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The Litigation Consulting Report

How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 @ 12:35 PM

litigation-consultants-great-lawyer-good-lawyer.jpgby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Not all lawyers are created equal. It's amazing how hard it is for those outside the legal industry to understand this.

Many people regrettably believe that those human aptitudes that require creativity and skill are binary. Either you can design a house or you can't. Either you can knit or you can't. Either you have a singing voice or you don’t. And in that same vein, either you're a lawyer or you're not.

This is the wrong way to look at it. In all these areas, there are variations and gradations of skills. This is never more true than for trial lawyers. The distance that separates the satisfactory from the great is vast. I have met very few people who are great trial lawyers.

The challenge with great trial lawyers is that they know they're great, and they charge accordingly. So what should a client or company do when they want to get great results at trial, but they only have the budget to pay a lawyer who is good but not great?

It is possible to do that – but it requires a new type of thinking and a new way of looking at the legal industry.

I've written before about the characteristics of great lawyers, the characteristics of great trial teams, and the challenge resulting from the fact that very few trial lawyers have much trial experience these days. There's just no substitute for experience. No one is that smart, that well-educated, or that well-mentored.

This solution is going to sound self-serving, but the longer I work in the litigation field, the more deeply I believe it. It goes like this: In the modern era, clients and lawyers simply must learn to rely on expert litigation consultants. They are the performance-enhancing drugs that make good trial lawyers great and great trial lawyers unbeatable. 

To be clear, these litigation consultants are not trial techs or 20-something graphic artists. Those professionals are important too, but that's not who I'm talking about. Instead, these are trial-tested litigators or highly experienced Ph.D. consultants who routinely act as coaches to the best of the best trial lawyers. These are people who go to trial every month and operate with the best of the best.  

They offer a kind of assistance that is relatively new in the industry. They work with counsel to develop a compelling narrative. They help develop an opening statement. They prepare just the right visuals using scientifically proven techniques that enhance persuasion.

These litigation consultants are not easy to find. I'd be happy to recommend someone who is the right fit for you.

Other A2L articles and resources related to litigation consulting, storytelling, and the use of litigation graphics to persuade include:

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology


Tags: Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Jury Consultants, Storytelling, Opening, Midsize Law Firms, In-House Counsel, Persuasion

The Litigation and Economic Outlook for 2016

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 @ 01:42 PM

litigation economy biglaw litigation consultingby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Last month the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in nine years. This action signals that the Fed believes we are entering a period of sustained and significant economic growth. Although the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, for a lot of people, this Fed action may mark the emotional end of it.

Economic conditions do feel considerably better than they did just a few years ago. Most people who want a job can get one now. However, most jobs pay less than they did 10 years ago. Furthermore, a staggering 40% of people over the age of 16 do not have a job. That's the lowest number since the Jimmy Carter years.

So, we can't quite say things are rosy, but we can't say things are terrible either. After all, in 2009, more than 700,000 jobs (including a lot of legal industry jobs) were being lost per month, and now, 250,000 jobs are being added to the economy in a typical month.

What does this all mean for those of us who work in the litigation industry? Will 2016 be a good year? The answer, I believe, is that while it will not be an incredible 2005-like year, it will probably be a little better than 2015, and that's not too bad. Let me support that belief with some additional details.

This is the fourth year I've written an economic forecast for the litigation industry. For 2013, I forecasted improving conditions for all of us, and we saw the economy grow by 2.3%. That was actually a significant improvement over the year before which saw many law firms not growing or even shrinking. For 2014 (also including a mid-year update) and 2015, my forecast was about the same, and so were the results - modest growth.

For law firms and their litigation departments and for litigation support firms like A2L Consulting, these past several years have been growth years. But will it continue? After all, recessions come about once every seven years, and the last recession occurred in 2009.

The last several years have seen only modest economic growth, and there is just not much evidence to suggest that will change. Fortunately, there are no obvious signs of a coming recession in the next year. Worker productivity and corporate profits are both very high, so we can expect the Fortune 500 to continue to perform well. That largely translates into good economic growth numbers, and leading economic indicators support that direction.

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If you've been reading this blog for some time, you know that my forecasts are not conjecture or gut instinct. Rather, they are largely based on what I have found to be the single most reliable economic forecasting tool available, the ECRI Weekly Leading Index.

This index is a composite leading indicator of overall economic conditions looking 6 to 9 months in the future. In my 20 years of running a litigation consulting firm, nothing has proven more reliable, and I use this tool to forecast growth and make decisions about capital investment, hiring, and expansion. In our business, when the ECRI Index is trending up, and the Fortune 500 is doing well, I have a very bullish outlook.

This is true because when the Fortune 500 performs well, so too does big-ticket litigation. When profits are up, Fortune 500 firms are more likely to initiate litigation, risk going to trial, be less likely to settle cases early, and often be willing to outspend their opponent as part of a litigation strategy. For law firms and companies like A2L who spend most of their time around multi-hundred-million-dollar litigation, this translates into another good year ahead. The leading indicators generally support this belief.


To quickly understand this ECRI chart (if it's not mid-January 2016, click to see this week's current version), know that the green line represents a forecast of economic growth about 8 months in the future from the date on the x-axis. When it goes up, that is good. The blue line represents what actually happened at a given point in time in the economy. The blue line shows us that economic growth has been declining since April, but it is not negative. The green line tells us that starting at a point of February 2015 + 8 months (roughly Oct 2015) through the middle of 2016, we can expect to see a return to higher rates of growth. That will be followed by a period of some sustained or slightly less than modest growth. 

All of this translates into a pretty good 2016 for most of us in litigation, and I hope to see you in court on the correct side of the "v."

Articles related to the economics of the litigation market, law firm sales, pricing and more on A2L Consulting's site:

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology  

Tags: Economics, Litigation Consulting, Litigation Support, Midsize Law Firms

A Mixed Litigation Industry Outlook for 2015

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 @ 03:13 PM


2015-economic-outlook-litigation-industryby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

The tree is up, the 2015 strategic plan is done, holiday travel plans are all set, so it must be time for my annual litigation industry economic outlook for 2015. First though, a reminder of why I do this.

I believe that the litigation industry's performance is closely tied to broader economy's performance. This is especially true for big-ticket cases.

As I have done in 2012, 2013, and earlier this year, I create an economic forecast to both exercise my undergraduate degree in economics a bit and force myself to take a hard look at what the coming year will be like for those of us who focus on litigation for a living.

While I can't help paying attention to anecdotal indicators, each year I focus on one leading indicator of economic conditions, ECRI's U.S. Weekly Leading Index. It reliably forecasts economic growth about eight months out into the future.

Big-ticket litigation is largely dominated by large companies who are sophisticated in their monitoring of economic conditions on a day-to-day basis, and it appears that they adjust their litigation spend rather quickly based on changes in the economic climate. When economic conditions are good they file cases, they spend on cases and they tend not to settle cases. When economic conditions are bad or uncertain, they don't file cases with the same fervor, and they do settle cases more quickly.

Truthfully, it's a complicated correlation dollar-wise as it usually takes a couple of good years of economic growth for cases to start being filed in earnest. Since litigation spending increases toward trial, there is also a lag for an upswing on litigation spend.

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Anecdotally, we're seeing cases go to trial that might not have made it to trial a couple of years ago and A2L Consulting continues to grow. However, in just the past month we have seen one of the industry's best-known brands, Trial Graphix, be picked apart and sold yet again (is this the fourth time in five years?). It's not easy going in litigation support, but there is growth for those that deliver great value.

Before turning to the forecast, it's worth addressing what gets reported in the popular press. After all, the press keeps saying jobs are growing at the best rate in decades, and all the jobs lost since the beginning of the 2008 recession have been recovered. Well as much as I'd like to get on a bandwagon of optimism, the facts just don't support it - at the very least, the press is cherry picking the good news.

In reality, labor market participation, the percentage of Americans working, is at the lowest number since 1978, the Jimmy Carter years. Furthermore the jobs that are being created tend to be low-wage part-time positions. Wages, the total amount paid to workers in the U.S., are actually down 23% since just 2008.

Now, here's what the forecast says. When looking at the charts below, in the general, up is good and down is bad. The green line is the forecast of economic growth. The blue is what happened in reality.


Here's what this chart says. The blue line tells us that economic growth has been positive for all of 2014 (yes, we did see a GNP dip in Q1 as I discussed earlier this year). The green line, the forecast of the future, tells us something ominous. Up until about June, future economic growth looked slow and steady, but that's when that indicator started falling. It's now negative. That means, beginning in about June + 8 months or so, about February 2015, we can expect to see conditions worsen for the broader economy until at least fall 2015.

Might falling oil prices give the economy a boost? Maybe, but those effects lag at least six months.

Here's the good news. Not many people have spare cash in this economy yet. But you know who does? Big companies do. Corporate profits are at their highest levels since the mid-1960s!

So, while the overall outlook for workers and small and medium sized businesses may not be great, those who focus on servicing the needs of big companies will likely be successful in doing so - if they deliver great value. That is where most of A2L's attention will be in 2015, and that is true for most large law firms.

Articles related to the economics of the litigation market, law firm sales, pricing and more on A2L Consulting's site:

Tags: Economics, Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Litigation Management, Litigation Support, Pricing, Leadership, Midsize Law Firms

2 Metrics Showing Litigation Shifting to Midsize Law Firms

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 @ 02:00 PM

rise midsize law firms litigation bigby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Last month I published a four-part series about the rising influence of midsize law firms in big-ticket litigation. Major news outlets are reporting on the trend, and we're seeing it play out at A2L. However, new and interesting data about case filings and trials shows just how surprisingly far along midsized law firms are in capturing a large share of the litigation market.

The four articles listed below made up our four-part midsize law firm series last month. In addition to A2L's valuable tips for trying big cases on a midsized budget, the key takeaway was that over the last three years, midsized law firms have doubled the amount of high-stakes litigation they are being hired to run. The articles below go into more detail and offer useful tips for law firms of any size heading to trial.

I write for another blog geared toward litigation support salespeople and e-discovery salespeople. Using LawProspector as a litigation research tool, I am able to see some very clear trends unfolding related to new cases and trials. I discussed these trends in two recent articles.

In an article that analyzed which law firm offices are busy, I focused my study on new case filings over the past 6 months or so. The trends revealed by the data were surprising to me since I've spent the last 20 years watching the top 50 law firms dominate the litigation dockets. Ranked according to the number of cases attorneys were newly involved with (both plaintiff and defense side), these law firm offices listed below are the busiest when it comes to federal cases:

10. Quinn Emanuel's California offices.
9. Wilson Elser's offices in the west, east and south.
8. Bradley Arant's Charlotte and Alabama offices.
7. Alston & Bird's DC, and Atlanta offices.
6. DLA Piper's offices in DC, New York and California.
5. Nelson Mullins' North Carolina offices.
4. Akerman Senterfitt's various Florida offices.
3. Snell & Wilmer's Phoenix and Las Vegas offices.
2. Barnes & Thornburg's Indianapolis office.
1. Baker Donelson's Tennessee offices have more new matters than any other firm in the top 200 law firms.

What I find amazing about this list is how law firms in the 300-750 lawyer range, roughly the top 50-150 law firms ranked by size, are dominating the list. This is the first time I've seen this pattern in my three decades in the litigation support industry.

To confirm whether this data might be a fluke of some sort, I followed up with a second article and a review of trials scheduled over the next year. Sure enough, that same midsize law firm dominance was showing up again.

top 15 litigation law firms to sell to asap

This table lists the top 15 law firms ranked by the number of federal trials their attorneys have scheduled over the next year. After some analysis, the data reveals something remarkable: roughly 60 percent of the federal trials scheduled in the next year are being handled by a midsize law firm.

Further, only three of 15 law firms on this list have more than 1,000 lawyers (roughly the top 25 law firms). Those top 25 law firms collectively have about 45,000 lawyers, and law firms ranked 50-150 by size also have about 45,000 lawyers in total. However, 80 percent of the litigation is going to the second group. This is a tectonic shift compared to the data only a few years ago.

With changes of this magnitude occurring in the litigation industry, we all need to be paying attention. Large law firms need to work on the economics of their firms if they wish to (re)capture the everyday litigation market. Midsize law firms need to learn the techniques used by large law firms to be successful in big litigation. Litigation support firms have to adjust to a whole new audience eager to learn what works best. 

Other articles on our site related to the new normal of the legal industry, the litigation market outlook and the rise of midsize law firms in high-stakes litigation include:

getting value new normal legal economy inhouse counsel lit support

Tags: Economics, Trial Consulting, Litigation Management, Leadership, Marketing, Midsize Law Firms

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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 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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