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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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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting I don't want this post to be purely self-congratulatory, but I do have some good news to share. I think it's relevant and useful news for litigators and litigation professionals. A2L was just voted number one in the legal industry again. This time, it's in the category of trial consultants, in a poll conducted by the prestigious Legal Times newspaper. This accolade comes on the heels of being voted the number one jury consultant and number one litigation graphics provider in a variety of other national polls. Here's why I think this information is helpful for our readers. Twenty years after founding A2L, when I look at our industry I see three or four firms capable of delivering truly top-class results in high-profile litigation. However, the view from the law firms seems entirely different. If you Google any of our services like jury consulting, litigation graphics, or trial technician providers, we may very well come up first in many of these searches (for good reason), but there will be dozens if not hundreds of other providers listed for these services. How is one expected to sort the wheat from the chaff? You can't tell from a Google search because it's obviously not a reliable indicator of who is a top services provider. You can't always tell from your colleagues either. Have they had have many excellent experiences with a provider, or just a one off -- or do they have a longstanding relationship with a provider without a reliable track record? Well, it's exactly surveys like this one in Legal Times that provide an objective source from thousands of lawyers surveyed. And I'm proud to say that over the last five years, A2L has been consistently highly ranked in just about everywhere we've been nominated. So if you're in the market for a litigation consulting firm like ours or if you're in the market for another service like discovery, court reporting, or even law firm and litigation financing, a guide like this one is a good source of information. These guides prepared by objective organizations like Legal Times provide a directory of high-quality providers and can save a stressed litigator or litigation paralegal considerable time identifying the very best jury consultants, the very best litigation graphics providers, the very best trial technicians, the very best trial consultants or any one of dozens of categories relevant to litigation. Click here to download your copy of this 2016 guidebook. I hope it's helpful to you.

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by Katie Bagwill A2L Consulting Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to learn, just from hearing a witness utter a few phrases, that the witness is lying? Unfortunately, we can’t read minds, so we need to make do with second best: reading the tone of the witness’s voice and eye movements. The scientific community has been working hard to develop a way to gauge an individual’s truth telling based on the person’s behavioral, verbal, and physiological responses. In the meantime, you can use these ideas when questioning a witness, preparing your own witness to give testimony, and selecting potential jurors.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting In the first quarter of 2016, A2L Consulting reported record amounts of business and web traffic. Well, those numbers have only continued to climb throughout the second and third quarters of this year. High stakes litigation is booming across the industry, although it's not heavily concentrated in any one law firm or in any one business sector.  Every year, more than a quarter million visits are paid to A2L's blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Each year we publish more than 100 articles focused on highly specialized areas of persuasion science, jury consulting, high-stakes litigation, and the use of litigation graphics at trial. To help our readership find the very best articles, we publish "best of" articles like this one throughout the year. Today, I'm highlighting the five articles that you, our readers, voted the very best of the past two quarters. I think each is a fascinating read. 5. 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams: Our top trial experts at A2L seek to distill the essence of trial preparation and develop a numerical way to measure its quality and predict success. 4. 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams: We tell our readers what the unique characteristics of the top trial teams are. Some of them are quite surprising.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Today, we are publishing our latest free book -- A Trial Lawyer's Guide to Jury Consulting and Mock Trials. This free 328-page book is based on the idea that even after some decades in which jury consulting has grown and established itself as a business, many lawyers still don’t necessarily understand what jury consultants do and how valuable they can be. Many lawyers probably still harbor the old idea that a jury consultant is just someone who sits next to a lawyer and uses a “gut feeling” based on a potential juror’s occupation, body language or appearance to ask the lawyer to exclude the juror or keep the juror. If that stereotype were ever true, it’s certainly not true today. We’re about as far now from the O.J. Simpson days 20 years ago as we are from the Perry Mason days. This book is dedicated to bridging whatever conceptual gap may remain between trial lawyers and jury consultants. It pulls together many of the lessons that jury consultants have learned, so that any lawyer who reads the book can get up to speed quickly and save herself a good deal of money and time. We have been dismayed at times at the disconnection between long-held myths held even by seasoned litigators and what the data show.  Excellent trial strategies are the product of balancing art and science, data and wisdom, confidence and humility.  Among the topics in this book are: 14 Places Your Colleagues Are Using Persuasive Graphics That Maybe You’re Not, Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It?, Why Do I Need a Mock Trial If There Is No Real Voir Dire, 21 Ingenious Ways to Research Your Judge, 7 Videos About Body Language Our Litigation Consultants Recommend, 15 Things Everyone Should Know About Jury Selection and 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial. A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the jury and how it works. Read this book and reflect on its contents to know more than most trial lawyers do. This book is based on hundreds of trials and years of data, not mere theory or presumption. We hope you enjoy it and share it. Please send us your feedback and let us know if you have any questions or comments, any time. If you have any questions about a case, a witness, a jury pool, a venue, strategic options or dilemmas, or think your case is unwinnable, we’re only a phone call/email away and would love to hear from you. 

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting The first quarter of 2016 was one of A2L Consulting busiest in our 20+ year history. Not only was business up, visits to our web site increased 10% over the first quarter of 2015, and our Litigation Consulting Report Blog reached 8,000 subscribers. These metrics suggest that the litigation industry, particularly the big-ticket litigation segment, continues to perform well. The growth in the number our blog subscribers is truly eyeopening. Just a little more than year ago we were celebrating reaching 5,000 subscribers. I still find it completely amazing that about 200 people sign up for our award-winning litigation and persuasion-focused blog every month. Since we launched this publication that now sees more than 250,000 visits every year, hundreds of new clients have found their way to A2L and thousands more have benefited from the information we have shared here, from free articles to free e-books to free podcasts to free webinars. Five years ago, I thought the whole idea of blogging was misguided, and boy, was I wrong. To enhance our reader's experience, each quarter we help surface those articles have been "voted" the very best in the most recent quarter. That is, if we publish 25 articles in a three-month period, some are going to be viewed more often than others, and these are effectively voted the very best. These six articles below were voted the very best by our readers in the first quarter of 2016. 6.  Millennials and Jury Psychology: Why Don't They Follow the Rules?: A jury consultant analyzes the jury psychology of Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and focuses on this generation's distrust for authority. 5.  A Jury Consultant Is Called for Jury Duty: A well-known jury consultant finds herself in a Manhattan courtroom as a prospective juror and describes her experiences.

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by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting Invariably, despite excellent presentations at mock trials, some observers serving as mock jurors fall asleep. The typical response by clients is to ask us to wake them up, which we often do, but with limited success, as they tend to fall back asleep. The myth, debunked time and again, is that these people aren’t taking it seriously, aren’t taking it in, aren’t paying attention, and will have nothing to contribute as feedback. In fact, we have found that this is almost always contradicted by what ensues. Contrary to what one observes with the naked eye, sleepers have heard more than you think, and certainly have taken in enough in their minds to reach a conclusion. They have fallen asleep because they are “done” and don’t feel as if they need or want more information. Perhaps they find the information boring, repetitive or superfluous, but nonetheless, once deliberations start, clients are amazed to hear what these people say and do. They speak up! They voice well-formed opinions supported by some facts. They don’t ramble and don’t stay quiet in the shadows as one might expect.

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by Laurie R. Kuslanksy, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting A2L Consulting The litigation arena competes with the political arena in presidential election years. Everyone including large pollsters, such as Pew Research and Quinnipiac, major networks, each political party, each candidate, and myriads of social scientists and politically-interested entities are conducting research using the same resources - i.e., your potential mock jurors and facilities. Many services for conducting mock trials and other forms of jury research, including focus groups, online surveys, telephone surveys, ballroom studies (large format live research involving potentially hundreds of live mock jurors) and “mall intercepts” (in-person interviews) are called upon by political campaigns, pollsters and other interested parties. Both camps need: Recruiting of research subjects Eligible adults to serve as subjects Focus facilities for space to conduct live research Online and phone survey implementers What is the impact on people interested in conducting jury research in a Presidential election year? Due to a finite supply and increased demand: If you want a specific date to do jury research, don’t depend on short lead time or rushes to get it. Availability is more limited than normal as there are many others in line for the same services and space. Instead, plan and prepare better instead of waiting till the last minute;

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