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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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Many people are familiar with mock trials, which are full-blown exercises before a trial in which witnesses are presented and arguments made before mock jurors, who proceed to render a “verdict.” The results of mock trials, as we have discussed here before, can be extremely helpful to litigators who want to know how strong their case is, which arguments and testimony to pursue at trial, and which ones to forget about. As Slate magazine wrote in an illuminating article in 2005: Either side of a case can hold a simulated trial, and they're used in both civil and criminal cases. But because these productions can cost quite a bit of money, they're most often used by lawyers who represent wealthy clients or companies in a civil suit. First, the attorneys find a random pool of mock jurors in the jurisdiction where the trial will be held. Participants are selected by random telephone calls, classified ads, or through an employment agency. (Anyone who has recently received a summons to serve as a real juror is immediately disqualified.) Another technique that is perhaps not as well known is the early-stage focus group. These are far less formal than mock trials. They are a bit like brainstorming sessions in which jurors tell trial lawyers, often in real time, what they thought about a particular piece of evidence or a particular argument. Focus groups have several advantages: 

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Forty years of research about the psychology of human memory has shown that our memories are far from perfect replicas of the events that they purport to describe. Eyewitness accounts, in particular, have been proved unreliable – with a profound impact on the value of courtroom testimony. Thousands of criminal convictions have been based on identifications and accounts later shown to be incorrect. Human memory is malleable -- it is affected by a number of factors that can modify it or distort it. It is well known that people can be induced to remember and to sincerely believe episodes from their past that never actually happened. This presents a difficult task for the trial lawyer. It’s not just criminal cases that turn on witnesses’ recollections of events. Most civil cases also rely on witnesses, and subjective assessments of witness credibility. Before a lawyer decides to put a fact witness on the stand, he or she needs to have some sense of how reliable that witness will be. Here are three suggestions, based on research by forensic psychologists, for the trial lawyer who wishes to assess the likely accuracy of a witness at trial. Ask the witness how confident he or she is about the planned testimony. There can be a significant relationship between how confident a witness is of his or her testimony and the likelihood that the testimony is accurate. The trial lawyer should ask the witness for a “confidence statement.” Is the witness 90 percent sure that this is what happened? Only 60 percent sure? The answer will help the trial lawyer decide how much weight to place on the witness’s testimony, or even whether to call him or her to the stand at all. Have the witness write down the key details of what he or she saw or heard. Details that are written down soon after the event are likely to be more accurate. The sooner a memory is recorded, the smaller the chance that it will be warped by hearing the accounts of others. In a civil case, it may have been months since the events in question occurred, but it still helps to ask the witness to write everything down, in his or her own words. Do not discuss the testimony with the witness too many times. Sometimes, if a witness is over-rehearsed, his or her testimony will harden to a point where it becomes rote and projects a confidence in details that is not really justified. It’s no surprise that sometimes witnesses say that they are “absolutely sure” of their testimony because they have been asked to repeat it on countless occasions before the trial. So keep to a minimum the number of times that the witness is asked to repeat his or her story. Other A2L free resources related to witness preparation, expert witnesses, and the science of persuasion include: Witness Preparation: Hit or Myth? The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses 3 Ways to Handle a Presentation-Challenged Expert Witness 7 Smart Ways for Expert Witnesses to Give Better Testimony Contact A2L about witness prep services performed by industry-leading consultants Free Download: Storytelling for Litigators How jurors evaluate expert witnesses vs. how lawyers do Witness preparation best practices - don't stay in the shallows! A2L Consulting Voted #1 Jury Consulting Firm by Readers of LegalTimes 7 Things You Never Want to Say in Court How NOT to Go to Court: Handling High Profile Clients No Advice is Better Than Bad Advice in Litigation Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well Webinar - Integrating Argument and Expert Evidence in Complex Cases Walking the Line: Don't Coach Your Experts (Re: Apple v. Samsung) 3 Articles Discussing What Jurors Really Think About You

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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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Many times in a typical year, A2L is voted #1 in one of our service areas (jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting, and hot-seat/trial technology consulting) in reader-driven polls. Often these polls are conducted by major legal industry publications and sometimes by bar association publications. We don't announce all of our wins as honestly, I feel a little guilty writing about it. Yes, that sounds a bit like a #humblebrag, but I mean it. I, like all the other authors here at A2L’s Litigation Consulting Report Blog, work hard to create reader-focused articles -- not A2L-focused articles. We publish to engage with the world’s top trial lawyers in a way unlike anyone else. We publish to elevate the overall state of the industry. We publish because we authentically love what we do. Today, we're very proud to announce that the Massachusetts litigation community voted in the annual Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly reader survey and concluded that A2L was a top firm in both courtroom presentations and jury consulting. We are honored and grateful. With that announcement and explanation out of the way, let's make this article about you -- our 10,000 or so readers whom we value so much. Let's even do it in my favorite way possible -- using a list. The ABA said of our blog articles, “It’s hard to resist the infectious numbered-list headlines that keep us reading their chatty, first-person posts answering questions we hadn't yet thought to ask.” So here are the top five reasons why A2L being voted number one matters to you that are in no way about us:  These votes are helpful for your client relationship. It’s easier for you if a company is vetted already. As they say, nobody gets fired for hiring IBM, and the same is true when it comes to your litigation clients. Because A2L is regularly voted a top litigation consulting firm, you can make a recommendation to your client with total peace of mind. There is so much to worry about at trial. It’s nice to take one worry off the table by hiring a trial consultant that has this level of approval. This saves your client money. Taking the time to find the litigation consulting firm that’s right for your case is expensive to do well. This effort could easily cost the client thousands of dollars. Instead, you can present these options to your client: we can interview all the regular players or we can believe in the wisdom of the legal community. This saves you time in vetting. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly issued a helpful guide of top-rated firms like ours. It's a nice peer-reviewed guide that gives you insight into who the best people are. You can download that by clicking here.  You know that your peers trust us. At the end of the day, most of us trust our peers to give us good recommendations for everything from doctors to lawyers to handymen. The same is true for litigation consultants. Other free articles and resources related to A2L's jury consulting and demonstrative evidence consulting practices: Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important A2L Voted Best Jury Consultants & Best Trial Graphics Firm 3 Types of Litigation Graphics Consultants 11 Ways to Start Right With Your Litigation Graphics Team 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant 5 Settlement Scenarios Where Litigation Graphics Create Leverage 6 Triggers That Prompt a Call to Your Litigation Consultant VIDEO: Working with A2L Consulting - Customers Talk About A2L's Litigation Consulting Services 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms 10 Types of Value Added by Litigation Graphics Consultants The Real Value of Jury Consulting, Litigation Graphics & Trial Tech How Does a Trial Presentation Consulting Firm Do What It Does? With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? 12 Ways in Which We Make a Boutique Litigation Firm Feel Like a Big Firm 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint 10 Things Litigation Consultants Do That WOW Litigators 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations FREE Webinar: Persuading with PowerPoint Litigation Graphics FREE Webinar: Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool 10 Things Litigators Can Learn From Newscasters The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid Explaining the Value of Litigation Consulting to In-House Counsel The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes Trial Graphics Dilemma: Why Can't I Make My Own Slides? (Says Lawyer) Law360 Interviews A2L Consulting's Founder/CEO Ken Lopez

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3 Types of Litigation Graphics Consultants

As you might expect, I think about the litigation graphics industry a good deal. It’s a fairly new industry, and it is undergoing constant change. The way I think about it, the industry is actually fairly small. There are perhaps three other serious national players that I would be mildly comfortable recommending when A2L is conflicted out of a case. Still, though, these firms are quite different from A2L, so a trial lawyer should expect an entirely different experience as a customer than with A2L. Most of our competition now uses the term “litigation consultant” that we first started using in the mid-1990s. In fact, we may have been the first to use it the term. However, this term means vastly different things from firm to firm.  At A2L, we use the term litigation consultant primarily to refer to attorneys on our staff with a creative expertise, trial experience, and an understanding of persuasion science who interface with trial teams to help: develop the visual presentation develop themes, narratives, and strategies for the opening statement work with our jury consultants to help test cases As one can readily discern, these people are truly trusted advisors. They add value as opposed to taking orders.

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Law360 is a top legal industry publisher owned by Lexis-Nexis. Its daily newsletters are a must-read for trial lawyers involved in big-ticket litigation. This interview, Trial Consultants Q&A: A2L Consulting's Ken Lopez, was originally published on April 28, 2017, and is reprinted here with permission. Links to A2L articles and resources have been added by A2L in this reprint. Q: What aspect of trial consulting do you and your firm specialize in? What is unique about your firm, compared to other trial consulting firms? A: Founded in 1995, our firm is a leading national litigation consulting firm that helps trial lawyers and other advocates more reliably win complex and high-dollar disputes. We are typically in trial year-round and deliver world-class client-pleasing results in three key service areas: jury research and consulting, litigation graphics consulting, and trial technology consulting. We have recently been voted #1 in each of these categories by major legal publications. The composition of our leadership distinguishes it from other trial consulting and litigation consultant firms. Unlike firms whose origins are rooted in the trial technology business, the engineering business or the marketing/public relations fields, our team is composed of experts in the persuasion sciences. These include former litigators from top law firms, attorney-artists and social science Ph.Ds with decades of experience working with judges and juries. We primarily serve AmLaw 100 law firms and their clients. However, the firm regularly works with boutique law firms and in-house departments. It counts amongst its clients nearly all top law firms and a large portion of the Fortune 500. Most people find A2L through its litigation and persuasion-focused blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. It has nearly 10,000 subscribers and was named one of the top ten blogs in litigation by the American Bar Association. Q: What was the most interesting or memorable case that you worked on? A: The average case at A2L Consulting is a business dispute between global companies with $100 million at stake where we provide jury consulting, a mock trial, litigation graphics, and courtroom hot-seat trial technology support. One of our most memorable cases was entirely — not average. Through a top trial lawyer, we were hired to work on behalf of a surviving family member of the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Everglades. This was not a plane that exploded or quickly crashed. Instead, oxygen containers in the cargo area helped fuel a fire that caused smoke to fill the plane. Then, the oxygen-fueled fire burned through the passenger cabin floor from below. After some time, controls on the plane were destroyed by the fire. Then, the plane flipped and dove into the Everglades below. No one survived. It took a long time for the tragedy to unfold and the passengers had awareness of what was happened. We know this because the plane was equipped with recording devices in both the cockpit and the passenger cabin. The recording is confidential, but none of us who worked on this case will ever forget what we heard on that recording. To help the jury visualize the experience the passengers had, we could have created a 3-D animation to show what the experience inside of the cabin was like. Instead, we synced that chilling audio with an animation we created that helped tell the tragic story. Once the animation was admitted into evidence, the case quickly settled. Q: Which stage of the trial process is the most challenging, and why? A: While we support all phases of litigation from prefiling to appeal, our firm most often focuses its consulting efforts on the opening statement. Indeed, we speak and write about opening statements often. Perhaps second only to jury selection, the opening statement can make or break an entire case. It provides the framework and narrative upon which the judge or jury will hear the evidence. For many, consciously or subconsciously, the decision about the outcome of the case will be made during opening statement. Because the opening statement is so critical, the best trial lawyers expend enormous amounts of effort preparing for openings. I’ve seen some trial lawyers practice their opening more than 100 times over the course of a year. Not surprisingly, these trial lawyers tend to win their cases. In every type of litigation consulting we provide, the opening statement is a central focus. When we conduct a mock trial, the attorneys present their openings to mock jurors or mock judges. When our senior litigation consultants work with top trial lawyers to refine their trial presentation, we ask them to present their openings as part of that process. When we design a PowerPoint presentation for opening, we ask our clients to do run-throughs of openings. When we introduce one of our trial technicians/hot-seat operators to a trial team, we ask the first chair to practice opening statements so they develop a rapport with the trial tech. Indeed, sometimes, we are asked to draft an opening statement as part of our litigation consulting effort. Opening statements are the most challenging part of the trial process because they should be. Cases are regularly won and lost because of them. Q: How has trial consulting evolved over time? What major differences are there between the industry when you started and the industry now? A: Our firm, now a national litigation consulting firm with jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting and trial technology consulting practices all voted #1 by the legal industry, was started as Animators at Law, an animation and litigation graphics firm for trial lawyers focused on persuasion. Back in the mid-1990s when we started our firm, the idea of using demonstrative evidence/litigation graphics during a trial was new. Today, no serious trial lawyer would go to trial in big-ticket litigation without litigation graphics and nearly all would hire a litigation graphics consulting firm like ours. When we started our firm, PowerPoint did not exist. Most litigation graphics were printed trial boards. Today, trial boards are used as unique emphasis tools that supplement a PowerPoint trial presentation. The practice of jury research has changed too. It has evolved from a guru-dominated practice where gut instinct drove many decisions. Today, there is more scientific rigor among top jury research firms. They let the data speak for itself and supplement that data with advice based on experience. Of course, the trial technology practice has radically changed. In the 1990s, it barely existed. Now, the complexity of cases demands that an experienced trial technician/hot-seat operator run the technology, show the trial presentation and be ready to pull up evidence on a moment’s notice. Q: What are some of the biggest challenges when working with attorneys and their clients? A: One of my colleagues likes to say, “they call it the practice of law, but nobody is practicing.” I agree wholeheartedly. If I could change one thing about the way trial lawyers prepare for trial, it would be the way they practice. The correlation between open practice in front of peers and winning cases is unmistakable. Half of the time, trial lawyers practice extensively and seek feedback from litigation consultants and colleagues. These lawyers tend to win their cases. When we see a trial lawyer who wants to privately prepare their trial presentation on the eve of trial, we worry. It’s not that this approach can’t work. It often does. Instead, we simply recognize that the more a trial team openly practices, the more often that trial team wins.

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