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The #1 Reason Top Trial Teams Keep Winning

The very best trial teams in the world have only one real secret for success. Like many of life's foundational principles, it's painfully simple to describe, but it’s painfully hard to execute. The winning secret of the very best trial teams is, simply, preparation. Of course, I'm not talking about the everyday kind of trial preparation that goes on a few weeks or a month before trial. I'm talking about a level of trial preparation that is so best-in-class that it separates America's extraordinary trial teams from merely great trial teams. Perhaps 1% of all trial teams function the way I'm about to describe. After three decades of supporting, coaching, and learning from the top 1%, I promise nothing else is more correlated with winning than preparation— not good facts, good law, a friendly judge, a smiling jury -- nothing. Just as a world record-holding athletes prepare at a level that far exceeds what professional athletes do, the same is true for world-class trial lawyers. In the last 30 years, I've seen behaviors like:

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5 Advanced Trial Lawyer Lessons

This month A2L Consulting celebrated its 24th anniversary! I'm proud to say that we are at the top of the jury consulting, litigation graphics, litigation consulting, and trial technology industry in most national polls. In honor of all those top trial lawyers who rely on us every day, I want to add value to your practice today with the unique content of this article.. These five mini-series-style articles are some of the best of our 600+ trial-focused articles, and there is just nothing else like them available anywhere. Each takes a deep dive into a specific trial-focused topic. Winning Before Trial focuses on actions one can take pre-trial to eliminate the need for a trial entirely. Throughout this series the importance of preparation is emphasized. In 24 years, there is no greater predictor of success at trial than the level of preparation for trial LONG in advance of trial. The article on persuasion during opening brings together some of our most important material. As an organization, we believe most cases are won or lost during the opening statement. This article is written with winning your opening in mind. The storytelling article builds on this concept as does the article focused on being a great expert witness. Finally, the article about the Reptile Trial Strategy is one of my favorites. This complex topic is tackled from the defense lawyer perspective. Without an understanding of this plaintiffs lawyer strategy, a defense lawyer experiencing a reptile attack for the first time will be overwhelmed by the strategy before they realize it's happening.   Top 5 A2L Mini-Series-Style Litigation Articles 1. 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements (4 Parts) 2. Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel (5 Parts)

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There are many situations outside of trial where lawyers find themselves in a courtroom or courtroom-like environment. Some examples include a mock trial, a pretrial hearing, an arbitration, a mediation, or an administrative hearing. Some of these situations are a lot like trial, yet I find many litigators don’t treat them like a trial. I think they should. One such example whose lesson applies broadly to almost any trial attorney is a relatively new type of administrative hearing that occurs every day at the Patent & Trademark Office. It’s called an inter partes review hearing (IPR). And if you think this article applies only to patent litigators, you’re wrong. This type of hearing has lessons for all trial attorneys. The work that patent litigators do is almost always complex. Over the past 24 years at A2L, roughly 40 percent of our work has involved patent litigation. That makes sense because the work of A2L is perfectly suited to patent litigation. We have three primary services: conducting mock trials and jury research, simplifying complex information with litigation graphics and expert storytelling, and using trial technology to quickly convey information to the factfinder. Patent litigators, after all, need to convey complicated information in a jury-friendly way. It needs to be understandable and persuasive and needs to tell a story that people will care about, a story that must be delivered in a winning manner. That’s why as far back as the 1990s, it has been patent litigators whom A2L worked with most often. In 2009, the America Invents Act (AIA) fundamentally changed the way in which patent cases are tried. The act allows for, among other things, something of a shortcut method to challenge the validity of a patent via a hearing at the Patent and Trademark office. There are judges and there is vigorous opposition from opposing counsel. But what’s missing here compared with most patent trials -- professionally prepared litigation graphics, a clear and compelling story, and an effort to highlight only the important information in the oral presentation. See 5 Tips For Inter Partes Review Hearing Presentations at the PTO. I heard a quote from Judge Learned Hand recently that underscores this last point: With the courage which only comes of justified self-confidence, he dared to rest his case upon its strongest point, and so avoided that appearance of weakness and uncertainty which comes of a clutter of arguments. Few lawyers are willing to do this; it is the mark of the most distinguished talent. If you want to see 100+ bullet point-ridden slides with trial counsel reading from them (see How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial? and 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations), this venue is all too often the place to find them. Considering the material and what is at stake, this is pure self-sabotage on behalf of a legal team. Patent lawyers generally do well at trial working with A2L, but for some reason, many have reverted to the behaviors of the 1980s and 1990s in this venue.  Of course, I notice this in all sorts of venues, unfortunately, and I want to raise awareness for both trial counsel and clients in all areas. The science is well settled on why litigation graphics are necessary - even in a bench trial environment. See 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations. The same is true for telling a compelling story and doing that efficiently. I have heard this sentiment from judges and practitioners alike. One veteran patent litigator, Rob Mattson of the Oblon law firm, spoke to me about IPRs, “These cases are similar to a summary judgment hearing, and the judges want to understand the technology and what is in dispute as efficiently as possible. Getting the litigation graphics right here is just as important as in trial, although there may only be 20 key slides instead of 80.” I believe that this is a broad lesson that goes well beyond the inter partes review hearing. Consider some of these articles on each of these areas and how they might apply to what you present to your fact-finder. Presenting in arbitration/mediation Presenting in international arbitration Presenting in inter partes review hearings 14 Places Your Colleagues Are Using Persuasive Graphics (That Maybe You're Not) Presenting in class certification hearings Presenting in Markman hearings Presenting at the ITC Presenting in mock trials

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At some point in our lives, many of us, perhaps most of us, have assembled a piece of IKEA furniture. Whether it was for that first apartment, your vacation home, or your kid's dorm room, it's something of a right of passage. If you have done this assembly work with your significant other, it's often a test of the relationship too. IKEA furniture is inexpensive, in part, because of the way it is shipped and packaged. It is unassembled, it fits into a small package, and the purchaser must assemble it. The instructions that come with the products are notoriously complicated, although they are quite well designed. In recent years, IKEA has gone a step beyond the printed instructions of old. They now publish videos of how to assemble a product, and they are really quite good. Hearing someone complain recently about having to follow the printed instructions got me thinking about juror communications and best practices when it comes to preparing litigation graphics. Of course, right? Here are three ways IKEA assembly instructions and litigation graphics can be similar: The Worst: Having your significant other tell you what to do and how to assemble the product is a lot like a trial attorney lecturing a jury with no visuals at all. See, 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations. Okay: Following the printed IKEA instructions is a bit like watching PowerPoint slides prepared by a member of the trial team. They are well-intentioned but not nearly as helpful or persuasive as they could be. See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think. Pretty helpful: Watching an IKEA-produced assembly video (see below) is a lot like watching a professionally prepared opening statement, closing statement or expert witness presentation created by a litigation graphics firm. See, Why You Need a Litigation Graphics Consultant.

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Why You Need a Litigation Graphics Consultant

I had a confounding call with a past client and litigator recently. He had worked with A2L nearly ten years ago early in his career on a related matter. He called to engage A2L and work with one of our graphic designers. On its face, it's a sensible ask. After all, in addition to our jury consulting work and our hot-seat/trial technology work, A2L is undoubtedly a, if not the premier litigation graphics consultancy. The reason I found this call surprising is that asking to work with an individual graphic designer on our team misses the entire value proposition of why a firm like ours exists in the first place. If all a trial lawyer had to do was hire a graphic designer to help prepare opening/closing powerpoint presentations and work with testifying experts to help simplify their message, law firms would be teeming with millennial-aged graphic designers ready to spring into action in advance of trial. Lawyers might even do the work themselves. But that's not how serious trial-focused firms work, and many have gone full circle to figure this out - from adding internal graphic designers to eliminating them entirely. Serious trial-focused law firms do not insource litigation graphics work because it simply doesn't work over the long term. Logically, it should, but it just doesn't, and I've spent 25 years in the industry learning why. The articles linked below offer dozens of reasons why this is true.

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Trial Lawyers: Only Do What Only You Can Do

"Only do what only you can do." My mentor throughout the 1990s and 2000s used to say this to me, and it was one of the best lessons a CEO with a fast-growing company could hear.  The message was, of course, to stop trying to do too much myself and let other people do their part. Don't micromanage. Don't rescue. Don't interfere. Don't hover. And do let people learn by doing - even if it means making (small) mistakes. The overall message was to delegate responsibly. Based on three decades of observing the world's best trial lawyers, I can confirm that the best trial lawyers are experts in delegation, whether they are first chair or fifth chair. However, many trial lawyers, particularly those with many members on a trial team, would benefit from better following the lead of the greats. The problems I've seen (and I bet you have too) are numerous. Because a trial lawyer can use PowerPoint, some insist on doing some or all of the litigation graphics. See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think. Because they've lived with the case for years, many trial lawyers are anxious about conducting a mock trial or asking for feedback on their planned narrative. See, 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams and The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best.

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At A2L, we publish so many articles valuable to trial lawyers and litigation professionals that we like to share our very best periodically. Below are the top three articles (based on readership) published in the second quarter of 2019. Each has links that allow you to easily share the article on Twitter or LinkedIn. Top 3 A2L Litigation Articles Published in Q2 2019 1. 5 Valuable Lessons From Some Horrible Infographics 2. 10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation 3. A Useful Directory of Federal Courtroom Technology

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10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation

Working at A2L, I have the distinct pleasure of watching many of the world's best trial lawyers prepare for trial. Most start months or years in advance. Those lawyers engage A2L early to do theme testing with a focus group or to organize and run a mock trial. Each of these events requires the creation of litigation graphics and usually assistance in developing an opening statement. Having watched so many great trial lawyers prepare for 25 years, I have been able to observe patterns in how they prepare. Below I share ten chronologically ordered tips (plus accompanying resources) based on these observations. If you're less than one year from trial, I hope these tips are still helpful, and I hope you will get in touch with me. More than one year from trial: There is no better time to do theme testing then when discovery is still open. Read more in How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation and as you start this journey, always remember that Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently. One year before trial: Plan your first of two mock trials. There are dozens of good reasons to conduct a mock trial, but forcing yourself to prepare early may be the very best one. Read my one-year trial planning guide and read A2L's Opening Statement Toolkit. Also, it is a good time to read A2L's Jury Consulting and Mock Trial Handbook. Nine months before trial: Begin or continue development of your litigation graphics. If you conducted a mock trial, you already have a good start. Read How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?, 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important and The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation. Six months before trial: Refine your opening statement story and the visuals that will support it. Make sure your experts have their visuals being worked on by your litigation graphics team - not the in-house people at the expert's firm. Watch Persuasive Storytelling for Trial Lawyers and read Storytelling for Litigators. To help develop your experts, have them read this three-part series on How to Be a Great Expert Witness. Three months before trial: Conduct opening statement practice sessions with your trial team, litigation consultants, and your client. Read The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best, 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation, and Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well.

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