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The Top 10 Litigation Articles of 2018

It's my eighth year writing an end-of-year top-10 style article. That feels pretty great because in that time, we have published more than 600 articles and A2L's Litigation Consulting Report blog has been visited one million times. Wow, right?

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Rapport, or lack of it, between a first-chair attorney, who is in charge of a trial presentation, and his or her trial tech can make or break a case. When this rapport exists, the result is akin to a well-choreographed ballet, a perfectly orchestrated symphony performance, or a beautifully planned newscast. Everything happens on time and on cue. There are no pregnant pauses, and visuals feel as if they support what is being said by the lawyer, rather than being used as a reminder to tell the lawyer what to say. When this relationship is not perfect, the trial presentation can feel like watching a streaming online movie that is constantly pausing to be buffered. When a presentation has not been sufficiently practiced between a first-chair attorney and a trial tech, you will see missed timing, flustered attorneys and a general unease that does not have to be there. Trial techs, of course, are the people whose job is to ensure that content flows in a smooth, pre-scripted fashion, making the trial lawyer look like a polished presenter. The trial tech controls the electronic presentation in court, brings in the evidence at just the right time, and plays audio and video of depositions in a way that helps the judge and jury appreciate and understand the case. A good trial tech, as I have said before, frees the lawyers and the litigation consultants to marshal the witnesses and the evidence to tell a compelling story. A great trial tech produces that seamless result. Some litigation graphics consultants can have only a limited interaction with the first-chair lawyer, and the trial can still be a success. That cannot be true of the relationship between the top lawyer and the trial tech. That must be outstanding. How can you make sure it becomes outstanding and stays that way?

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The trial technician, sometimes called the hot-seater, is the person who runs the courtroom technology so that a trial team does not have to do so. A trial tech typically uses programs like Trial Director to manage thousands of exhibits and has each at the ready to be displayed and highlighted. During opening, closing, and expert testimony, the trial tech runs the PowerPoint system to ensure flawless and well-choreographed presentations. The benefit of using a trial technician is that the trial team can focus on the law and the facts and can concentrate on connecting with the judge and jury rather than having to worry about the technology. When the relationship between trial counsel and the trial tech is smooth and well-rehearsed, the presentation looks like a perfectly planned and executed professional live production. We have been deploying trial technicians around the country for trials long and short for the past three decades. We were even sending out trial techs before PowerPoint was being used in the courtroom and when the preferred format for electronic evidence handling was the laser disk. In this time, we have employed dozens of trial techs and have learned what makes a good one and what kind of preparation equals success. Here are 12 tips for finding just the right technician: 1. Experience is everything. Our techs usually have a dozen or more major trials under their belts. Some have been to trial hundreds of times. They also routinely run the technology at hearings and during arbitrations/mediations. See, With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? 2. The first-chair attorney must be willing to practice with them. There is no substitute for practice and preparation in the courtroom. The great trial lawyers practice frequently so that the trial looks flawless. See Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well. 3. They have war stories galore - particularly in overcoming problems. Courtrooms are not usually state of the art, so much of the technology must be brought in or enhanced. Otherwise, jurors are left wondering why their own living rooms and work conference rooms are much more advanced than what your trial team is providing. Great trial techs have overcome hundreds of small issues in a trial. See 12 Ways to Avoid a Trial Technology Superbowl-style Courtroom Blackout.

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Courtroom Technology and Its Limitations

We write here frequently about the importance of using visual evidence in trials and indeed in all sorts of other legal forums. But technology is not the be-all and end-all of persuasion. It is a very useful tool, but the importance of technology does not lessen the need to tell a convincing story to a jury or another decisionmaker. In fact, if courtroom technology is not deployed correctly, presenting visuals to a judge or jury can detract from one’s message rather than enhance it. In other words, figuring out who will be victorious at trial is not simply a matter of determining who is using litigation graphics and who is not. Any trial is ultimately about how each side can use its graphics to support an effective story. Technology-based graphics, therefore, should not be used to make up for the trial skills a lawyer lacks, but rather to enhance the skills he or she already possesses. The type of technological visual is another variable to consider when presenting an argument. Some research has suggested that depending on the case, different types of technology-based graphics can have different persuasive effects on the jury. For example, researchers compared a computer simulation of an air crash, an audiotape with written transcript of a cockpit voice recorder, and a speaker reading the cockpit voice recorder, and asked people to decide whether they believed there was a pilot error based on the evidence to which they had been exposed. The researchers found that jurors who were shown the computer animation believed the flight crew to be significantly less negligent that the other jurors who did not. Animations are so powerful because they can take us to places human beings cannot go. But even without animations, simple PowerPoint slides can be quite effective in advancing your narrative if done right.

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting In these pages, we have discussed from time to time the role of the “hot seat operator” or “trial tech,” the person who is tasked at trial with ensuring that the visual presentations go off without a hitch, enabling the trial team to tell its story smoothly and effectively. The job requires almost supernatural calm under intense pressure, an understanding of the essence of a trial, superb computer skills, and the ability to improvise when needed. It’s one of those jobs that, if it is done perfectly, the tech’s presence is never noticed. People only notice the trial tech when something goes wrong.

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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 Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Anyone who puts together a team to represent a client in a high-stakes piece of litigation is engaging in an act of leadership. To be successful, such a litigation team needs to blend the skills of an outside set of trial lawyers from a law firm, large or small; in-house corporate counsel; the leadership of the client company, which will want to keep close tabs on high-stakes litigation; a wide variety of paralegals, assistants and other key nonlawyer personnel; and, in all probability, a trial consulting company such as A2L. Today we are releasing the fourth edition of a new and free eBook on leadership for lawyers that can be downloaded here. I hope that it will be useful to legal industry leaders, whether running a trial team, a practice group, or an entire law firm.

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting A2L Consulting offered its first free litigation webinar just 18 months ago. Since then we've conducted six litigation focused webinars, all free, including: Storytelling for Litigators, Patent Litigation Graphics for Litigators, Making Expert Evidence Persuasive, Persuasion & Opening Statements, Using PowerPoint Litigation Graphics and What Mock Jurors Always Say. These webinars may be viewed on our site anytime, and they have been viewed nearly 10,000 times already. I find that amazing. Since each new webinar is a bit more popular than the one that came before it, it's a bit hard to tell which topics are really the most popular. So, I thought it would be helpful to ask our 6,500 blog readers what topic we should cover in our next webinar (likely May or June). Finding a good webinar presenter will not be difficult. On the A2L team, we have expert jury consultants, trial-tested litigators, experts in persuasion science, the top consultants in visual persuasion and many categories of litigation and persuasion experts. 

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