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Quite frequently, defendants in major cases will decide to form joint defense groups. Joint defense groups are intended to provide defendants with significant efficiencies that result from common effort in facing a common adversary, whether in a patent case against the same patent holder, tort litigation against the same set of injured people, white-collar criminal actions against the government, antitrust litigation against the same plaintiff, and so on. But joint defense groups, which by their nature bring together several high-powered lawyers at a single defense table in the courtroom, can present unique challenges. Sometimes, joint defense groups will work as planned and the defendants will reap the benefits of their cooperation, and sometimes they will break down. Here are some best practices for joint defense groups to follow at trial that will help them succeed rather than fall apart in the heat of trial. Clear Leadership. The group should pick a clear leader. Studies of organizational behavior and dynamics show that for “pop-up businesses” with limited durations and specific tasks to accomplish, like movie production crews or trial teams, success is associated with the early selection of a team leader. Many trial teams may be afraid to antagonize a lead attorney for one of the parties who is not chosen and may thus hesitate to make a choice, but it is best to pick a leader and move forward that way. Just Enough Consultants. The group should pick one consulting firm for each trial-related task – for example, one consultant to handle all graphics and litigation consulting. The “too many cooks” phenomenon is definitely present if the group decides to select multiple vendors for key consulting roles in the trial. The attorneys should be focusing on their case, not on resolving disputes between vendors.

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During the past three decades, I've heard many clichés about the legal industry. One of them is that companies hire the lawyer and not the law firm. I think this one is often still true, but, for the first time in my career, I am noticing that this cliché is no longer as applicable as it used to be. This change is happening both at law firms and at litigation consulting firms like ours. It's true there are some special lawyers out there, particularly trial lawyers. Many of them can be recognized by their first names only, like Beth, David, and Brendan. To be sure, these trial lawyers are extraordinary. They are the go-to lawyers for in-house counsel when the stakes are highest – among other things, because they win cases reliably, even when the facts are not on their side.

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Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting This is the fifth consecutive year that I've written a new year economic outlook article focused on litigation. Please review some of my previous articles that were focused on 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013. While I believe that 2017 will be a very good year for litigation, it will not be good for everyone. From where I sit, things look and sound remarkably different during this current economic expansion than they did in previous years. A2L's litigation consulting business, one focused almost entirely on trials, is thriving. We've grown more than 50% in each of the past two years, and I'm forecasting similar or better growth for 2017. Our growth is spread across many law firms/corporations and many areas of the law, so I know it's meaningful growth. Yet any conversation with my large law firm managing partner friends or my big company in-house counsel friends suggests that litigation should be having an off year. These well-informed sources, as well as courthouse data, tell me that case filings are down and that litigation at big law firms is down. So, how can our trial-driven firm be prospering and big litigation departments be faltering? One of us has to be looking at the litigation industry all wrong, right?  Actually, I believe that we're both right, and I'm trying on some new vocabulary to explain it.

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7 Habits of Great Trial Teams

by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting Ken Lopez, the CEO of A2L Consulting, and I were talking the other day about some good books to read for the holiday season.  I suggested a current best-seller, Thomas Friedman's Thank You for Being Late - strongly recommended to me by my dear friend and mentor, Jim Hostetler. But Ken guided me to another book, a best-seller written 15 years ago by Jim Collins, called Good to Great.  It was a great read. Although the book is principally a heavily researched analysis on what differentiates a great company from just a good company, I believe that many of the same lessons that apply to the Fortune 500 apply with equal force to law firms, litigation consulting companies, and even trial teams.  Borrowing heavily from Collins' conclusions, I offer the following New Year’s thoughts on how good trial teams can be great trial teams: Great trial teams have leaders who have the confidence to make important decisions but also the humility to call attention to the team, not themselves. Great trial teams are composed of the best and the brightest who, like their leader, put the team first.  They are not necessarily subject matter experts (though subject matter expertise certainly doesn’t hurt), but they are innovative thinkers who roll up their sleeves and get to work.

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting Everyone, regardless of political persuasion, can agree that a significant portion of the U.S. electorate voted for change in this week’s presidential election. And the way the whole 18-month campaign went certainly represented a change from the way most campaigns have gone in our history. But while we as a country – at least every four or eight years – seem to like change, lawyers not so much. Maybe that reflects what we learned in law school. Law is governed by precedent, and if there are changes to precedent, they are incremental at best. Or, maybe it reflects the role we assume as advisers and the tendency for many in our profession to be cautious and risk-averse. Regardless of your attitude toward changes in the law, in your political leaders, or in what your clients do, we believe that in the arena of trial advocacy change is very often a good thing. Here are five examples. Literally, change the font you are using for exhibits and displays. Mix it up occasionally. Pick a less common font, but not one that calls too much attention to itself. Jurors will notice the unusual font, although they may not know just what they’re noticing, and they will stay awake and attentive. See, Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools?  Change your narrative. Don’t be wedded to telling your story a certain way, but be open to other people’s thoughts and perspectives. Aunt Sally’s apple pie wasn’t perfect the first time; it took years to fine tune that recipe. It could take many run-throughs to get an opening statement just right. See, 10 Types of Value Added by Litigation Graphics Consultants

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Business Development – The A2L Way

by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting I have always been deeply involved in and passionate about business development. It was this passion that made it possible for me to build A2L from the ground up in the early 1990s. Building a company from nothing is no easy task. I often share with young entrepreneurs one of my great secrets – the ways in which I found my first clients. I wrote down the name of every person I knew who I thought might know someone helpful to the business. Ultimately I ended up with a list of 400 people. They were my first set of prospects. In that group were college buddies, old bosses, and even my mom's high school boyfriend. I contacted all of them, and from that group, I landed clients at AOL, Dickstein Shapiro, and a variety of other well-known law firms. That was how I got started, and this process of relationship-based business development is essentially how I contribute to A2L's business development efforts today. As we're in the process of hiring a new member of our business development team, I started reflecting on how we do business development at A2L. I think it is pretty impressive, and most professional services firms could learn something from our process. It's rather complex and involves a mixture of repeat/referral work (the majority of our work), growing new relationships from old relationships, and using a rather sophisticated method of blogging to generate inbound interest in our firm that attracts clients who think the way we do. Indeed, blogging is one of the most important things that we do as an organization. Most of our new business is generated as a result of our blog. I love it especially because it is very authentically generated business. We share our experiences, we describe the things that we know and believe, and the world's best trial lawyers find their way to us. We give away a lot of our “secrets” about litigation, knowing full well that many people will read these blog posts and never hire us. We hope and expect that some people will read our blog and will be impressed by what we have to say and what we have learned from more than two decades of experience in trial consulting. Our business development team is thus truly in the business of helping, not selling. They help connect top-end trial lawyers with expert litigation consultants who improve opening statements, develop compelling narratives, conduct scientifically valid mock trials, and develop litigation graphics that teach and persuade judges and juries. If you or if you know someone who might like to work in this atmosphere in our DC office, consider sharing this article or one of the links below with them: Craigslist: http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/nva/sls/5702138073.html LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/175456068 Career Builder: http://www.careerbuilder.com/job/JHQ6HH6PSW1XDYXJK41

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10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams

by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Several months ago, I wrote about the 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams. Based on those 50 characteristics, we have created a trial team assessment tool. Although we've only just begun to collect the data, my hypothesis is that the quality of trial preparation, which this tool attempts to measure, is highly correlated with success at trial. In my experience, only a small minority of trial teams rigorously prepare for trial in a way that would earn them a high score on this tool. In most cases, budgets and/or firm culture simply don’t permit the level of preparation that I see in the highest performing trial teams. In our first effort to quantify what makes a good trial team, our beta version trial team assessment tool offers 10 criteria to measure performance. We selected these 10 points from among the 50 criteria, based on the collective experience of A2L's top litigation graphics consultant, our top jury consultant and on my experience. That's more than 75 years of accumulated litigation experience from work in thousands of cases. We assign a maximum of 10 points to each criterion, and so far, we have observed trial teams ranging from a low of 33 to a high of 76. Losses tend to occur more often with low scoring teams, but the data are still quite fragmentary. Here are the 10 criteria that we use to define great trial teams: Communication: They communicate in an orderly, consistent manner so that everyone knows at all times what is going on. They’re systematic in how they work and communicate with their outside consultants. Timely Preparation: They’re not frantic. They don't wait until the last minute to prepare fact and expert witnesses. They construct their key trial narratives early.

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by Alex Brown Director of Operations A2L Consulting My oldest daughter is a volunteer for our local congressman. At dinner last night she heard some quotes from a current presidential candidate and proceeded to excoriate them. Usually I toss in the old adage “If you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything.” This time I didn’t and instead talked to her about our 16th president. Many of you might know the story of Lincoln’s Letter to General Meade. On July 4, 1863, Lincoln realized that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was trapped between the Potomac River and a fast-moving Union Army behind him, and sent an order to General George Meade to move in for the kill and end the war. Instead, Meade held a war council and got multiple points of view. While he was doing so, Lee was able to escape over the Potomac with his soldiers. Lincoln was furious. He wrote a letter calling out Meade for his stupidity and lack of fortitude and questioning his ability to command. We will never know Meade’s reaction because Lincoln never sent the message. Instead, he thought about things from Meade’s perspective, and the fact that they had just finished a bloody battle in Gettysburg and how that might have affected Meade’s willingness to engage at a random location with so many variables. Lincoln also realized that dressing down his general would do nothing to help morale and would not change what had already happened. Lincoln gave us the perfect example of how to be a communicator. This is a lesson that we should reinforce in everything we do. We should be aware of these lessons when we are dealing with witnesses, experts, jury, judge and even support personnel and litigation consultants. You are always being watched, and people will always judge you on how you act with those you meet. What are the keys to communication?

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