticed by Dan Pink.  He has firmly established himself as one of the top business thinkers in the world.  His book has now been translated into 20 languages, he appears regularly on morning and daytime talk shows and his TED Talks are legendary in business circles.

Being recognized is an honor, but I believe one of the greatest experiences one can have is to be understood.  I believe Dan Pink understands Animators for exactly what makes Animators special: our unique approach to trial consulting.  Our clients are the top litigators in the world (we have worked with more than 95% of top law firms to date), and we provide them with precisely the creative problem solving that Dan Pink describes.

In his book he lays out the six fundamental aptitudes of the new conceptual economy, worker or organization: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play & Meaning.  These aptitudes read like a job description at Animators at Law, or the way that we describe our trial consulting services to litigators.  I believe they also read like a script of how the modern litigator should communicate and are thus worthy of a closer look.
A Whole New Mind Daniel Pink Animators at Law Trial Consulting
Design:  Good design is well planned.  Great information design often goes unnoticed, because we see it as simply something that works (e.g. effective signage or a great newspaper info graphic). A compelling trial presentation resulting from effective trial consulting should be just that; it should work without a lot of fanfare.  The oral presentation should work similarly and be well planned in advance and thus well designed.  Paraphrasing a recently retired litigation legend and Animators client, your presentation should be so well planned that when traveling for a long trial, you should never sleep better.

Story:  The facts and information that support your case are part of the story, but as Pink would say and I would completely agree, it is "the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact" that matters most.  The art of oral storytelling is not lost and certainly should not be lost on the modern litigator.  Storytellers make people care. They make things memorable.  They provide the necessary drama that humans require for long term memory to take hold.  Your fact-finders must care, and effective trial consulting that delivers storytelling techniques and effective trial presentations is an essential tool of the modern litigator. 

Symphony: Pink describes symphony as an ability to paint connections between seemingly unrelated relationships.  I imagine he would also describe the big picture that a litigator must paint in opening and closing as an example of symphony.  Opening and closing are the opportunity for a litigator to connect the dots.  This should be accomplished through a combination of trial graphics and an oral presentation. Done right, order is made from chaos.

Empathy:  Great litigators can imagine how judges and jurors will receive their message.  Those who are effective emphathizers understand how a particular message will land on their fact-finder and what emotions that message will evoke.  Clients who work with Animators often test graphics and argument themes using focus groups and mock juries for good reason.  Our goal in conducting jury research or research for a bench trial is to tweak the combined approaches of the graphics team and trial team until we receive a replicable winning outcome in testing.

Play:  Play is not a word we usually associate with litigation, however it does have a place here.  Pink does not mean being childish.  Instead he talks about making the art of doing business an enjoyable undertaking.  The litigator's trial presentation should go beyond dry and boring slides.  In my view, it should just cross the line between information and entertainment.  It should never be cute, but it is okay to cause judge or jury to chuckle.  Our goal in every trial consulting engagement is to find the right balance between information and entertainment.

Meaning: Who cares?  This is the question that a litigator should be asking.  Why should the fact-finder care about your client at all?Whether an inventor whose idea has been stolen, a foreign electronics manufacturer or a major oil company, the audience still has to care.  It is the job of the litigator to find this meaning no matter how seemingly unsympathetic their audience.

At Animators at Law, we do what we do because we love it.  Our clients are equally passionate about winning, and our trial consulting services contribute significantly to that effort.  Whether you are on our team or a customer, I know you will be better conceptual thinker for it. I believe Dan Pink would agree.

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Consulting, Articles, Daniel Pink

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KenLopez resized 152

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.

dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting

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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