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At some point in our lives, many of us, perhaps most of us, have assembled a piece of IKEA furniture. Whether it was for that first apartment, your vacation home, or your kid's dorm room, it's something of a right of passage. If you have done this assembly work with your significant other, it's often a test of the relationship too. IKEA furniture is inexpensive, in part, because of the way it is shipped and packaged. It is unassembled, it fits into a small package, and the purchaser must assemble it. The instructions that come with the products are notoriously complicated, although they are quite well designed. In recent years, IKEA has gone a step beyond the printed instructions of old. They now publish videos of how to assemble a product, and they are really quite good. Hearing someone complain recently about having to follow the printed instructions got me thinking about juror communications and best practices when it comes to preparing litigation graphics. Of course, right? Here are three ways IKEA assembly instructions and litigation graphics can be similar: The Worst: Having your significant other tell you what to do and how to assemble the product is a lot like a trial attorney lecturing a jury with no visuals at all. See, 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations. Okay: Following the printed IKEA instructions is a bit like watching PowerPoint slides prepared by a member of the trial team. They are well-intentioned but not nearly as helpful or persuasive as they could be. See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think. Pretty helpful: Watching an IKEA-produced assembly video (see below) is a lot like watching a professionally prepared opening statement, closing statement or expert witness presentation created by a litigation graphics firm. See, Why You Need a Litigation Graphics Consultant.

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Why You Need a Litigation Graphics Consultant

I had a confounding call with a past client and litigator recently. He had worked with A2L nearly ten years ago early in his career on a related matter. He called to engage A2L and work with one of our graphic designers. On its face, it's a sensible ask. After all, in addition to our jury consulting work and our hot-seat/trial technology work, A2L is undoubtedly a, if not the premier litigation graphics consultancy. The reason I found this call surprising is that asking to work with an individual graphic designer on our team misses the entire value proposition of why a firm like ours exists in the first place. If all a trial lawyer had to do was hire a graphic designer to help prepare opening/closing powerpoint presentations and work with testifying experts to help simplify their message, law firms would be teeming with millennial-aged graphic designers ready to spring into action in advance of trial. Lawyers might even do the work themselves. But that's not how serious trial-focused firms work, and many have gone full circle to figure this out - from adding internal graphic designers to eliminating them entirely. Serious trial-focused law firms do not insource litigation graphics work because it simply doesn't work over the long term. Logically, it should, but it just doesn't, and I've spent 25 years in the industry learning why. The articles linked below offer dozens of reasons why this is true.

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At A2L, we publish so many articles valuable to trial lawyers and litigation professionals that we like to share our very best periodically. Below are the top three articles (based on readership) published in the second quarter of 2019. Each has links that allow you to easily share the article on Twitter or LinkedIn. Top 3 A2L Litigation Articles Published in Q2 2019 1. 5 Valuable Lessons From Some Horrible Infographics 2. 10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation 3. A Useful Directory of Federal Courtroom Technology

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10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation

Working at A2L, I have the distinct pleasure of watching many of the world's best trial lawyers prepare for trial. Most start months or years in advance. Those lawyers engage A2L early to do theme testing with a focus group or to organize and run a mock trial. Each of these events requires the creation of litigation graphics and usually assistance in developing an opening statement. Having watched so many great trial lawyers prepare for 25 years, I have been able to observe patterns in how they prepare. Below I share ten chronologically ordered tips (plus accompanying resources) based on these observations. If you're less than one year from trial, I hope these tips are still helpful, and I hope you will get in touch with me. More than one year from trial: There is no better time to do theme testing then when discovery is still open. Read more in How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation and as you start this journey, always remember that Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently. One year before trial: Plan your first of two mock trials. There are dozens of good reasons to conduct a mock trial, but forcing yourself to prepare early may be the very best one. Read my one-year trial planning guide and read A2L's Opening Statement Toolkit. Also, it is a good time to read A2L's Jury Consulting and Mock Trial Handbook. Nine months before trial: Begin or continue development of your litigation graphics. If you conducted a mock trial, you already have a good start. Read How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?, 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important and The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation. Six months before trial: Refine your opening statement story and the visuals that will support it. Make sure your experts have their visuals being worked on by your litigation graphics team - not the in-house people at the expert's firm. Watch Persuasive Storytelling for Trial Lawyers and read Storytelling for Litigators. To help develop your experts, have them read this three-part series on How to Be a Great Expert Witness. Three months before trial: Conduct opening statement practice sessions with your trial team, litigation consultants, and your client. Read The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best, 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation, and Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well.

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I speak and write often about the kind of mistakes that lawyers often make at trial in presenting graphics. Some of these critical errors include reading your PowerPoint slides, presenting overly dense and complex information, coupling low-contrast demonstratives with a low-quality projector, and even using fonts that are too small. All of these mistakes can radically reduce your persuasiveness. A2L articles like, The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make, The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes, and 24 Mistakes That Make For a DeMONSTERative Evidence Nightmare are valuable for any trial lawyer and will help you overcome many a pitfall. Most of our litigation graphics clients who hire A2L to help develop their opening, closing, and expert presentations, say during the creative process that “I'll know it when I see it.” Indeed, just as choosing from a number of demonstrative options is a helpful time and energy saver for most trial attorneys, there’s also no substitute for seeing a mistake to appreciate why it is bad. That's the spirit of this article. I recently found a small corner of the Internet that highlights terrible infographics, and there are many useful lessons here for trial lawyers. Let's review a few and hope they don't remind you of anything done by your team or litigation graphics provider.   Use the Right Type of Chart Great design is not form over function. Instead, it is function first with beautiful form (see, Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest). While this chart above is interesting to look at, it's annoying from the perspective of quickly conveying information. As I wrote in a recent post, litigation graphics should be very clear AND very quickly understood. See, One Demonstrative Exhibit, One Concept. I think litigation graphics should generally be able to stand on their own without explanation and be understood in less than 30 seconds. This chart would be much clearer if presented as a column chart with the dates running chronologically from left to right along the bottom. One could emphasize the differences in ages by having the left side of the chart run from 50 - 75 instead of something like 0-100. We've discussed this chart “cheat” before in 5 Demonstrative Evidence Tricks and Cheats to Watch Out For.

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Litigation Graphics in Arbitrations

In most years at A2L, we are in one or more courtroom-based trials every single day of the year. Increasingly, however, I’m seeing arbitration take the place of more and more trials. One recent article published by Law360 noted that the number of federal trials has dropped by nearly half and pointed to the increased use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as one of the reasons for that. While the lawyers who lead an ADR team are often the same lawyers who run trial teams, I have noticed that there is far less sophistication in the use of litigation graphics during an arbitration as opposed to a trial. In trial, whether a bench trial or a jury trial, most litigators find a way to use litigation graphics. They don’t always do it well and many hurt themselves by making what are obvious mistakes to experts like us -- but at least they are trying. In arbitrations, however, I see a lot of trial lawyers acting gun shy when it comes to the use of litigation graphics. In my experience, lawyers should be using litigation graphics at every single arbitration, and it doesn’t matter whether the arbitrator or the panel of arbitrators are expert on the topic.

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At A2L Consulting, we have been providing trial technicians (also known as hot-seat operators) to help our clients display materials at trial since the 1990s. The role of a trial technician is a unique one. These men and women routinely work late nights during a trial to ensure that they are totally prepared for whatever can arise. As we have said elsewhere on this blog, the ideal hot-seat operator must have a very close working relationship with the lead trial attorney and with the other team members, must have a calm demeanor in case he or she is called upon with no notice to provide something critical for the trial, and must have an understanding of the thousands of documents that will inevitably be involved in any trial. Most importantly, he or she must be able to make the trial presentation appear to be seamless and flawless. We have seen instances in which opposing counsel, or their hot-seat operator, stumbled in one respect or another – and their credibility took a dive. We have written in articles like What a Great “Hot Seat Operator” Can Add to a Trial Team and 12 Tips to Hire the Right Trial Technician for Your Trial about the ideal qualities for a hot-seat operator. We've even released a free book on the topic called How To Find and Use Trial Technicians and Trial Technology. Click here to download it. One thing that we perhaps have not discussed as much as we should is that a great hot-seat operator must, from the beginning, become totally conversant with the technology available in the specific courtroom in which he or she will be working. And there are substantial differences: Some courtrooms have expensive, built-in technology that is state of the art. Some will have excellent technology – if this were the year 2003. Some have no technology at all. It is the responsibility of the trial team, and of the hot-seat operator above all, to design an appropriate, modern technology set-up for the courtroom that will serve the paramount goal of persuading the jury. Below we have prepared what should be a very useful directory of the technology available in the 90 federal district courts across the nation and we have linked to each of the courts’ websites.

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One Demonstrative Exhibit, One Concept

I was in New Orleans recently to speak at the DRI Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Seminar, and while I was in the city, I took some time to visit the National WW II Museum in the downtown area. At the museum, I was struck by a graphic exhibit that showed that in 1941, the United States had only 336,000 soldiers in uniform, compared with 850,000 for Japan and 3.1 million for Nazi Germany. There is a quick and easy lesson here for trial lawyers.

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