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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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I have the privilege of working on a regular basis with many of the top trial lawyers in the nation, and they are an impressive bunch. In addition to their knowledge of the law, their capacity for hard work, and their practiced trial skills, they tend to carry an unquantifiable charisma. The great trial lawyer is a person who, when he or she enters a room, knows how to command the room. And although they are not arrogant, they do know that they have that ability and that they can turn it on or off. This means that the great trial lawyers can develop an ineffable rapport with jurors, a connection that is hard to explain and remarkable to see in action. Trial consultants are well advised to leave well enough alone, to “do no harm” when that connection is clearly operational; their job then is to simply sit back and observe this meeting of the minds and hope it will carry them on to victory. But these top trial lawyers, who have developed great sensitivity to issues of rapport and communication, often voice a concern to me. The concern is that they may be using some PowerPoint slides, say to highlight the themes of an opening statement, and then they wish to move on to a point that is not on the slides. But the jurors, they point out, are still staring at that screen, and the personal connection, instantly made, will instantly be lost. Should the jurors be looking at the screen or continuing their focus on the lawyer? It must be noted that the great trial lawyer knows not to make his or her case strictly via PowerPoint and knows how important it is to limit the use of this seductive trial technique. Still, there is a place for PowerPoint at trial and thus a corresponding concern. The trial lawyers’ concern is, fortunately, overblown and easily remedied. The remarkably simple solution is to press the “B” key on the computer keyboard. In PowerPoint, this instantly makes the screen go black, thus removing all competition for the jurors’ attention. Just learn to switch fluidly back and forth, using that key. This will not only preserve the crucial emotional connection between lawyer and jury; it will also lay the groundwork for the lawyer to assume the role in the jurors’ minds of trusted counselor and friend, someone who can make sense of all the evidence and tell a convincing story that puts it all together. I wish all trial lawyers’ dilemmas were so easily resolved. Other A2L Consulting free resources related to PowerPoint, connecting with jurors, and what makes a great trial lawyer include: 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial? The Redundancy Effect, PowerPoint and Legal Graphics 12 Things About PowerPoint You Probably Never Knew How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document New Webinar - PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design Lawyer Delivers Excellent PowerPoint Presentation Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide" Do Professionally Designed PowerPoint Slides Get Better Results? 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 14 Tips for Delivering a Great Board Meeting Presentation 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That?

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A Surprising Lesson From Voir Dire

I get excited when I am called for jury duty. After all, my entire 25-year professional career has been focused on persuading judges and juries. Serving on a jury is a rare opportunity to get a view from the inside. It allows me to confirm everything I routinely watch in mock trials and have learned. For example, see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said. When I get called, and yesterday was that rare day, I watch everything -- from how potential jurors are organized to the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the pool, and every little choice the lawyers make, from clothing to tactics. Unfortunately, the fact that I am a litigation consultant always comes out during voir dire. The last time I was on jury duty, I made it through voir dire and served as foreman in a small traffic case. My fellow jurors said, “You know more about this than the rest of us, so you be our foreman.” That made sense to me, and I know myself to be a good facilitator of group discussions. It was all less formal and only five jurors were seated. Today was different. Thirty-six potential jurors were called for a 12-member jury. So I knew we were going to be facing a criminal matter. Ultimately, I was dismissed, but not before I had a chance to observe the process once again as a juror and to make some observations. Once voir dire began, I noticed that the prosecutor focused very heavily (probably too much) on potential jurors who had a connection with law enforcement and the legal industry. In the process, she exposed many government-friendly law and order jurors, doing herself a disservice. She also exposed me in a discussion around witnesses who lie – something that I had seen in a recent matter that A2L consulted on. Defense counsel put on an aggressive voir dire. She visibly angered many potential jurors by using deeply complicated hypotheticals and double negatives. Jurors turned against her, she invited many objections, and the judge ultimately turned against her as well. Her techniques exposed many jurors who were likely to be biased. However, her unapologetically brash approach distanced her from every juror. So, for the defendant's sake, I hope that her co-counsel is putting on the opening. This was not just my opinion. After being released, a group of 10 also-released jurors rode down in the elevator with me. They were abuzz with negative comments about defense counsel. I asked, so did she piss you off? The universal answer was hell yes. The lesson is that although there’s no question that it’s a good idea to weed out certain types of jurors, trial lawyers must never forget that they are dealing with human beings, not computers. It’s possible to antagonize the very jurors whose votes you need as early as the voir dire process. Don’t do anything that can stand in the way of building that fragile rapport that a trial lawyer needs to develop with the jury. Other free A2L Consulting articles and resources about voir dire, jury selection, being likeable, and more: 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said A Jury Consultant Is Called for Jury Duty 5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always 5 Voir Dire Questions to Avoid The Voir Dire Handbook | Free Download | A2L Consulting Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 7 Tips to Take “Dire” out of Voir Dire 10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You 10 Signs of a Good Jury Questionnaire 13 Revolutionary Changes in Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It? 12 Insider Tips for Choosing a Jury Consultant Do I Need a Local Jury Consultant? Maybe. Here are 7 Considerations. Who Are The Highest-Rated Jury Consultants? Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said  

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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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On this day sixty years ago, a 34-foot-tall Soviet rocket lifted off the Earth from a Cosmodrome in present-day Kazakhstan.  Its payload -- a shiny silver globe with four external antenna masts to broadcast a repeating radio chirp back to Earth.  The Soviets called it Prosteyshiy Sputnik 1 -- “Simple Satellite 1.” The world’s first successful orbiting satellite was tiny, just 22 inches in diameter and weighing 184 pounds.  But its “beep-beep -- beep-beep” signal was rebroadcast everywhere and easy to pick up directly by shortwave radio.  Sputnik could also be seen in orbit by the naked eye, the sun glinting off its polished shell.  In the moment a person first heard or saw Sputnik, they were catapulted into a new and different world.  For 21 days Sputnik circled our planet, captured our imaginations, reshaped American national priorities, and changed the order of our lives.  The Space Race began.  NASA opened for business one year later.  Within twelve years, Apollo 11 delivered two Americans to the Moon. Back to present-day Planet Earth.  You are a lawyer on a jury trial.  Opening statements begin tomorrow.  How will you capture the attention of your audience of jurors?  How will you get them to pay close attention, to focus on what matters most for your client?  Even the best storyteller struggles with this.  And to be honest, many trial presentations are, by their nature, not exactly heart-stopping.  Plan for that.  Find some element of the narrative that commands attention from the jurors, that challenges them to think deeply and to care genuinely about what is going on in that courtroom.  Capture the jurors’ attention in that opening statement, and you can have it again later, coming back to that moment when the story struggles to engage the listener.  Give jurors that moment they crave, that leaves them changed by something they just heard or saw.  Make jurors feel that the trial will make a difference in someone’s life, even in their own lives.  Mark the spot in the case that separates life “before” and life “after.”  Ask yourself, what is going to be your trial’s “Sputnik” moment? Other free A2L articles A2L and free webinars related to opening statements, storytelling, and being memorable at trial include: 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement Free Download: Storytelling for Litigators E-Book 3rd Ed. 14 Differences Between a Theme and a Story in Litigation 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do 5 Things TED Talks Can Teach Us About Opening Statements 7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 1 Why a litigator is your best litigation graphics consultant 6 Reasons The Opening Statement is The Most Important Part of a Case How to Structure Your Next Speech, Opening Statement or Presentation The Effective Use of PowerPoint Presentation During Opening Statement 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It? Free A2L Consulting Webinar: 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements — Watch Anytime 12 Insider Tips for Choosing a Jury Consultant

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During one college summer, I used to engage in aikido, a martial art. In retrospect, it was all a bit goofy, but I learned some good lessons from it. In particular, I learned about a technique common to many of the martial arts and to conflict in general. This is the idea that you can use someone's momentum against them. If they are running at you, you can move to the side and trip them -- and they will fall. This requires far less energy from you. Similarly, in the courtroom, while there is no physical contact (hopefully), there is certainly a direction and a momentum in the way factfinders arrive at conclusions.  We've written about the idea of confirmation bias before in articles like I’m Right, Right? 5 Ways to Manage Juror Bias and Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias. It's a concept that I believe all trial lawyers must understand at least somewhat. In the courtroom, using the momentum of a juror’s beliefs to help further those beliefs is a master trial lawyer technique. A new study reveals just how important it is for high-level trial lawyers to understand this concept of persuasion. The study, reported in the open-access journal Computational Biology, confirms something that is a little sad. It turns out that most humans will continue believing something that they previously believed, even when presented with clear evidence to the contrary and even when it hurts us to continue believing it. It's a bit more nuanced than that, but this is the essence of it. In the courtroom, we regularly work with banks accused of fraud, companies that have allegedly polluted the environment, and tech companies accused of theft of trade secrets. Trial lawyers always have the temptation to simply try to straightforwardly show judges and juries evidence that clearly contradicts the beliefs that those factfinders arrived with. That only makes sense, right? After all, if someone says you put the pollution there and you didn't, you just tell them you didn't do it, bring evidence, and you're off the hook, right? Unfortunately, my experience and this study do not support that idea. All humans arrive with certain biases when they show up to trial – such as these:  Bankers are greedy.  Oil companies don't care about the environment.  Tech companies will do anything to win. All too often, trial counsel puts a lot of effort into trying to disprove these beliefs. Instead, consider the aikido move, step to the side, agree with the momentum, and use it to your advantage as follows: Bankers are greedy, so why would they ever do something that risked their money? XYZ oil company has been more reckless with the environment than you or I, but given what they went through before, do you really think they are dumb enough to do it again? Sure, tech companies will do anything to get ahead, but can you imagine anything more humiliating to someone as competitive as ABC company as looking as if you're not as smart as the other guy? Nothing is worth that when you are a competitive tech geek. In other words, find a way to accept that either your factfinders walked in with a certain bias or that your opponent will help them form a bias during opening statements – and then run with it. There’s no better way to test this approach than in a mock trial setting. That’s where you can learn to anticipate the biases and get ahead of them. Common sense, that new study, and several decades of litigation experience bear this out. Other free A2L articles and resources related to confirmation bias, the overwhelming power of the opening statement, and the power of effective storytelling in the courtroom include: When Smart Ain’t So Smart - Cognitive Bias, Experts and Jurors 7 Ways to Overcome Cognitive Bias and Persuade Still Think Persuasion is About Talking While Showing Bullet Points? 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 4 Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation Good-Looking Graphic Design ≠ Good-Working Visual Persuasion I’m Right, Right? 5 Ways to Manage Juror Bias Persuasive Graphics: How Pictures Are Increasingly Influencing You 14 Places Your Colleagues are Using Persuasive Graphics That Maybe You're Not Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias Why the President is Better than You at Creating Persuasive Graphics Law360 Interviews A2L Consulting's Founder/CEO Ken Lopez Are Jurors on Your “Team”? Using Group Membership to Influence Subscribe to this blog for free

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