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The Litigation Consulting Report

7 Habits of Great Trial Teams

Posted by Tony Klapper on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 @ 02:17 PM

great-trial-teams-good-to-great-collins.jpgby 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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Great trial teams don’t simply follow the direction of their leader; instead, they participate in the development of the trial strategy from the beginning -- through open, sometimes animated, discussion and debate.  
  1. Great trial teams realize that presenting an effective narrative at trial is not something that happens overnight, but rather requires repeated reassessment and development.  The process is iterative and not necessarily linear.
  1. Great trial teams aren’t afraid of technology and think carefully about how they can use it in the courtroom.
  1. Great trial teams understand what makes them great as a team and as individuals.  They don’t try to become something they are not.  
  1. Great trial teams think hard about the core of their case and develop themes, theories and narratives that make the most sense of the law and the facts, fitting round pegs only into round holes.

Are these statements true of your trial team?

Other tools and resources for A2L to help your trial team improve and benchmark your trial team against other teams:

persuasive storytelling for litigators trial webinar free

Tags: Litigation Technology, Trial Technology, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Management, Leadership

Business Development – The A2L Way

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 @ 04:13 PM

a2l_professional_services_business_development.jpgby 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:

Here are some other business development for professional services firms articles and tips that you may find useful:

Tags: Litigation Management, Pricing, Management, Leadership, Business Development, Litigation Public Relations

10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 @ 01:27 PM

top-trial-teams-assessment-tool-win-cases.jpgby 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Rigorous Preparation: They don't dismiss the level of intensive prep needed “just for deposition.” They work through dozens of drafts of their demonstratives. They don't relegate preparation of important witnesses to junior lawyers who lack experience. They require their experts to work with communications and visual design consultants.

  4. Storytelling/Theme Development: They understand the difference between a narrative and a theme. They don’t simply respond to themes introduced by the other side; they build their own affirmative narrative. They develop their thematic story right from the start and incorporate that into discovery.

  5. Organization/Management: The team leaders realize that there are too many aspects of a big-ticket litigation for the first chair to handle all of them alone. The leaders spend their time where they add the most value. They get some sleep. If they aren’t good organizers, they task someone who is a good organizer in order to assure continuity and avoid panic.

  6. Humility: They exhibit a distinct lack of arrogance. They don’t answer challenges by simply stating how long they’ve done this or where they went to school. They don’t answer their own questions, but let other people do that. They conduct post-hearing, post-conference, and post-trial debriefings.

  7. Openness and Curiosity: Great litigation teams want their answers questioned. They tell you their strengths and weaknesses. They don't sugarcoat the possible effectiveness of the other side's narrative and thematic points or fall too quickly in love with their own narrative and themes. Finally, they ask their litigation consultants what can they do better.

  8. Leadership and Teamwork: They don't lose it; they keep their cool. They understand that their success is a team effort and approach it that way. They give credit where credit is due, sincerely (not by patronizing). They pressure-test throughout the course of their pre-trial development and during the course of trial itself by continuously empowering the entire litigation and trial teams to provide their own input.

  9. Technology Comfort and Courtroom Presence: They’re not afraid of technology in the courtroom or elsewhere. They think about details like the color of their outfits and their body language. They constantly work to improve their delivery. They just look comfortable in front of a jury.

  10. Practice: They don’t assume anything and seek to verify everything with facts, including mock testing that shows which themes are winners and which juror types are worst. Effective litigation teams spend as much time preparing their witnesses for robust cross-examinations as they do for direct examinations. Witness preparation includes careful development of an effective visual presentation that is rehearsed but doesn't sound rehearsed.

How would your trial team rate on these criteria? Hopefully, your team is on the 50 or higher scale. I have never seen a team with an under-50 score win a case.

Other A2L Consulting articles related to trial preparation, success at trial and the relationship between in-house and outside litigation counsel include:

in-house counsel litigation toolkit e-book free download

Tags: Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Management, Leadership

My Dear General . . . Lincoln’s Communication Skills in War

Posted by Alex Brown on Tue, Jun 28, 2016 @ 04:16 PM

lincoln-communication-persuasion.jpgby 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?

  1. Listening. We all know what proactive listening is. The key to active listening is not just hearing the words, but also visualizing the concepts of what is being said and seeing the non-verbal cues. Basically, it’s listening with all your senses. Stephen Covey wrote a great little book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (you can read it in one sitting). His breakdown of listening fits in 5 buckets.

    1. Ignoring
    2. Pretending
    3. Selective Hearing
    4. Attentive Listening
    5. Empathic Listening

We all should aim for empathic listening. You need to use your senses when communicating so you know how to respond to keep people engaged. The litigation graphics you use, for example, go a long way to keep people engaged in court.

  1. Remember their name. I walk into my bank and when the teller remembers my name, I automatically feel more comfortable. I am sure everyone has had a similar experience. Communication is a two-way street; you can do everything right but the message will still not be received. Doing anything to reduce negativity increases positives. As Dale Carnegie wrote: “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

  2. Make them feel important. I have talked about Robert Cialdini before, because his outline on communication is one of the purest examples of how to influence people. When they feel important and empowered, people will be more engaged. He suggests two things: give honest compliments, and ask for their advice. I am not suggesting empty platitudes but a compliment as simple as acknowledging a good point made.

  3. Focus on similarities. People gravitate toward others whom they perceive as similar to them. Going back to Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion, people want to connect with other people; it is how we are wired. Find similarities so others can feel connected and have a higher comfort level with you. They will be more engaged and receptive to your points.

  4. Let them talk. This is less about juries and more about everyone else, but according to a study done at Harvard, bragging affects the same pleasure center of your brain that is stimulated by money and food. So much so, that it can become addictive. Use your active listening skills and have them talk about themselves and their interests. It will engage them and make them open to your influence.

So when communication is key, and things are getting a bit stressful, ask yourself: “What would Lincoln do?”

Other articles about communication, persuasion, leadership, and influencing others from A2L Consulting:

litigation leadership 4th edition

Tags: Litigation Management, Psychology, Management, Leadership, Persuasion

[New and Free E-Book] 50 Helpful Articles for Litigation Leaders

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 02:02 PM

A2L Litigation Leadership Free E-Book Downloadby 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.

Law firms and corporations both struggle to provide better leadership within their organizations. Comparatively, however, law firms are at a disadvantage because they don’t have a long and strong tradition of training their leaders. In law firms, leadership development is mostly trial and error. Most business schools don’t teach students how to run a law firm, whereas the science and art of being a corporate CEO have been studied endlessly.

For years, it seemed that law firms were lagging behind in business fundamentals. More often than not, their structure was loosely defined. Management was more of a suggestion than a dictate. And accountability was a new term for many. Conceptions of “power” within a firm, based on rainmaking or litigation successes, seemed to play the dominant role in who takes the lead in management responsibilities.

But now law firms are becoming more management-oriented as the economic landscape has changed.

Our leadership eBook is largely focused on litigation, as this is the focus of our own firm. The eBook includes interesting and timely articles such as “The CEO in Litigation: Problems, Solutions and Witness Preparation”; “When a Good Trial Team Goes Bad: The Psychology of Team Anxiety”; “In-House Counsel’s Hiring Methods for Litigation Counsel Are Surprising”; “How Valuable Is Your Time vs. Litigation Support’s Time?”; and “Nine Things That Outside Litigation Counsel Say About In-House Counsel.”

We, as a litigation consulting firm, struggle with issues quite similar to those of a law firm. Most of our leadership team, me included, are player-coaches. That is, none of us are full-time leaders. Instead, we must, like many in a law firm, balance our leadership responsibilities with the time we spend delivering for our clients. We hope that this eBook permits you to achieve a similar balance.

I hope this book is helpful to you. I would enjoy hearing from you and encourage you to leave a comment below (contact information is not published).

litigation leadership 4th edition

Tags: Litigation Consulting, Litigation Technology, E-Book, Litigation Management, Litigation Support, Psychology, Management, Leadership

50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 02:22 PM


trial team win litigation traits characteristicsby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

After the more than 20 years that we have spent in the litigation consulting business, we don't hear very many questions that we’ve never heard before. However, this week I did hear one, and the story is worth sharing because it goes to the heart of how a truly great litigator performs. The question I heard was, “What can we do better as a trial team on the next engagement?”

Consider how remarkable this is. Here was a litigator from a large law firm sincerely trying to improve the performance of his team and himself. I was deeply impressed, as this was the first time I've had someone ask that question after an engagement.

It's a very sensible question, of course. A2L's team has worked with thousands of litigation teams from the very best law firms in the world. I have watched many litigators perform near-magic in the courtroom, and I have seen teams fail miserably. There are patterns that lead to success and patterns that lead to failure.

In the spirit of the question that this litigator asked me, I started thinking about the traits of the world’s most effective trial teams. Here are 50 of them culled from my experience and that of my colleagues Dr. Laurie Kuslansky and Tony Klapper.

  1. Practice is by far the single most obvious indicator of a trial team's success. The great litigators draft their openings months or years in advance of trial and practice them dozens or hundreds of times. See, Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well

  2. Preparation. Great trial teams start preparing long before trial, and they don't ask the client’s permission to do so. Their attitude is, “If you work with a team like ours, it means you want to win and we know how to win and we're going to get that done, whatever it takes.” I think they are right. There are only a handful of law firms that I have observed that have this sense of preparation embedded in their litigation culture. See, The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation

  3. Great litigation teams want their answers questioned. Great litigators are confident. They are so confident that they open themselves up to rigorous scrutiny in their approach to trial. Through a whole host of methods, they invite criticism, suggestions, fresh pairs of eyes, lay people’s opinions, experts’ opinions, and they use all of these voices to perform at their best. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators

  4. They lead, but they can be led too. Great litigators avoid dominating all discussions. They intentionally let others lead them and be seen as leaders. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook

  5. They just look comfortable in front of a jury. Confidence equals persuasiviness and humans are born with an expert ability to detect it.  See, A Harvard Psychologist Writes About Presenting to Win

  6. They build narratives early. They know how important a narrative is to winning a case. They have also learned from experience that the earlier this is done, the better. A well-constructed narrative can inform everything from briefing to discovery to witness preparation. Download The Opening Statement Toolkit

  7. They understand the difference between a narrative and a theme. See, 14 Differences Between a Theme and a Story in Litigation

    storytelling for judge jury courtroom best method for trial persuasion and emotion
  8. They spend their time where they are most valuable and add the most value. How Valuable is Your Time vs. Litigation Support's Time?

  9. They begin developing their visual presentation months or years before trial. See, How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?

  10. They’re not afraid of technology in the courtroom or elsewhere. Skipping technology means losing credibility in most cases now. Jurors have come to expect it and no longer take kindly to simply being lectured to. See, Trial Presentation Too Slick? Here's Why You Can Stop Worrying

  11. They’re systematic in how they meet with their outside consultants. Great trial teams usually hold weekly calls or meetings and schedule the next event at the end of each meeting.

  12. They’re not frantic. There are so many reasons why one should not be frantic, and even when the facts are terrible, great lawyers work at a measured and even pace and don't go negative. See, 10 Signs the Pressure is Getting to You and What to Do About It

  13. They don't jockey for position with other lawyers and law firms. The worst and least effective trial teams that I have ever seen play politics to the detriment of the client in the run up to trial. See, 5 Tips for Working Well As a Joint Defense Team

  14. They exhibit a distinct lack of arrogance. I think some people confuse arrogance with ability. The best trial teams I have observed display tons of confidence, show mastery of the subject matter, demonstrate massive respect for one another and never allow arrogance to enter the picture. See, In-House Counsel's Role In Keeping Litigator Ego In Check

  15. They probably subscribe to our blog. Alright, not everyone subscribes to this blog, but 8,000 people do. Litigators who demonstrate that they hope to grow their own skill set are typical subscribers. See, 10 Surprising Facts About Litigation Consulting Report Blog Readers



    Complimentary Subscription to This Blog



  16. They realize there are too many parts in big-ticket litigation for the first chair to handle all of them alone. They know how to divide the work among attorneys, paralegals, experts, and others. The only way to build a simple case is to start with a complicated one and break it down. Truly complex cases require lots of team effort to achieve this result. See, Litigator & Litigation Consultant Value Added: A "Simple" Final Product

  17. They require their experts to work with communications and visual design consultants. Perhaps 1 in 500 experts is an expert in presenting information in a jury-friendly way, but most believe that they are. 7 Smart Ways for Expert Witnesses to Give Better Testimony

  18. They don't lose it; they keep their cool. There are plenty of stressors in the pre-trial environment. People not used to doing this kind of work would find it hard to maintain a positive attitude, but it is so critical to do so. See, 5 Signs of a Dysfunctional Trial Team (and What to Do About It)

  19. They conduct post-hearing, post-conference, and post-trial debriefings. Truly great trial teams do this, and all bad trial teams simply blame a bad judge, bad facts, and/or a bad jury. See, 9 Questions to Ask in Your Litigation Postmortem or Debrief

  20. They contemplate their thematic story right from the start and incorporate that into discovery. We're working with a number of clients now who are making sure a narrative is developed early in a case, not just on the ease of trial. This is a best-practice for highly effective trial teams. See, Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy

  21. They tell you their strengths and weaknesses. When we meet with a trial team for the first time, they usually present to us as if we were potential jurors. That is, they advocate. Good trial teams do that, but then great trial teams say, "here's what our opponents will say and here's where we are vulnerable."

  22. They don’t answer their own questions, but let other people do that. Often, these answers are found in a mock trial setting. As we frequently advocate, let the data speak, don't guess or just use your gut instinct. See, 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said

  23. Before dismissing new ideas, they consider how to apply them, no matter how new. See, How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team

  24. They repeat back recommendations to make sure they understand them. This mirroring technique is used by many highly effective litigators and great listeners in all fields.

  25. They send drafts of their work with enough lead time for others to provide comments. Time management in litigation is a skill that must be developed and is a given with great trial teams. See, The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation

  26. They communicate in an orderly, consistent manner so that the left and right hands know what the other is doing. 

  27. If they aren’t good organizers, they task someone who is to assure continuity and avoid panic. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook

  28. They don’t assume anything and seek to verify with facts, including mock testing that shows which themes are winners and which juror types are worst. See, 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them

    mock jury webinar a2l kuslansky

  29. They don’t answer challenges by simply stating how long they’ve done this or where they went to school. See, 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations

  30. They lead, but don’t micromanage. We recently wrote about how some trial teams will agonize over fonts, colors, and PowerPoint templates while ignoring bad facts in their case during trial preparation. See, 3 Trial Preparation Red Flags That Suggest a Loss is Imminent

  31. They are respectful to junior staff and outside consultants. See, 13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck

  32. They understand that their success is a team effort and approach it that way. See, When a Good Trial Team Goes Bad: The Psychology of Team Anxiety

  33. They give credit where credit is due, sincerely (not by patronizing).

  34. They lead by example. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook

  35. They pay their bills on time or early. I'm pretty sure most litigators don't understand how important timely payment is and how it contributes to winning cases. See, 10 Ways Timely Payment Helps You Save Money On Litigation Consulting

  36. They don't sugarcoat the possible effectiveness of the other side's narrative and thematic points and fall too quickly in love with their own narrative and themes. See, 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials

  37. Notwithstanding a keen awareness of what the other side will say, they don't simply respond to the other side; they build their own affirmative narrative. See, $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l
  38. They pressure test throughout the course of their pre-trial development and during the course of trial itself by continuously empowering the entire litigation and trial teams to provide their own input. They eschew groupthink. See, How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team

  39. All attorneys on the team have meaningful roles that sync with their individual strengths.

  40. They don't wait until the last minute to prepare fact and expert witnesses and instead dedicate sufficient resources to ensure those witnesses are prepared. See, Witness Preparation: Hit or Myth?

  41. Witness preparation includes, of course, careful development of an effective visual presentation that is rehearsed but doesn't sound rehearsed. See, The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses

  42. Effective litigation teams spend as much time preparing their witnesses for robust cross-examinations as they do for direct examinations. See, 
    Witness Preparation: The Most Important Part

  43. They look for opportunities to score significant points on redirect, a redirect that is thought through well in advance of trial and not simply reactive to cross.

  44. They seek candid feedback, not false praise, during trial.

  45. They get some sleep. One of my favorite, now retired, trial lawyers used to say that he never slept better than when we was at trial. He always knew he was fully prepared.

  46. They don't relegate preparation of important witnesses to junior lawyers who lack actual experience. See, Witness Preparation: Hit or Myth?

  47. They don't dismiss the level of intensive prep needed “just for deposition,” waiting for trial.  Most cases settle, and discovery can make or break a case. My favorite lawyers are just as "on" at a depo as they are at trial. See, 6 Tips for Effectively Using Video Depositions at Trial

  48. They think about details like tie color, suit color, and body language, and they work to improve their delivery at every event they participate in. See, Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning

  49. They are grateful that they get to do the kind of work that they do. I watched a top trial lawyer and friend be interviewed recently. His attitude was one of sincere gratitude about being a litigator. That sincerity comes through in everything that he does, and it is part of the reason he is so successful in front of juries. It's something that is almost impossible to fake.

  50. Finally, they ask their litigation consultants what can they do better. So far, as mentioned in the introduction to this article, it has happened just this once. However, I have a feeling we'll get asked this question more and more. I hope this article provides a useful framework for these types of discussions.

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Litigation Support, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Management, Practice, Expert Witness, Leadership, Judges, Opening, Depositions, Witness Preparation, Persuasion

How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team

Posted by Tony Klapper on Mon, Apr 18, 2016 @ 11:32 AM


litigation_team_collaboration.jpgby Tony Klapper
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

I was reading the Washington Post’s Business section on Sunday morning, and a front-page article about Sean Parker caught my eye. Parker, dubbed “Silicon Valley’s Bad-Boy Genius,” co-founded Napster and was the first president of Facebook. He was also played by Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network.” Far from a routine business profile, this article provides several fascinating lessons concerning the importance of creative collaboration.

Apparently tired of catering to the entertainment needs of millennials, Parker recently launched the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Although it was notable that Parker invested $250 million to support groundbreaking research into eradicating a disease that kills millions each year, even more important is his model of creating a “sandbox” for scientific research. At press time, six premier medical research institutions—Stanford, Hopkins, MD Anderson, UPenn, UCSF, and UCLA—had signed up to be part of the consortium that Parker is creating to fight cancer. The premise behind the effort is that working together in the sandbox is far more effective than working alone. That truism is not one that is always followed.

I have worked with some great litigation teams over the past 20 years—teams that constantly encourage fresh ideas and reassessment of the facts; that meet and openly share ideas; that reward free expression and discourage groupthink. But I have also worked with teams that do none of these, where the lead lawyers are either too egotistical or too insecure to foster the free exchange of ideas. It seems obvious that spending the time to brainstorm is a good thing, not a bad thing. But institutional factors and personality traits can often sabotage implementation of the obvious.

At A2L Consulting, we have a sandbox and we enjoy playing in it. When a new matter comes our way, we first individually get our arms around it, and then we meet. Whether at the table in a conference room, in front of one of our many whiteboards, or on a conference call, we work together, each of us bringing his or her own unique perspectives and experiences to bear. Our owner has been providing litigation consulting services since the mid-1990s; our lead Ph.D-educated jury consultant has been doing this work for over 30 years; I have been in the trenches on a diverse array of cases for 20 years; and our team of litigation graphic artists have collectively been at this for decades. Not only can collaboration be fun and rewarding; it brings a better product to the table.

That’s also the beauty of the consulting business itself. To be effective consultants, we always ask our clients to tell us the best and worst about their cases and to tell us the best and worst of our performance as consultants. Similarly, we are not afraid to offer our own perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of our client’s arguments and to offer constructive critiques on their presentations. We all become better when we share, openly work together, and move beyond the barriers of ego.

Having a sandbox and being able to play nice in it constitutes the beginnings of collaboration. Sharing ideas, pressure-testing them, and brainstorming about new ones is the hallmark of creativity.

Other A2L Consulting articles related to effective litigation team management, creative collaboration, and getting great litigation results:

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology

Tags: Litigation Consulting, Litigation Management, Litigation Support, Management, Leadership

8 Traits of Great Business Developers (In or Out of Law Firms)

Posted by Alex Brown on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 @ 08:54 AM

 

law firm business development sales rainmakerby Alex Brown
Director of Operations
A2L Consulting

These days, there’s no question that sales (or business development as law firms like to call it) is essential to the success of nearly every law firm. Law firms can’t exist without clients – and whether a firm prefers to expand its client base or to get more work from its existing clients, it needs to have a business development function. Accordingly, any law firm needs to hire people who know how to bring in business.

Some law firms rely on their partners to generate business; that’s the typical “rainmaker” paradigm. Some other law firms have a dedicated sales force that may report to the chief marketing officer, to the management committee, or in some other way. Some firms do a mixture of both.

But however you look at it, great business development people are hard to find (I'm the hiring manager at A2L). One reason that this is so is that many law firms don’t know how to look for a great business development person. For example, a firm might hire someone who is bright, charismatic and articulate but can’t get anything done. That person won’t last long. Or there might be someone who is highly networked and wants to bring in clients but doesn’t know how to put together an agreement. That person won’t last long either.

In my next few blog posts, I will share with you the characteristics of a good and of a bad business developer --and how to find one and determine whether you have the right one.

The best business developers I have ever met have the following traits:

  1. Intelligence. They are smart and think well on their feet.
     
  2. Excellent communication skills. They can communicate well with both the law firm’s partners and other lawyers and with the client or potential client.
     
  3. Creativity. The best business developers are fearless and willing to make a seemingly outlandish request. They have the intuition to know that even if their proposal is rejected, they are at least being heard. They have their “foot in the door.”
     
  4. Adaptability. While extensive research on a client or matter is ideal, when there’s no time or the research can’t be done, the great business developer can use whatever information he or she has at hand.
     
  5. A sense of structure. A good business developer can hit all the marks – mining, pitching, negotiating, closing and implementing. An unstructured person is always planning but never closing.
     
  6. A sense of the big picture. A good business developer follows a simple formula: Find out what is important, try to achieve it, and get the work. Great business developers do not focus on the little things that don’t really matter; sometimes they have to be willing to walk away. Only someone that sees the big picture can make that decision.
     
  7. Stamina. Getting a new client can take a long time and involve a lot of back and forth. Bad business developers tend to concede too much at the very end in the interest of closing the deal and often lose a lot of value for the firm.
     
  8. Moral compass. A great business developer, like any great employee, will do the right thing even if it is uncomfortable or against his or her self-interest to do so. There are all sorts of ways in which business people may act to benefit themselves rather than the company. Character matters.

Other A2L Consulting articles related to professional services sales, business development and rainmaking:

Tags: Management, Marketing, Negotiation, Business Development

9 Things Outside Litigation Counsel Say About In-house Counsel

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 @ 01:00 PM

 

outside counsel say about inhouse counselKen Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

Even behind closed doors, our law firm clients have very good things to say about their in-house clients. It's relatively rare that I hear any serious complaints. Almost without exception, our outside litigation counsel clients are actually quite proud of the relationship they have with their mostly Fortune 1000® corporate clients.

However, especially in these times of change, with all the talk of a legal industry new normal, I do hear some frustrations being discussed regularly. Below are nine things I hear outside litigation counsel say regarding in-house counsel that deserve more attention:

  1. We would all benefit from better early case assessment: Outside litigation counsel understand that litigation costs are under fire. By making outside counsel part of the solution rather than a line item to avoid later, better decisions can be made. A2L, for example, is being increasingly asked to use a variation of our Micro-Mock process to help both in-house and outside litigation counsel assess the potential merits of a case closer to filing than to trial. Failing to do this type of formal analysis often leaves too much to instinct and emotion.
     
  2. When the stakes are high, let litigation counsel do what they are good at: Some corporations are often involved in litigation but are still rarely involved in high-stakes litigation. The two types could not be more different. Controlling costs in small cases is critical. However, trying to control the throttle too much when hundreds of millions or more are at stake can be like jumping over dollars to pick up dimes. Outside litigation counsel who are expert at their craft need room for creativity. However, that does not mean the relationship should be without structure. Rather, I believe that it is the structure, in the form of budgets, reporting and deadlines, that allows for maximum creativity by outside litigation counsel.
     
  3. Put settlement and trial preparation on separate tracks: Settlement talks often fail. Sometimes one side may disingenuously signal settlement just to slow down trial preparation. For these reasons and more, it is important to allow settlement talks to proceed while fervent trial preparations continue. It is normally best to create a separate settlement team when settlement is a possibility and trial is approaching. See related article about two-track trial preparation strategies: Litigation Consultant: Embrace a Two-Track Strategy & Win the War.
     
  4. Enthusiastically embrace mock trials: This is one of the most common frustrations I hear from outside litigation counsel. They want to conduct mock trials, but frequently get resistance from in-house. Once they get that resistance, they sometimes fear that insisting on a mock makes them look like they don't know what they are doing when exactly the opposite is true. After all, if practice didn't matter why would all great athletes and great actors do it almost obsessively? In this era when trials are quite rare at large law firms, in-house counsel should want to encourage practice via mock trials since it will help them get a better result and may help inform settlement. See 7 Reasons In-House Counsel Should Want a Mock Trial.


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  5. Watch the mock exercises: While I think outside litigation counsel from prior generations preferred to run a case with minimal regular input from in-house counsel, these days, in-house counsel are involved more regularly. One area where in-house counsel should increase their involvement further is in the attendance of mock trials. From behind a one-way mirror, you will learn more about your case, the perception of your firm, and your choice of outside litigation counsel in one day than in the year(s) of preparation that proceeded it. The great lawyers will want you there while the less confident prefer to prepare privately and avoid mock trials altogether. Keep an eye out for this litigation counsel red-flag.
     
  6. Be clear with your leadership approach: In a recent article about joint defense teams, I touched on the topic of litigation leadership by in-house counsel. Generally, I believe that a variety of team structures will work so long as they are clearly defined and executed. Trouble arises when there is confusion about who is in charge. See 5 Tips for Working Well As a Joint Defense Team as the lessons discussed here apply just as well when working with a single law firm.
     
  7. Litigation consulting vendors are not created equal: Preferred vendor relationships are on the rise for litigation consulting firms. We participate in them at A2L and encourage them. However, market disruptions are putting the future of some trial graphics firms (not ours) that regularly appear as preferred vendors in question. Procurement departments and in-house counsel are going to have less visibility into vendor stability than outside counsel, and outside counsel should generally make the final decision about who to use for jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial tech for best results.
     
  8. Pay vendor bills on time: Litigators never want to deal with getting bills paid as they prepare for trial. It's distracting and annoying. All relationships on the team are weakened when bills are not paid timely. The bottom-line benefits of simply paying bills on time was covered in more detail in a recent article, 10 Ways Timely Payment Helps You Save Money On Litigation Consulting.
     
  9. There's more that outside counsel can and should be doing: From early case assessment by litigators, to client counseling about the very things they try cases about, to participating in non-litigation messaging, to assisting in lobbying and legislative activities, outside litigation believe they have a lot more to contribute to the operation of a business than they are being asked to do. As an informed outsider, may I suggest that in-house counsel consider starting off 2014 by asking your outside litigation counsel how they can help you manage budget better and run the business more effectively. The best litigation counsel will have an informed answer for you. The litigators that you will soon want to relegate to your slip-and-fall cases will look at you like a doe in the headlights.

Articles related to the role in-house counsel can play in litigation and managing litigation costs:

Tags: Mock Trial, Litigation Management, Pricing, Management, In-House Counsel

5 Tips for Working Well As a Joint Defense Team

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 19, 2013 @ 09:49 AM


joint defense team lawyers litigation consultantsby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

We often work on large cases, and large cases often have joint defense teams. A joint defense team is simply a group of law firms working for a group of clients and/or working on some issues together in a case.

Some joint defense teams work together brilliantly. It's like watching the best NFL players come together for the Pro Bowl game when each of them plays as a member of the same team. In a trial, sometimes the whole “dream team” unites to prevail. It's a beautiful thing to watch -- when it works.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way very often.

In a recent engagement I watched a well-organized team in the run-up to trial perform beautifully. They had sorted out communication, who handled what issues, leadership, client communications, and billing arrangements with no apparent drama.

I can contrast that with any number of large cases where the opposite is true. These are unfortunately the majority of joint defense efforts. In these cases, turf battles are common. As much time is spent on politics as is spent on winning the case. I suspect cases have been lost entirely because a joint defense effort has failed.

Science Issues Experts Trial Litigation Litigation Graphics


So what's the difference between the joint defense teams that succeed and those that fail? I think the critical difference as with any NFL team, any military division or any serious business team, is in how the leader performs.

I have seen in-house counsel take the leadership role. I have seen joint defense teams elect a coordinating counsel. I have even seen co-leaders successfully prepare for and go to trial.

The common element is not the structure. The common element is the skill of the leader(s) and how the leader(s) runs the team. Here are five tips based on 18 years of watching joint defense teams that found success.


1. Make the leadership clear. If you are an in-house counsel who wants to be the leader, that can work but you have to be very explicit that final decisions are made by you. Failure to define this can by itself destroy a functioning joint defense team. In general I find it's best to convey that everyone has a voice but there is only one vote.

2. Assign specific roles to specific lawyers and let them build their teams. If you have a case that has antitrust, patent and pharmaceutical as well as bankruptcy claims and have six law firms, break down the issues in the case and assign the best lawyers for that issue solely. Only the leader should be able to overrule them.

3. Lawyers should be assigned roles typical to their roles in the corporation. There should be a lawyer in charge of all things billing. There should be a lawyer in charge of running the trial consultant team. There should be a lawyer in charge of coordinating the development of litigation graphics. You can sort this out early by breaking down all of the roles (e.g. opening, mock opposition counsel, point person for jury consulting work, etc.)

4. Constantly remind the joint defense team of the mission at hand. The leader should frequently say, “Don't forget these people are trying to get us and it's up to you to make sure they don't. The battle is never among the law firms. Remember, the battle is being fought for our company. And I'm counting on you.”

5. Find a way to make sure communications flow smoothly. As the leader, schedule regular meetings to communicate where the various teams stand. This way if people have some expertise yet are assigned to another team, they will still be able to provide input during these meetings.
 

Here are some additional articles related to litigation team management, leadership and how trial teams function on A2L Consulting's site:

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Tags: Litigation Management, Management, Leadership, In-House Counsel

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Authors

KenLopez resized 152

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 lopez@A2LC.com.


tony-klapper-headshot-500x500.jpg 

Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.


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 kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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