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In a recent post here, I confessed my guilty pleasure: watching NBC’s hit reality singing competition, ‘The Voice.’ But I also acknowledged my frustration over the format: too much inconsequential fluff that’s got nothing to do with singing. For one thing, there’s the vapid bantering between the coaches and the inevitable and insincere implication that every pairing of performers compels a decision as agonizing as Sophie’s Choice. And then there’s the over-dramatization of many contestants’ personal stories that can feel a bit cringy when the judges purport to empathize with issues around, among other things, body image, bullying, sexual orientation, and loss. (In fact, watch for a future blog post about the importance of authenticity). These personal subplots help explain why, as I previously pointed out, the most exceptional voice rarely wins ‘The Voice.’ And in all of this is a lesson about jury trials. Who wins ‘The Voice’ depends on who decides who wins ‘The Voice.’ Succeeding in the early rounds depends upon winning over elites – judges who are experts in vocal performance. One would expect qualities like timbre, tone, pitch, range, resonance, phrasing, articulation, dynamics, as well as good taste, among others, to feature prominently in an assessment of the best voice by the music judges. By contrast, audience members are far less likely to be capable of similar discernment. While the public can authoritatively say what it likes, it is not sufficiently trained or experienced to identify the superlative voice the program promises. Yet, to win on ‘The Voice,’ a contestant must ultimately win over the less discerning voting public and not the elite judges. What it takes to succeed with subject matter experts is quite different from what it takes to win over an essentially unsophisticated TV audience. In fact, their very unsuitability for discerning technical vocal quality with sufficient granularity to distinguish among a field of talented singers may explain why audience members likely consider a broader (and more accessible) range of criteria, such as the performers’ feel-good back stories. Perhaps, in that sense, ‘The Voice’ imitates life, where it is as important to be lucky, and liked, as it is to be superlative. Just as a contestant on ‘The Voice’ must manage the transition from being judged by experts (musical superstars) to being judged by lay people (the viewing public), so too must the trial lawyer. Most of us have spent an overwhelmingly disproportionate share of our professional time and energy persuading the minds of other well-trained, elite legal professionals – in-house lawyers, opposing counsel, and, at the top of that heap, judges. We know precisely how to talk to them because we speak the same language.

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Part 1 of a multi-part series. I have a shameful secret: I watch NBC’s ‘The Voice.’ In fact, to come entirely clean, I guess I should say, “I faithfully watch ‘The Voice.’” The revelation of this guilty pleasure would come as a surprise to people who know me because of both my specific contempt for “reality TV” and my more general disdain of formulaic dreck. Ironically, ‘The Voice’ is both – in spades. Apart from the musical performances, there is a surfeit of contrived drama: the competition and bantering between the judges, and the often cloying back stories of the performers. Ugh. But there is no curious conundrum to resolve here: I like ‘The Voice’ despite the fact that it is unabashedly formulaic reality TV (a sin that technology helps me minimize). For those of you who don’t know it, ‘The Voice’ is a singing competition. And I happen to be captivated by musical talent. I get completely floored by a 14-year old girl with the vocal timbre of Billie Holiday or Amy Winehouse and am left slack-jawed by the burly former linebacker with the range and falsetto of Philip Bailey. But it’s not just the surprise of those incongruities. For me, it is almost exclusively about the quality of the performers’ pipes and, occasionally, the musical instincts and insights of the “superstar” musicians who first judge, then coach, the contestants. Now, I suspect that my television viewing habits hold your interest just about as much as my love of pudding, but there is a substantive point behind this confessional. Useful lessons about trial presentation and persuasion can be learned from ‘The Voice,’ which first aired in 2011.  First, some background. ‘The Voice’ is a complex, intensely dramatic version of the old-fashioned talent show. At the end of each season, one singer, drawn from the ranks of thousands of Americans who believe they have musical talent and have entered the competition, is crowned the winner and signed to a recording contract.

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The Top 21 Litigation Articles of 2017

Every year going back to the start of this blog in 2011, I have paused to look back over the past 12 months of articles and see which were deemed best by our readers. Some articles have been read 90,000 times while others, often surprisingly, are only viewed a few dozen times. In this method of article ranking, every reader view is a vote. This year's top 21 list is consistent with recent years. Articles about storytelling and voir dire are the most read. The #1 ranked article, in particular, was very popular because it was not only about storytelling but features three top trial lawyers (all clients of A2L) talking on video about how they incorporate storytelling techniques into their advocacy. Enjoy these articles and please do encourage a friend to subscribe (for free) to this blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Soon, we will have more than 10,000 subscribers. Each of these articles can be tweeted or shared on Linkedin using the buttons below the article. Click the titles to view the articles. 21. What Trial Lawyers Can Learn From Russian Facebook Ads 20. 5 Key Lessons You Can Learn From Mock Juries 19. How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer

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We are delighted to announce the publication of a new free e-book, the Trial Lawyer’s Guide to Environmental, Toxic Tort, and Product Liability Litigation, 3rd Edition. It is a guide to all the issues and all the possibilities that can come up in environmental, toxic tort, and product liability litigation – whether related to PowerPoint, scientific expert witnesses, competing scientific theories, body language, or any of a myriad of questions that can come up in this complex field. This is the third edition of a book that we first released in 2011. We have dramatically expanded the scope and the depth of the book to add dozens of new and relevant articles, including articles on the importance of litigation graphics in toxic tort litigation and on demonstrative evidence in product liability and failure-to-warn cases. The book is now 256 pages long and packed with valuable articles. Environmental, toxic tort, and product liability cases have similar challenges. Each typically involves disputes over science and often results in a battle of expert witnesses. As a result, these cases are some of the hardest cases to litigate. These cases can include technical issues similar to patent cases, scientific elements similar to pharmaceutical cases, and damages issues similar to construction cases. In addition, for many jurors, these cases are fraught with political ramifications in a way that many other cases are not. Jurors often harbor a basic belief that if a big company is on trial, it has probably harmed people or the environment in pursuit of profits and has caused long-term damage to people and the planet – either by directly causing human health effects, polluting the air, water, or ground, or by contributing to global warming. It is important for a lawyer representing such a company to overcome jurors’ biases and to do so while keeping the case from seeming dull and boring. If you are to be successful litigating these cases, you have to be among the best in the profession. The natural complexity of these cases means that demonstrative evidence must be used extensively, jury consulting is often appropriate, and the use of trial technicians allows you to focus on maintaining your connection with the jury – rather than staying connected to the technology. This e-book will help you better prepare to litigate environmental, toxic tort, and product liability cases. From making the most of your mock trial, to managing trial team psychology, to specific demonstrative examples, there is something in here for all trial lawyers. I hope you enjoy this book and will take a moment to share some feedback by contacting me. If you ever have a question about how to prepare an environmental, toxic tort, or product liability case anywhere in the world, please ask. You may download the book by clicking this link or by clicking the download button below.

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I noticed a recent article describing how judges react to PowerPoint and to the sometimes excessive number of demonstrative exhibits presented to them. It resonated with me. The article describes a panel discussion among judges from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Lead Administrative Patent Judge Thomas Giannetti noted, "I think people are using too many demonstratives and too many PowerPoints. If you’re going to use them, don’t give us 100. Give us 10.” Lead Administrative Patent Judge Brian Murphy said at the same conference that “less is more,” because attorneys can be sure that the judges know the record before them quite well. He said he would like to see demonstratives that just focus on the key points and include clear citations to the record in the case. “Some parties use so many slides that they confuse themselves or confuse us,” he said. These judges make an excellent point. Ten phenomenal pieces of demonstrative evidence that reflect rigorous thought and preparation are much better than 100 bullet-point-riddled PowerPoint slides.  In a time when PowerPoint makes it easy for associates to generate draft opening decks containing hundreds of slides, it's no surprise that judges are pushing back. The problem with PowerPoint is that it makes it too easy to do lazy, dull, and uninspired work. I spoke at a conference recently and I made the point that every case has one exhibit that can tell the story of the case -- and we all just need to find it. The best tool for doing so is time, which is a precious commodity in most trial preparation situations. The more time you have, the more likely you are to have that epiphany about just the right demonstrative that brings the whole case together. I've often spoken and written about the fact that the demonstrative exhibits you don't use have a lot to do with finding the ideal demonstratives because of the iterative process of creativity. The great challenge is taking the time to go through 20 to 40 versions of a PowerPoint deck before arriving at your final opening or closing deck. It's the right way to do things. Without a doubt, it leads to the best results. But it does require the consumption of precious time. Every lawyer has to decide on his or her own whether this time is well spent. I believe it is. Other free articles and resources from A2L Consulting about trial preparation, the development of litigation graphics, and the preparation of persuasive visual aids for trial include: Lawyers: It’s Time to Make Time for Trial Preparation 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation Why Reading Bullet Points in Litigation Graphics Hurts You The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint FREE DOWNLOAD: Storytelling for Litigators E-Book 3rd Ed. Law360 Interviews A2L Consulting's Founder/CEO Ken Lopez Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics? Top 7 Things I've Observed as a Litigation Consultant Sample One-Year Trial Prep Calendar for High Stakes Cases Using & Creating Litigation Graphics to Persuade - An E-Book for Litigators and Litigation Support Professionals 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting I recently had the opportunity to make a presentation at a federal judges’ conference in New Jersey that brought together judges and lawyers from that state. About 300 lawyers attended, as did about two dozen federal judges. The subject of my presentation was storytelling and its role in trials. After my presentation was over, I informally polled the judges in the room on their views concerning the importance of visuals at trial and the role of storytelling. Every single one of the judges, with the possible exception of one bankruptcy judge, indicated that he or she thought that the use of demonstratives was a critical part of any trial presentation. This is a notable indication, if an unscientific one, that judges, who are key decisionmakers in any courtroom, understand the role of visual persuasion. I would add a caveat. They are judges, after all, and I have little doubt that they will sua sponte reject a trial lawyer’s effort to tell a story visually that in the judge’s view is inherently unfair to the other side. Judges will control what goes on in the courtroom when it comes to the use of demonstratives as part of your narrative, as they will in every other aspect of a trial. That means that, as we said in our most recent post, trial lawyers should always have a backup plan in mind, a “Plan B” in case the judge views their original approach as objectionable. But the results of my informal poll are consistent with what we at A2L have been saying for the past several years here. Jurors are human beings who learn best when they learn visually, and they understand a case the most instinctively if it comes to them in the form of a story. Other articles about bench trials, mock bench trials, using demonstrative evidence with judges, and visual storytelling from A2L Consulting include: 21 Ingenious Ways to Research Your Judge 7 Things You Never Want to Say in Court 10 Suggestions for Conducting Mock Bench Trial Consulting Exercises Using Litigation Graphics in Bench Trials: How Different Is It From Jury Trials? 11 Surprising Areas Where We Are Using Mock Exercises and Testing Storytelling at Trial Works - But Whom Should the Story Be About? Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations 3 Articles Discussing What Jurors Really Think About You 11 Tips for Winning at Your Markman Hearings 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion 11 Tips for Preparing to Argue at the Federal Circuit 5 Keys to Telling a Compelling Story in the Courtroom Preparing for ITC Hearings Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting We’ve spoken here more than once about the fact that jurors, unlike most attorneys, tend to be visual learners who like to be shown, not told. The best way to show them what they need to know, as we have said, is through litigation graphics. Science has also taught us that the best way to keep a jury’s attention is by telling a story in the courtroom. These insights obviously have major implications for how trial lawyers should use the arts of persuasion in a jury trial. What about a bench trial or an arbitration? Here, the decisionmaker is trained as an attorney. Do we toss out all that we know about jury trials and proceed in an entirely different manner?

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How to Be a Great Expert Witness (Part 2)

by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting In my last post, I talked about the fact that an expert witness needs to express her expertise in a convincing way – but also in a way that the typical juror can understand and not in the language of a specialist. The next step in becoming a truly effective expert witness is to understand the power and the importance of visual learning. It’s a safe bet that your peer-reviewed articles contain tens of thousands of words. Your academic poster contains hundreds, maybe thousands, of words. Your PowerPoint presentations delivered to your peers contain bullet point after bullet point of words (and maybe a smattering of cartoons).   Ask yourself: How many television commercials convey the importance of the advertised product through words? How many magazine advertisements do the same through words? How many movies convey their story through words? How many architects explain their designs through words? How many patents have no pictures and just words? And how many biology textbooks have no illustrations and just words? In all these instances, the visual is what matters.

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