The Litigation Consulting Report

7 PowerPoint Trial Presentation Secrets Revealed

Posted by Alex Brown on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 @ 09:50 AM


trial-presentation-powerpoint-tool-mistakesby Alex Brown
Director of Operations
A2L Consulting

My hobby is woodworking. Recently, I had to build a dog fence so that my wife could train one of our dogs. From photos I figured out the dimensions, type of wood to use, and the hardware needed. What I did not take into consideration were the tools I would need to complete the job easily and on schedule.

In the process of building the fence, I ended up at our local ACE Hardware store shopping for multiple tools including one I had never used before, a planer. Only after destroying a few key parts for the fence did I learned my lesson, and I decided to figure out how to use the tool that was supposed to make the job easier.

When preparing for a trial, most decisions are made prior to the actual trying of the case. Who will be the expert witnesses, what is the theme, how and when do we introduce our evidence, and how do we present it to the jury or judge in an engaging and persuasive way in the form of a trial presentation. PowerPoint is key to most trial presentations, and we all believe we know how to use this tool. But, we also know that at 3 AM, 48 hours prior to opening statements, is the time when Murphy's Law shows up to cause a little havoc. Below are seven ways to use PowerPoint effectively to reduce the strain that Mr. Murphy seems to always introduce.

  1. Outline. Before you even click on the PowerPoint icon, you need to have the content ready so you can create an appealing graphic for trial presentation. What is your goal, who is your audience, what are the key points that need to be shown, and what needs to be discussed? Only then can you create the visual representation to persuade the audience.

  2. Less is more. Upon what should your audience be focusing while you are talking? You (mostly). The best presenters in the world know this, and we are mesmerized when they give a presentation. Reduce your text and increase your visuals. If someone tells you that a picture is NOT worth a thousand words, it is because they could not figure out what the picture should be. We are a visual society (the majority of the population learn and remember this way) this is your audience.

  3. You are not your audience. Most litigators are NOT visual preference learners. You have to remember to present in the language of your audience. Use all of the learning styles, use your words, but make sure your visuals support these words. Use models or boards so those in your audience that are "hands on" get the chance to learn from their base. This combination will mean, at one point or another, you will speak directly to everyone; this is key when you are trying to make them understand and, more importantly, persuade them.

  4. Timing is everything. If you are following the best practice of having each trial presentation slide only contain one point at a time, understand that this is one of the reasons: IMPACT. Have you ever been telling a joke and someone blurts out the punchline before you're finished? As you are guiding the jury down the story line you use your visuals as support, and when the time is right (not too early, and definitely not too late), you reveal your "impact" image to support your theme with the "smoking gun" evidence or graphic. It is a sure fire way to hammer your point home.

  5. Style is important. As much as we believe we know how to create an awesome PowerPoint, there are things that we do not use often enough, like Style Sheets. These are important so your presentation does not look like 66 writers were used to create it. Style Sheets allow you to create a unified and intentional look that flows from start to finish and keeps jurors focused on content, not uneven boarders, odd colors, or worse case, "I can’t read that, what did it say?"

  6. Practice? Were talkin' about Practice. "Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection." The key to a great PowerPoint trial presentation is, when you are using it, make sure it's not the first time. You have to know it as well as you know your story so it can be integrated into a cohesive unit, not just appear to be an afterthought.

  7. Use a professional. Last month I hired a podiatrist to perform open heart surgery on my family dog, said no one EVER. You are a litigator, and I’ll assume a damn good one, why in the world would you take time off the clock to create a PowerPoint presentation? Using a professional can actually reduce the pressure and cost of trial preparation for you and your client. A professional should be able to comprehend your theme and integrate it into the presentation. They should do it faster than anyone in your firm possibly will, and better. They should be able to give YOU ideas and an outsider's perspective that you might not have considered, and they should have the experience to make you comfortable with the process, allowing you to stay focused. The best of the best litigation consultants have litigation experience that they draw from which gives you another expert in the room when strategies are developed and implemented.

Other articles and resources on A2L Consulting's site related to PowerPoint, trial presentation, litigation graphics, storytelling for persuasion, trial graphics and demonstrative evidence:

Tags: Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Practice, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion

How I Used Litigation Graphics as a Litigator and How You Could Too

Posted by Ryan Flax on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 @ 03:58 PM


litigation-graphics-trial-graphics-demonstrative-evidenceby Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

It is well known and generally accepted by the top performers in the litigation community that you need to use demonstrative evidence, including litigation graphics, to be persuasive at trial. As a scientific certainty, using visual support to back up your key points and arguments is critical to maximizing persuasiveness. As a litigator, I’ve personally created and used graphics, and developed litigation graphics for others, to use at trial, at Markman (patent claim construction) hearings, and for other presentations. As a litigation consultant, I’ve seen countless terrific litigators both understand that they do need graphics and at the same time misunderstand how they should be using litigation graphics in these and similar settings.

My new friend, Alan Fisch of the DC-based, IP litigation powerhouse Fisch Sigler LLP, and I were just discussing this over lunch and agreed that it’s remarkable how true this is and how many great litigators lose at trial because they fail to master the basic principles of trial persuasion. Using trial graphics incorrectly can be as bad as or worse than not using them at all.

visual-learners-preference-jurorsBefore getting into the “how,” the question of “why” visual support is so critical to trial success must be touched-upon. Studies show that the majority of people are visual-preference learners, or at least combination visual and some-other-learning-style-learners. See, e.g., Felder and Spurlin, Applications, Reliability and Validity of the Index of Learning Styles, Int. J. Engng. Ed. Vol. 21, No. 1 at 103-112 (2005); Ayse Esmeray Yogun, Match or Mismatch Between Business Students’ and Business Academicians’ Learning Styles: A Research at Toros University, The Macrotheme Rev. 3(2), 38-46 (Spring 2014); see also, Animators at Law Communication Style Study. This means that people want to be taught and will better understand lawyer argument and witness testimony if it is not only spoken to them, but also shown to them visually.  The theory is that by presenting information and argument to jurors (and judges) in the way they likely prefer to receive it, they’ll enjoy and pay more attention to your presentation and remember what you say.

powerpoint-persuasion-litigationThere is actual scientific research to back this up, specifically in the litigation setting. A wonderful man named Dr. Jai Park and his research partner, attorney Neal Feigenson, studied the effects of using visual support (in the form of PowerPoint graphics) during opening statements of a basic employment discrimination lawsuit. Dr. Park and Mr. Feigenson found that using litigation graphics improved ultimate results (verdicts) by making jurors believe that the attorney using them was more capable, better prepared and probably more likable. Jurors were able to understand and remember the facts better when graphics were used.

broda-baum-immersive-trial-graphicsBeyond merely knowing that visual support must be used at trial, we know that you need to use an immersive technique when arguing and showing graphics.  Jury consultant Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm performed a study on mock jurors by using five different techniques for presenting oral argument (opening statements): (1) no graphics at all; (2) old-school flip charts; (3) professionally made, static graphics that were only sporadically shown; (4) fancier professionally made animated graphics still sporadically shown; and (5) a combination of 3 and 4 where the jurors were always given something to see during the presentation. Surprisingly, only the last technique, the immersive style, made any significant improvement in persuasiveness.

storytelling-litigation-courtroom-trialAnother important point is that we know that your argument needs to be structured as a story. People are hard wired to enjoy and expect stories. Storytelling literally gets the teller (you) and listener (juror) on the same mental wavelength. By this I mean that the very same areas of the brain are activated in synchronicity in the storyteller’s and listener’s brains – they share thinking patterns. Also, good storytelling causes release of oxytocin, called the trust molecule, in listener’s bodies. This physical reaction to a good story makes an audience more likely to be sympathetic and ready to “help,” which is what you want a jury feeling when your case is presented.

maya-angelou-made-them-feelAnd this word – feeling – is the key to victory at trial. As Dr. Maya Angelou famously said, “[p]eople will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is doubly true for jurors and litigators. Jurors will most remember how they felt about you and your case, and thus, about your client, and will decide your fate based on that feeling, sprinkled with some of the salient facts from the trial that fit with their conclusion on how the case should turn out.  Make them feel like you won.

All the above is essential knowledge to be persuasive at trial. You need to tell a compelling story, you need to support that story with litigation graphics, and you need to show those litigation graphics in an immersive way. But, how do we as litigators do this in real life? Here’s how:

When I explain these concepts to other litigators, and I do this all the time, I analogize trial presentation to the television news, where there are two kinds of presentation graphics. We are all well acquainted with the broadcast news and are comfortable with the style and format of its typical (really universal) presentation. The news is an informative presentation that always uses an immersive graphical style to tell story after story after story. The goal of the broadcast is usually to quickly inform you as a consumer of mass media, probably to evoke some emotion, and sometimes to persuade. What do we see news broadcasters doing and how can we adopt a similar style to be persuasive in presenting trial argument?

news-litigation-graphics-brian-williamsTake a good look at the photo here of anchor Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News. Most news reports, like those presented by Williams, are dominated by the anchor speaking directly to us through the camera. Almost always, next to the anchor’s head is a large graphic, which is almost always static, but for (maybe) some sort of animated entrance for the graphic. This is what you see in this photo of Brian Williams reporting on an airline crash.

You obviously cannot hear anything of what Williams was saying because I’ve only provided you a picture, but you “know” what he’s saying nonetheless.  You’ve already created some “story” in your own mind explaining what you’re seeing in the picture – to explain the emotions evoked in you by seeing the image of the crashed plane and the look of concern on Williams’s face. Your concocted story may or may not be correct, but the mere fact that you’ve developed one for yourself is proof that everything I’ve said above is correct.

This is how you’ll use the lion share of your trial graphics during your immersive presentation.  You’ll make your points and tell your client’s story orally and show the jury graphics that support those point, storylines, and themes. However, this is not what most litigators think of when they think they need litigation graphics. What they typically think of is the weather man.

washington-dc-litigation-support-graphics-courtroomTo continue with my news report analogy, there is a wholly different kind of litigation graphic that will be interspersed within your larger visual courtroom presentation.  These second type of graphics are more complex, are directed to more complicated subject matter and issues, and are expressly spoken to by the presenter (you). These types of graphics are like those used by Washington, DC’s NBC4’s Doug Kammerer here in the photo of him doing a weather report and forecast. 

Kammerer is standing in front of his graphics (actually, they are superimposed over a green screen in production, but he can see what he’s doing) and discussing them in detail. You see that he is pointing to the jet stream pattern and the cold front it’s pulling down from Canada into the United States. You know what that weather pattern is doing – it is making us very cold – because the colors and graphics tell us that.

He’s looking us in the eye, but talking about the complicated weather patterns graphically displayed behind him – he’s explaining complex things to us in a way that we understand even though we are not meteorologists.  

Here’s America’s beloved weatherman, Al Roker of the Today Show explaining how to talk to a graphic like this:

What’s the benefit of following the “TV news” style of presenting? First, it allows you to use an immersive visual technique without it seeming over-done. Second, you’ll be presenting your case to the jury in a way that they expect and are very comfortable with. You’ll be able to connect with your jurors, you’ll make the trial more entertaining and enjoyable for them, and they’ll appreciate it. As Dr. Angelou said, they’ll remember how you made them feel, and it will have an impact when they decide the outcome of our case. If you choose not to follow the advice of this article you risk alienating, confusing, irritating, boring, or otherwise losing your jury-audience. This is disastrous for trial lawyers.

What’s the benefit of following the “TV news” style of presenting? First, it allows you to use an immersive visual technique without it seeming over-done. Second, you’ll be presenting your case to the jury in a way that they expect and are very comfortable with. You’ll be able to connect with your jurors, you’ll make the trial more entertaining and enjoyable for them, and they’ll appreciate it. As Dr. Angelou said, they’ll remember how you made them feel, and it will have an impact when they decide the outcome of our case. If you choose not to follow the advice of this article you risk alienating, confusing, irritating, boring, or otherwise losing your jury-audience. This is disastrous for trial lawyers.

When litigators come to us for the first time seeking litigation graphics for their trial, they usually say things like “I need a graphic that shows ________” (fill in this blank with any complex issue that’s hard to explain) rather than I need a visual presentation that supports this story, these themes, and tracks this opening statement. Once they get it, though, it’s the later they understand they really need and want. The complicated issues in any litigation present themselves more obviously to us and are, thus, the first things litigators realize they need to educate a jury about. It’s more difficult to unveil the heart of the case, develop and story around it (why are we really here in court?), and support that story visually and in conjunction with the important evidence of the case.  Following the path I’ve set out above, developing a story, committing to supporting that story with an immersive visual presentation, and presenting the story and visuals in the “TV news” technique will make you a better litigator.

Other articles and resources on A2L Consulting's site related to litigation graphics, storytelling for persuasion, trial graphics and demonstrative evidence:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Storytelling, Information Design

A Tale of Two Patent Trial Presentation Styles [CVN Video]

Posted by Ryan Flax on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 @ 03:37 PM


patent-trial-presentation-style-cvnby Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

A2L has a wonderful partnership with Courtroom View Network (, which is a warehouse of video footage of courtroom presentations of all kinds and should be a valued resource for attorneys and law school students wishing to educate themselves on the “to-dos” and “not-to-dos” of litigation argument. I have been browsing the intellectual property video footage at and wanted to provide you two examples of different presentation styles in patent litigations: one using no graphics and one using graphics.  I compare and contrast these presentations below.

First, here is a 5 minute video of attorney Joseph Zito introducing a patent at suit and discussing its technology, a bone screw. Watch it and then see my commentary after the jump.


What did we just see?  This was a Markman hearing – the hearing before the court where counsel argues for a certain interpretation of the patent’s claims as a matter of law. The judge is the audience – there’s no jury at this point.

You see that Mr. Zito has elected not to use any litigation graphics to help him explain the technology or to argue his case. Instead, he’s chosen to use an ELMO overhead camera machine to show paper documents, including the patent and his claim charts. He explains the technology by flipping the patent’s pages to its drawings.  He explains the claims at issue by pointing to his claim charts that quote the patent’s claims. He’s also decided to showcase his fingers and pen.

Did you find what Mr. Zito had to say interesting? Did you particularly follow any of what he said? Did you find it easy to watch all 5 minutes of the argument?

I did not find Mr. Zito’s argument interesting, and I must admit that I found myself daydreaming just a little during the brief 5 minutes of video. The technology here is not super-complicated. It’s basically a screw with a threaded head and how it interacts with a bone plate. This is not too hard to understand, but I don’t feel I really get much of what Mr. Zito wants to argue and he sure hasn’t made bone screw technology interesting (it could have been to me as I’m quite partial to medical device technology).

Now let’s watch another courtroom video. Here is another 5 minutes of another attorney, John Adkisson, who, similar to Mr. Zito, introduces a patent in suit and its technology (completely different case).  Watch it and see my commentary after the jump.


What did we see here?  Attorney Adkisson made, what I believe, a more interesting presentation – and, all things being equal, a better trial presentation.

First, we see Mr. Adkisson adhere to our first rule of persuasion: frame your case as a story. He introduces his client and the inventor and sets the scene for the judge. He asks and answers the all-important question of “why are we really here?” – we're here because of (Professor) Dr. Paul Blum’s invention in hyperthermophillic organisms (whatever that is).

Moreover, Mr. Adkisson uses litigation graphics to make his case. He hasn’t yet gotten to the real meat of his arguments yet, but we know what patent is at issue here, what the invention is about, which claims are being asserted, and how they might be infringed. Furthermore, Mr. Adkisson uses an immersive presentation style where he always shows the judge a graphic while he makes his argument – this is the only way to significantly improve your persuasiveness using visual support.

I’m not saying that Mr. Adkisson’s trial presentation/argument style was perfect – far from it.  He made some elementary mistakes that could wind up killing his presentation, e.g., using bullet points, not animating his graphics, simultaneously saying what’s written on his PowerPoint slide.  However, he did a far better job using litigation graphics than Mr. Zito did without litigation graphics.

What do you think?  Which style of trial presentation did you find more interesting? Which held your attention longer? Which presentation’s information did you feel you understood better and
which did you retain longer? I’d say the second one, but I’d love to hear from you.

Other A2L Consulting articles and resources related to storytelling, patent litigation, Markman hearings, trial presentation and litigation graphics:

Tags: Markman Hearings, Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Patent Litigation, Storytelling

The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial

Posted by Kaitlin Rothstein on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 @ 03:59 PM


mock-trial-jury-consultants-dc-va-ny-de-pa-nj-fl-tx-ca-ilby Kaitlin Rothstein 
A2L Consulting

Have you ever noticed that when you have someone else take a look at a problem or help edit a document, they find another way to address the issue or find additional areas that can be tweaked?  That is what mock trials serve as, a tool to put additional eyes and minds on a massive set of data and find out where it can be fine tuned and perfected. 

The purpose of the mock trial is to educate the lawyers and clients on the case’s strengths and weaknesses and find where it can be enhanced. If you are on the fence about using a mock trial, think about these important ways that one could enhance your case:

1. Mock trials are very helpful in assisting in the fine-tuning of story formatting and trial presentation

  • Storytelling and proper presentation style for the audience is key for persuasion
  • Learn how to tell the story to properly teach the jury or approach the topic with a judge
  • Allow you to test litigation graphics and themes on an audience to see reaction, level of understanding, and persuasion.
  • See Storytelling at Trial: Will Your Story be Used?

2. Mock trials help you see the case from the other side: in the weeds vs. fresh perspective

3. Mock trials cause you to find gaps in your case (that you didn’t even know were there)

  • You can get feedback from the mock jurors on what they did and didn’t understand, what did and didn’t work, or if there were issues missing in the presentation of the case.
  • See 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said

4. Mock trials assist in evaluating case themes and stories

  • The mock jury will give feedback on the case and which themes worked and helped them along in their decisions and which ones were not helpful for your case.  While you may think that each theme is appropriate and key, you may learn that one should be left out or changed.
  • You may also find out which themes are sound but need more explanation, through support (visual or litigation graphic development)
  • This will also give you insight into how your jury will think, process, and determine the outcome of your case. This will help you to tailor how you respond, how you say it to hit home the hardest.
  • See Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy

5. Mock trials allow you to hone your skills

  • There is no such thing as too much practice
  • Practicing to get comfortable with the materials, practicing to get comfortable with the venue, practicing to be well polished and confident but not slick, are all great benefits of mock trials
  • This focused preparation will come in handy during the heat of the day
  • See Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle

Other articles from A2L Consulting about mock trials, mock juries, storytelling, practice and jury consulting:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Jury Consultants, Storytelling, Practice, Persuasion

[New and Free E-Book] Litigation Storytelling and Persuasion - 3rd Ed.

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 @ 03:56 PM


storytelling-for-litigators-narrowby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

A successful trial lawyer is one who is able to persuade a jury or judge of the truth of his or her client’s case. In order to do that, a lawyer must connect with people on an emotional level. The only way to do that is to tell a compelling story. Stories are the way in which people learn and the way in which they organize reality.

Law school may prepare lawyers to build a case around the law, but it doesn’t teach the science or art of persuasion. Sitting in a jury and analyzing evidence is likely one of the most complex things a juror will ever do, so you need to make it easier for them and as entertaining as possible. You need to hook them early and keep them engaged.

No matter what you say during opening statements, a jury will try to fit the evidence into a story format. The question is, will they use your story, your opponent's story or one that they make up for themselves.

Great litigators understand the need to control the trial narrative. They understand that once a story takes hold, a jury will selectively hear evidence that tends to confirm the logic of the story they've adopted. This confirmation bias when combined with the knowledge that as many as 80 percent of jurors will make up their minds during opening statements, means that the story a litigator tells during opening is arguably the single most important thing done at trial.

At A2L Consulting, we have just put together the third edition of our very popular (and free) e-book on storytelling and persuasion. It’s entitled “Storytelling for Litigators: Building a Great Narrative for Judge & Jury.”  This e-book is based on the latest research, and it is designed to explain the theory behind the importance of storytelling, the basic concepts of building a persuasive story for jurors, and the specifics of how to use your story in the courtroom.

This e-book expands dramatically on the previous two editions by adding 65 additional pages of expert-authored articles on the topics of storytelling and persuasion. Now, at 144 pages and 44 articles, this is the most comprehensive and unique volume available at any price in the litigation and persuasion fields (and it's free).

The e-book is recommended for anyone whose job involves seeing the inside of a courtroom on a regular basis, but anyone charged with persuading a skeptical audience will find value in it. It features such topics as “How to Emotionally Move Your Audience,” “Ten Things Litigators Can Learn From Newscasters,” “20 Great Courtroom Storytelling Articles from Trial Experts,” “Portray Your Client As a Hero in 17 Easy Storytelling Steps,” “Planning for Courtroom Persuasion: Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy,” and “Five Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion.”

I hope you enjoy this book, and I hope you will take a moment to share some feedback by contacting A2L. If you ever have a question about how to prepare the themes and story of your cases, please ask.


Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, E-Book, Advocacy Graphics, Storytelling, Visual Persuasion, Opening, Persuasion

14 Differences Between a Theme and a Story in Litigation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 @ 09:16 AM


storytelling theme courtroom trial openingby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Twenty years ago in my trial advocacy class, we talked a lot about developing a theme for a case. We learned to say things in an opening statement like, "this is a simple case about right and wrong" or "no good deed goes unpunished."

The goal of developing and communicating a theme is to give your fact-finder(s) an organizing principle that they can fit the evidence into neatly. However, for as much as we talked about themes, one thing I was not taught much about in law school was storytelling.

The two devices, themes and storytelling, are related, but they are not the same. A case theme can be thought of as a case's tag line, somewhat similar to corporate slogans like "when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight" or "the ultimate driving machine." It's a shorthand version of the case designed to connect with the life experiences of the fact-finder(s).

I have seen cases where a story was told, but no theme was used. I have seen cases where a theme was used, but no story was told. The reality is you need both, particularly during opening statements, and appreciating the differences between themes and stories is critical for success at trial. With estimates running as high as 80 percent for the number of jurors who have made up their minds just after opening statements, getting your theme-story combo right is nothing short of essential - for BOTH plaintiff and defendant.

Here are fourteen key differences between themes and stories used in litigation:

  1. Themes are attention getters, stories are attention keepers. You're a clever lawyer, and you can rattle off a great case theme that gets people thinking. However, without a meaningful story to back up your opening line, fact-finders are just going to make up their own story or just tune you out.
  2. Themes provide a reason to be interested, stories provide the emotional connection required to care. If a jury does not care about your case, they are likely not going to get on your side and could very well just be daydreaming even while making eye contact.
  3. Themes explain, stories motivate. A well-told courtroom story will trigger a biological and an emotional response that leaves your fact-finder open to being persuaded.
  4. Themes sound like you are being a lawyer, stories sound like you are being human. It is very important to be likable at trial, and being likable generally means behaving like someone people can really relate to. If you are over-using lawyer-language, you create distance between you and a jury.

  5. Themes provide a smidgen of structure, stories provide a decision-making framework. You know that you've told a story well in the courtroom when the jury tells the same story to one another during deliberations. We see this occur during mock trials regularly. See 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said.
  6. All lawyers know to use themes, many lawyers will fail to use stories. I recommend downloading our free Storytelling for Litigators book and watching our free Storytelling for Persuasion webinar to rapidly improve your storytelling skill set. I've watched good lawyers lose cases when they failed to articulate a good story.
  7. Themes are mostly tools for opening and closing statements, stories are incorporated throughout the trial. If you have set up your story well and worked with every member of your trial's cast including fact and expert witnesses, everyone will add clarity to a story throughout the trial.
  8. Juries will not usually talk about your themes, juries will talk about your stories and often adopt them as their own. See Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That? and 10 Videos to Help Litigators Become Better at Storytelling.
  9. Stories have many characters with understandable motives, themes provide little in the way of character development. See Are You Smarter Than a Soap Opera Writer?
  10. Themes may offer the what or how, but stories offer the why. See Your Trial Presentation Must Answer: Why Are You Telling Me That? and 20 Great Courtroom Storytelling Articles from Trial Experts. 
  11. Themes offer something quickly relatable, stories offer something you can get lost in. See 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion
  12. Themes affect one part of the brain, stories affect another. See Storytelling Proven to be Scientifically More Persuasive
  13. Themes don't really persuade, stories will persuade. See Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool - A New & Complimentary Webinar
  14. Themes don't need litigation graphics to support them but stories sure do. See Why Trial Graphics are an Essential Persuasion Tool for Litigators

Other articles and resources related to courtroom storytelling, theme development and opening statements on A2L Consulting's site:

Tags: Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Mock Trial, Juries, Storytelling, Opening, Closing Argument, Persuasion

19 Ways in Which the World Has Changed Since 1995

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Oct 1, 2014 @ 09:00 AM


a2l consulting litigation consultants oldest 19 years old firstby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Today marks A2L Consulting's 19th anniversary. Almost 20 years ago, I began planning to set up this company even while I was finishing law school. Now we are one of a small handful of top litigation consulting and visual persuasion consulting firms in the country.

In these past 19 years I have observed massive changes in the ways in which people communicate, both inside and outside the courtroom. In 1995, it was still fairly novel to have a website. Using the Internet Wayback Machine, you can still see what ours looked like at the time. Yikes, right?

Ours was not the only goofy-looking site at the time. Here’s what the websites of Kirkland & EllisWhite & Case, and Paul Hastings looked like. It's a simple visual reminder of how far we have all come. Remember, 19 years ago, O.J. was just getting in trouble, and neither Google nor Amazon existed yet. And many major law firms didn’t yet have a website.

Today, A2L is a closely integrated professional services firm offering jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting, on-site courtroom personnel, and visual persuasion services. Back then, we were primarily an animation company for lawyers. Things have certainly changed in our business, and in business in general.

Looking back over the last 19 years, here are 19 industry changes that are useful to reflect on, since they often point the direction to future change.

1. Storage of data is virtually free now. Nineteen years ago we used laser disks to play deposition clips inside the courtroom. Some firms still bring servers to war rooms, but most have adapted and realize that they can store pretty much everything they would ever need for trial in the palm of a hand.

2. Litigation graphics production was a lot more like Kinko's in 1995. After a meeting, a graphic artist would produce what the lawyer said to produce. Today's litigation graphics consultants are expert in storytelling and visual persuasion and often are in a position to help design the presentation strategy for trial.

3. More often than not, courtrooms are now wired for presentations. Nineteen years ago, we had to bring everything in the courtroom for every trial since no one had any technology set up.

4. I think practicing law was a lot more fun for a lot more people back then. Money wasn’t unlimited, but it could seem that way. But now as large law firms look a lot more like large corporations, the days of wild holiday parties and limitless expense accounts are now a thing of legend. Overhead is dropping everywhere.

5. With the rise of the Internet came a fast flow of information, and we all became a whole lot more knowledgeable. Remember Shepardizing with books? Today, we can research a judge online in no time.

6. We're now understanding what it really means to persuade someone and how best to do it. Science is teaching us that using techniques like storytelling and creating emotional connections with jurors will increase persuasiveness.

7. Dr. Phil was still running a jury consulting firm. Yes, we have our industry and Oprah to thank for Dr. Phil. It was as a result of his work for her in a defamation case related to the beef industry that he found his way to television.

8. Nineteen years ago, law firms did not really reflect the population in terms of race and gender. It's not perfect yet, but we're clearly on a path in that direction.

9. Social Media. From the way in which we conduct juror background research, to how law firm scandals spread, to how quickly one of our blog articles becomes a major hit, social media has accelerated everything. We released a book on social media last year, and some of the articles in it have been read tens of thousands of times.

10. Litigators practice their trial presentations more now. 19 years ago, I think lawyers were much more reticent to practice, and now, structured practice has become central to many of our engagements at A2L.

11. The New Normal. Nineteen years ago, large law firms did not have as much competitive price pressure for litigation as they do now. Competition has increased dramatically since 1995. Our book about the new normal legal economy has been downloaded thousands of times.

12. PowerPoint. Hard as it is to believe, the emergence of PowerPoint in the courtroom did not begin in earnest until the early 2000s. In 1995 it was mostly printed trial boards. I remember bringing more than 400 boards to one trial. Now, firms like A2L are doing amazing work with PowerPoint.

13. Courtroom Animation. Similarly, the need for 3-D animation has been reduced by the creative use of tools like PowerPoint to show jurors what they need to see.

14. Blogging has emerged as an information medium. Our litigation blog is probably the most widely read publication of its type, with 5,200 subscribers. It's free. Remember when we all paid hundreds of dollars for similar information?

15. Tablets have pretty much replaced laptops for many uses. In 1995, laptops were just emerging. Desktop computers were the standard. Now, we are seeing iPads in use regularly in the courtroom.

16. Email. Hard as it seems to believe, many people, certainly many large law firm partners, did not have email in 1995. Now we can’t live without it.

17.  Law firm marketing and business development have come of age. Most of the common techniques of branding, marketing communications, media relations, advertising, and others hardly existed in 1995. Marketing took hold in the early 2000s. Now, we're seeing real progress with some law firms running business development teams successfully.

18. Litigators helping litigators. Litigators on our team are helping other litigators improve their game. This service, a component of litigation consulting, simply did not exist 19 years ago.

19. Litigation Consulting. I think A2L was the first firm to widely use the term "litigation consulting" back in the 1990s. Now, in a case with $10 million or more at stake, it is routine to find a litigation consulting firm on both sides of a case. In a case with $100 million at stake, it would nearly qualify as malpractice not to have litigation consultants on both sides of the case.


Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Trial Technology, Jury Consultants, PowerPoint

$300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 @ 03:32 PM


litigation consultants power point vendorsby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

A2L supported a major win at trial last week, and the lessons from that win are extremely useful for any litigator.

The case involved two of the world's top litigation law firms and, respectively, two of their top litigators, both of whom have storied careers. A2L worked for the plaintiff, an inventor. The defendant was a multi-billion dollar technology company that had licensed the plaintiff's technology.

The dispute largely centered around the defendant's decision to stop paying licensing fees to the plaintiff. It was a complex case, and A2L's role was to help achieve a win through a combination of litigation consulting, litigation graphics and litigation technology.

Although we work on plenty of small cases, A2L Consulting may be best known for its work in cases with tens of millions, hundreds of millions, and frequently billions of dollars at stake. In these cases, simply making a clear and attractive PowerPoint slideshow is not what a litigation consulting firm gets hired for and certainly not all that a trial team needs. Instead, in big-ticket litigation, a litigation consulting firm's ability to deliver real value-add to the trial team will be the measured by its ability to:

  • support developing an opening statement;
  • run meaningful practice sessions with the 1st chair;
  • assist in the development of a story and theme;
  • ensure the story is one jurors will care about;
  • make sure the message (both spoken and visual) is clear;
  • incorporate lessons learned from any mock exercises into opening statements and litigation graphics;
  • develop the litigation graphics so that their design adheres to the latest psychological studies related to persuasion.

Yes, it may be surprising to some, but this is what great litigation consulting firms do (see 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant and 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do.) The complexity of this work explains why you can count on one hand the number of firms capable of doing it.

In my experience, most trial graphics firms are not aware of their own shortcomings, and, unfortunately, many litigators are not aware of the distinction between a simple trial graphics vendor (usually a group of artists, project managers and courtroom trial technicians) and a truly world-class litigation consulting firm (typically led by litigators and Ph.D jury consultants). For example, the CEO of a quasi-competitor to A2L, himself a former law firm hot-seater, said to me, "why would you give lawyers advice since they are paid to have the answers, right?" My answer to him was simple. You, shouldn't give advice.



And this is the line that separates litigation consultants from mere PowerPoint trial graphics vendors. It's a bright line, and once you understand it, there should be no confusing who fits into which category.

Leading up to trial, A2L provided all of the services listed in the bulleted list above and more. I had a chance to see the opening statements in this case. Our client humanized his client and told a clear story. He told a story that jurors couldn't help caring about. Told by him, it was simple to get behind the client. Moreover, his litigation graphics were well-refined and simple. They incorporated the latest persuasion science that cautions away from the use of bullet points and too much text. Frankly, his opening was delivered well enough that it would have been hard to beat him.

I believe that most cases are won and lost in the opening statements. It is during opening that the jury normally picks a side to root for and everything else is heard selectively to fit into this framework that each juror builds on his or her own (confirmation bias). Accordingly, enormous time and effort must be invested in preparing for opening statements. This includes many practice sessions, mock trials, a long iterative process of developing litigation graphics for opening and attention to all the other details like trial technology. In this case, opening statements were only about three hours long in total, however the trial lasted three weeks.

I'm proud to share the news that our side won after just a day of deliberations, and the jury awarded what is likely to be one of the top 10 verdicts of 2014, north of $300 million (A2L is normally on two or three of these top 10 cases each year). I am immensely proud of my colleague’s work on this case.

Other articles and resources related to litigation consulting and storytelling on A2L Consulting's site:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Courtroom Presentations, Litigation Consulting, Trial Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Storytelling, Opening

The Top 5 Qualities of a Good Lawyer

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 @ 02:48 PM


traits of a good lawyer makesby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I'm often asked for advice on hiring a lawyer. In fact, I refer about two dozen cases/clients out to trustworthy lawyers each year. Usually, they range in value from family law-types of cases to $100 million complex commercial disputes.

I am in a unique position. While trained as a lawyer, I don't practice. I spend the majority of my time running A2L, a litigation consulting firm, and I publish what is likely the most widely read litigation blog. However, I think what really qualifies me to make great referrals is the twenty years I've spent working with top litigators both as a consultant and as a client. In that time, I've had a chance to see how 1,000 lawyers or so perform, and I've learned a lot about who is good and who is average.

When someone calls and says to me, "I need a good lawyer," I need to know a lot more than that. In fact, I'm convinced that most people don't know what "a good lawyer" means exactly. I'm not even sure many lawyers know what makes a good lawyer.

From the outside of the industry, however, I think it's almost impossible to tell who is good. "Good" is almost entirely based on word-of-mouth, and world-of-mouth is usually affected by some form of confirmation bias. That is, people want to recommend a lawyer they've used before, since making that recommendation helps them reinforce the decision they made to hire that lawyer in the first place.

Knowing that someone is a SuperLawyer is good, being AV rated is good too, and even having a reasonable Avvo score is a plus. However, even among lawyers meeting these three criteria, I observe wide variations in talent. So, to give a good referral, I really have to both understand who is a good lawyer, and recommend the right lawyer for the situation.

Reflecting on 20 years of experience, here are five traits that define a good lawyer for me when I am making a referral:

  1. Negotiation talent. Far more important than any other trait, negotiation skill will get you the most value from a lawyer. Good lawyer-negotiators seek to leave all parties feeling like a reasonable outcome was achieved, rather than trying to run over the opposition. This does not mean they get you less than you seek. It means you get a fair outcome, and you feel good about your outcome. It means the outcome is also workable and has staying power. Good lawyers manage expectations on both sides of the "v." and are masters of selectively using leverage to help guide a dispute toward resolution. They have a warrior spirit that is fed by cleverly getting to the desired outcome. They play chess, not checkers. When a lawyer is not a good negotiator, disputes cost more and outcomes are less favorable. The problem is that this skill is very, very hard to evaluate unless you have seen someone conduct a negotiation. 

  2. Good Paper Talent. Good lawyers draft correspondence, motions and briefs that are well-cited and well-written. Typos are non-existent, and they maintain a sense of decorum unless it is truly helpful to do otherwise. Their emails are well-thought-through, and they avoid common grammar issues. They get things done on time, and they are familiar with using storytelling and persuasive graphics in pleadings to maximize persuasiveness. Of course, they get the law right, but that really should be a given. 

  3. Presentation Talent. Good lawyers present well when they are being spontaneous, and they present fantastically well when they have time to prepare a trial presentation. They are confident. They are familiar with the latest thinking about litigation graphics. They are comfortable relying on litigation consultants and others for good ideas.

  4. Specific Experience. Just like a job interview, you really want to hire someone who has handled a problem like yours many times before. This is not always possible when hiring a lawyer as many problems are unique. Furthermore, if I had to balance negotiation skills vs. experience with a particular subject, I'd still very heavily weight my decision in favor a lawyer with superior negotiation skills. 

  5. Reasonable Accessibility. Good lawyers make themselves available to you, and you should not have to beg them to talk with you. That does not mean you have a right to be high-maintenance, it means their availability should vary proportionally to the seriousness of what you are facing at that moment. Good lawyers are busy, but as they say, if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.

Notice I did not mention fees or rates in my top-five list. As my favorite outside counsel says to me, perhaps in a self-serving way, "there's nothing more expensive than a cheap lawyer." Fortunately, I happen to agree with him.

You can probably tell that I enjoy making referrals, and, in fact, I happened to give three yesterday. My hope is always that I have made a good match for all involved, and so far, that's always been true. Please comment with other traits you think I overlooked.

Other A2L articles related to business development, pricing and litigation consulting:



Tags: Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Litigation Consulting, Pricing, Storytelling, Leadership, Pleadings, Business Development

The Top 10 Tips for Selling Professional Services

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 @ 03:16 PM


professional service sales tips litigation supportby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

As the founder of A2L Consulting I've had the opportunity to do every job in the company at some point in the last 20 years. I enjoy technical work that requires deeply complex thinking. I'm great at conceptualizing litigation graphics for opening statements. Not surprisingly, as CEO, I also love leadership and strategy.

However, the job I love the most is helping people connect with the right people at A2L who can solve their challenges. Usually, these challenges are related to communicating to a judge or jury, persuading a skeptical public audience, or testing to find just the right oral and visual message for a particular audience. What do I call this job? Well, the title of this post is big clue. This job is sales. 

A lot of people conjure up images of gregarious backslapping fraternity types when they think of salespeople. If you're doing it well, nothing could be further from the truth.

Sales is simply helping people solve problems. It's pretty easy when they know they have a problem, but it is certainly much harder when they have yet to perceive the problem, when you want to help them prevent a problem, or even when they have no idea that the solutions you know about exist.

In 20 years I've talked to tens of thousands of people in a sales context. I think I do sales well, and the lessons I've learned selling litigation consulting services can be applied to any professional services sale including selling as a lawyer.

Here are the top 10 tips I have for any salesperson engaging in professional services sales or pretty much sales of any type.

10. Create accountability systems. Great sales people want to be held accountable for their metrics (i.e. calls, meetings, etc.) and their results. Bad sales people hide and obfuscate. If you want to be great, get yourself a coach, a mentor or a group that you will report to weekly. Simply by talking through your metrics with someone else on a regular basis you'll become much more effective.

9. Act like your prospects. People generally like themselves. They also usually like people like themselves. If you want to be liked and respected by your prospect, behave like them. While I believe in NLP principles related to mirroring and matching techniques, I'm not being that granular. If your prospect is an introvert, be one when you're with them. If they like to go out for drinks, join them in that atmosphere. Go where the prospects are, and act like the prospects do.

8. Tenacity is the best and most overlooked sales strategy. One study found that most sales people have given up after the fifth attempt to reach someone. However most deals are usually arrived at after at least eight contacts and attempts to get a deal done. As one blogger put it, 90% of salespeople have given up before 80% of sales are made. Very often, to be good at sales, all you have to do is stick with it. If you generally only try to reach someone a few times, you're almost guaranteed to fail as a salesperson.

7. "No's" are good news. It's probably going to take nine no's for every yes you hear in sales. Rather than seeing a "no" as an affront to your self-esteem, be grateful. You just got through one of the nine preventing you from getting to that next "yes."

6. Your existing clients have more business than you think they do. While A2L has worked with pretty much every major law firm in the country, there are really only a handful of firms where I believe we have more than 25% of the firm's annual litigation consulting spend. I've been at this 20 years, and I still have this problem. All of my serious competitors like DecisionQuest, FTI and TrialGraphix, are in the same boat. You can always dig deeper, and it is always easier, faster and cheaper to sell to current clients than it is to find new ones. Treat your current clients more like prospects and less like assets, and you'll uncover gold.

5. No one sales method works for the long-term. At A2L, our sales teams and I use a combination of four methods to generate sales. First, we do great work at A2L so we get repeat business and referrals. In professional services, results are gold, and without them, no amount of sales can help you. Second, we use this blog (here's a free subscription) to share valuable information with the kinds of people we hope to work with (5,000 subscribe already). People call us every day as a result of having read an article about jury consulting, litigation graphics, trial technology, or our visual persuasion services. Third, using a product called LawProspector, we use warm calling methods to reach out to people we know are likely to need litigation consulting services soon. Fourth, we use classic one-to-one relationship selling to build relationships for the long-term. These four methods work together like a symphony.

4. What gets measured gets done. Sorry for the cliché, but it's true. If you're not tracking every bit of sales activity you do, you shouldn't bother trying to sell, because you're just doing it wrong. You must use a CRM. Without metric tracking and accountability in some form, most people will just bounce from conversation to conversation without converting a meaningful number of deals. It feels like sales, but it's really just endless flirting.

3. You're going to sell your way no matter what, so don't try to sell like somebody else. A friend of mine who is a partner to major law firm is a very effective sales guy. He's worked at it, and he is rightfully proud of his accomplishments. He uses a sales coach, and he shared with me something that his coach told him. My friend didn't like big networking events (I can empathize), and he didn't like cold calling people. However, he knew he liked having dinner parties. So instead of uncomfortable selling methods, he has regular dinner parties with people who are prospects and people who are clients. It works for him, and his method is entirely consistent with the message I am advocating.

2. Sales is helping people. I said it earlier, but there's a lot of baggage around the word "sales." It is unwarranted. Sales is simply helping people you care about be relieved of or avoid pain. Who doesn't like to do that? Remember that the next time your confidence is down. Start helping someone.

1. C + M = $ales.  You'll make a certain number of contacts (i.e. calls, emails, handshakes) from which will you earn a certain number of meetings. From those meetings you get a certain amount of business. Anyone who tells you sales is something more than that is trying to sell you something. If you don't have enough sales, you're not going to enough meetings. If you're not getting enough meetings, you're not making enough contacts. You're probably going to need to make at least 25 contacts to generate a meeting (very cold calls can be more like 90:1). If you know your average transaction and you know your sales goal in dollars, you know exactly how many calls you need to make and how many meetings you will need to set up. Required Calls Per Week = (((Annual $ales goal / average transaction) / (10% meeting close rate)) * 25 calls to get a meeting) /48 weeks (because nobody sells 52 weeks a year).

I love hearing from other salespeople, particularly those in law firms, litigation support and other professional services. Drop me a note, and tell me what tips I missed.

Other articles related to sales, pricing methods and customer service at A2L Consulting's site:




















Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Technicians, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Litigation Consulting, Jury Consultants, Pricing, Customer Service, Business Development

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    Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at

    ryanflax blog litigation consultant 

    Ryan H. Flax, Esq., Managing Director, Litigation Consulting, joined A2L Consulting on the heels of practicing Intellectual Property (IP) law as part of the Intellectual Property team at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a national law firm based in Washington, DC.  Over the course of his career, Ryan has obtained jury verdicts totaling well over $1 billion in damages on behalf of his clients and has helped clients navigate the turbulent waters of their competitors’ patents.  Ryan can be reached at

    dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting
    Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D, Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at

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