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Trial teams frequently wrestle with questions surrounding how simple a trial presentation should be. It’s a good thing to worry about. They worry about coming off as condescending. They worry about the story being impossible to simplify. They worry about what order to tell the story in. These are all understandable questions to wrestle with. Unfortunately, on the question of how simple a case should be made, I think most trial teams end up talking themselves out of the right answer. So here’s the answer in five parts.  A trial presentation should be so simple that: 

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Roughly half of our business involves the creation of PowerPoint presentations for opening statements, closing arguments and expert witnesses. To create these presentations, our litigation consultants, typically seasoned trial lawyers and communications experts, work with our creative staff to turn the trial strategy into presentations that will motivate decisionmakers to make the “right” decisions. In a trial with millions or billions at stake, our final draft for an opening is typically version 30 or higher — and I've seen version 80 in a very large trial. Why so many versions? This is the result of what great trial lawyers do: They work with our team and iterate until perfection is achieved. However, every presentation starts with a first draft, and after three decades in this industry, I can say that a first draft sets the tone for the entire engagement. Handle it well, and trust is formed and there is a nice creative arc free from anxiety. Handle the rollout of the first draft wrong, and trust never kicks in, micromanagement dominates, and the deck becomes a “horse designed by committee.” So what’s the magic to the rollout of a first draft?

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I've always been a creative type. In fact, it was my creativity 25 years ago that caused me to learn 3-D animation during law school and ultimately go on to launch A2L Consulting. In the 25 years since then, I've worked on thousands of cases advising trial teams and leading a team of people who advise top trial lawyers on conducting voir dire, running mock trials, managing complex trial technology, and my personal favorite, developing litigation graphics to simplify, explain, and persuade in complex cases. Focusing in on this creative side of the business, litigation graphics development, I have seen two types of trial teams interact with creative teams -- those that have the knack and are successful working with creative people and those that are not. The impact of these interactions turns out to be very significant. Cases have been won and lost because of a trial team's ability to interact well with a creative team. Like anything, it is a skill that can (and should) be learned. Over the past several decades, I've received feedback from hundreds of trial teams and I've seen feedback delivered to others by thousands more. Below are fourteen things to know about delivering feedback to the creative team.  When creative people create, they offer a piece of themselves up for criticism. Deliver your feedback with this in mind, and you'll be ahead of your peers. If you're a shouter, find someone else to work with the creative team. Say what you mean. It's incredibly important that you be honest about what you like and what you do not. Holding in your criticism in an effort to be kind is not the goal. The goal is to deliver feedback in a productive way.  Find the good and talk about it first. This one is a classic and is what is taught in art school. Simply, find something positive to say and then talk about what you do not like. Early feedback is the most important. If something feels “off” or wrong for the situation, don’t hesitate to give your feedback speedily. If you find yourself reading this list muttering something about sensitive snowflakes, you're not the best person to be working with creative people. Ask a colleague to be the messenger.

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Environmental Litigation and PowerPoint

Environmental law is something that I have found fascinating for decades. In fact, I was involved in environmental litigation even before I founded A2L more than 23 years ago. It was a topic I focused on during law school and during the summers when I worked for a major pharmaceutical company. Since then, A2L has been involved in more than 100 environmental and energy cases involving more than 10,000 cleanup sites. These cases have ranged in size from a few million at stake to over $20 billion at stake. All these cases have a few things in common. First, most clean air and clean water cases necessarily involve with complex scientific concepts. Often topics such as plume migration, organic chemistry, and the concept of parts per million must be explained to the jury, the ultimate factfinders, in an understandable way. For the last ten years, another thing has become ubiquitous in environmental and energy cases -- the extensive use of PowerPoint. Here are three examples of the use of PowerPoint to show how complex topics can be translated into easier-to-understand pictures. First, here is an example of PowerPoint (converted to video format for easy viewing) that shows how one can illustrate both historical contamination issues and modern soil sampling by combining PowerPoint, photography and some simple illustration. This presentation is typical of those presented by experts in groundwater contamination cases.   This next example is really a contract dispute with energy and environmental issues embedded in it. It is an example from one of the so-called Yucca Mountain cases. In this line of cases, because the government failed to build the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, it is on the hook for ongoing damages for the costs of storing the waste, particularly spent nuclear fuel rods, at each nuclear power plant facility. Litigation occurs when the government and the plant operator cannot agree on the costs of this storage. This is an example of a PowerPoint that combines extensive technical illustration and PowerPoint to explain the hundreds of steps and the levels of complexity in removing the reactor pressure vessel and fuel rods from one facility. Hundreds of illustrations are loaded frame by frame into PowerPoint to create the feeling of an animation.

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting War rooms at trial are very intense, high-pressure places. Obviously, the lawyers in the trial team are going to make the war room their “office” for the duration of the trial, as will other team members such as paralegals and consultants. Here are five reasons why a trial team should always consider having a graphic artist on site, right beside the attorneys. If an artist is not there, side by side with the lawyers, the team will lose a certain amount of flexibility and responsiveness. If a lawyer wants a visual to be slightly modified, based on testimony that’s just now being heard, there’s nothing like having someone by her side to share thoughts with. The response can be immediate and in real time. Communication between the lawyer and the litigation graphics artist is much easier to achieve. If the artist is not there, miscommunications can creep in like a child’s game of “telephone.” A lawyer can show an artist on site exactly what she means because the artist is able to see and hear the lawyer, not just read an email or listen on the phone. 

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting For the purpose of telling a story or presenting data, experts have, over the years, suggested two different approaches. I will call them the “static” approach and the “build” approach. The static approach, in the hands of outstanding practitioners of data presentation, can have memorable results. Essentially, it conveys a great many types of information simultaneously, using graphic elements to show the relationship among the different varieties of data. Long before the advent of computers, French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard, a pioneer in the presentation of data, created brilliant drawings depicting Napoleon’s Russian military campaign of 1812. These are a classic example of the static approach. The drawings, published in 1869, show the size of Napoleon’s army at each point of the campaign, the distance traveled, the latitude and longitude, and other key pieces of information. The acclaimed contemporary information scientist Edward Tufte says Minard’s work is “probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn,” high praise indeed. Trial lawyers also need to tell stories and present complex data sets to juries. That, in fact, is a good summary of what trial lawyers do. Lawyers and clients sometimes ask us at A2L to use this “static” approach and create a demonstrative that “says it all” in one large graph or chart. However, despite Tufte’s praise for Minard’s classic design, we think that judges and juries often learn better from a “build” approach, which starts with the basics of a story and builds it up incrementally. In our view, there is great benefit to not overwhelming a jury but in reaching a result in baby steps, especially when using a PowerPoint presentation for a jury trial. If a jury went into deliberations using a Minard-type document, we are not sure that all the jurors would fully see the ramifications of all the data, no matter how skillfully it was presented. In fact, the presentation itself during trial may take too much time and may be ineffective—as the lawyer (or the witness) is trying to orient the jury as to what to focus on and not focus on at any particular moment in the narrative. People tend to learn incrementally, not all at once. When many variables need to be presented – say, corporate earnings and profits, the number of market competitors, and prices over time – we often prefer to start with a PowerPoint with just one of those variables and build it up slowly. Trials are one area of endeavor in which we think the “build” approach may work better than the “static” approach. Other free and popular A2L Consulting articles related to legal infographics, PowerPoint litigation graphics, PowerPoint presentation for a jury trial, and demonstrative evidence generally: 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint 15 Fascinating Legal and Litigation Infographics Information Design and Litigation Graphics Litigators, Portray Your Client As a Hero In 17 Easy Storytelling Steps Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 9 Things I’ve Noticed About Effective Litigation Graphics After 20 Years as a Litigator 16 Litigation Graphics Lessons for Mid-Sized Law Firms 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms Why Trial Tech ≠ Litigation Graphics Good-Looking Graphic Design ≠ Good-Working Visual Persuasion 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting

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by Maureen Vogel Litigation Graphics Artist A2L Consulting Before becoming an artist here at A2L Consulting, I was what you might call a typical graphic designer. I specialized in creating visual art, primarily for nonprofit organizations in the Washington, DC area. My primary focus was usually to visually convey a single important message with each graphic. I’d never concerned myself personally or professionally with the world of litigation. When I was a graphic designer, the software platforms Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign were my standard canvas. However, as a litigation graphics artist, I usually stick to PowerPoint as the fundamental visual presentation tool. Although graphics may often incorporate visual concepts developed outside the PowerPoint platform, this is the foundation for presentation, and much of my artwork is now done in PowerPoint itself (and sometimes in Keynote for Apple devices). PowerPoint is a surprisingly powerful tool. In addition, I have noticed that there are quite a few differences between graphic design and litigation graphics art. Here are some of the differences I have observed that I find most interesting. 1. Color psychology is very important in litigation-focused graphics. Yes, color psychology is important in the graphic design realm as well. But in litigation graphics, using the wrong colors in court could offend your audience or negatively affect their mood. That would be a catastrophe. One example I’ve encountered at work was when the client asked me to change a list of people’s names on a PowerPoint slide from black to red. Red is a color we generally try to avoid in PowerPoint slides because it can increase aggressive feelings in audience members (jurors). Also, I had my own personal aversion to red; depending on the culture, the color red can also invoke very different emotions. For example, in Japan, my home country, writing a person’s name in red means that person will die soon. This would accordingly evoke a very specific emotion in the wrong audience. Because the client’s goal in changing the black font to red was simply to make it more visible and not necessarily to invoke feelings of alarm or aggression toward the people listed, we suggested a brighter blue font instead of red. Almost any color you can think of invokes a specific emotional response, so plan accordingly for your litigation graphics. A2L is looking for talented graphic designers! Read more here.

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