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The Litigation Consulting Report

How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 @ 01:45 PM

how-many-powerpoint-slides-too-many.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

How many slides should a world-class trial lawyer or trial presentation consultant create for use in a typical trial? That’s an interesting question that I hadn’t thought of until recently, when I had a fascinating debate with some litigators about this topic. One took the view that a trial with twice as many issues should require twice as many slides, even if the two trials are of equal length. I disagreed, and I think these litigators found my position confusing at first.

I told them that the presumption for any trial team should be to use as few slides as possible to make a point. More slides just create more complexity. And that inhibits persuasion.

There's a famous quote that has been attributed to many people, but it is correctly attributed to French mathematician Blaise Pascal: “I would have written a shorter letter if I had more time.” I think this sums up in many ways the goals of effective trial presentation. If you find yourself going to trial with 500 slides that you plan to use in a five-day trial, you are probably overdoing it. But people do that all the time.

I wrote about this topic in an article discussing how the PowerPoint slides that you do use are informed by the ones you don't. I think of it like a sculptor and Michelangelo’s famous saying how he could see the finished piece in the block of stone, he just needed to chip away the extraneous stones.

I do think trial presentation should work something like that. That's why it takes a long time to make a good presentation and why you should not find yourself at the end of the trial apologizing for not having written that shorter letter.

Here are a handful of best practices for any PowerPoint slide presentation with additional reading incorporated throughout:

  • Don't use bullet points. I've said this so many times that I'm nervous about over-repeating this stance. It's not the bullets that are bad, of course. It's that when you use them, you tend to commit all of of the PowerPoint slide sins that measurably and are scientifically known to diminish persuasion.

Other A2L articles related to using PowerPoint slides well in or out of the courtroom include:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics

[Free Download] Trial Lawyer’s Guide to Jury Consulting & Mock Trials

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 @ 03:19 PM

A2L-MOCK-TRIAL-JURY-CONSULTANTS-TALL.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

Today, we are publishing our latest free book -- A Trial Lawyer's Guide to Jury Consulting and Mock Trials.

This free 328-page book is based on the idea that even after some decades in which jury consulting has grown and established itself as a business, many lawyers still don’t necessarily understand what jury consultants do and how valuable they can be. Many lawyers probably still harbor the old idea that a jury consultant is just someone who sits next to a lawyer and uses a “gut feeling” based on a potential juror’s occupation, body language or appearance to ask the lawyer to exclude the juror or keep the juror. If that stereotype were ever true, it’s certainly not true today. We’re about as far now from the O.J. Simpson days 20 years ago as we are from the Perry Mason days.

This book is dedicated to bridging whatever conceptual gap may remain between trial lawyers and jury consultants. It pulls together many of the lessons that jury consultants have learned, so that any lawyer who reads the book can get up to speed quickly and save herself a good deal of money and time. We have been dismayed at times at the disconnection between long-held myths held even by seasoned litigators and what the data show.  Excellent trial strategies are the product of balancing art and science, data and wisdom, confidence and humility. 

Among the topics in this book are: 14 Places Your Colleagues Are Using Persuasive Graphics That Maybe You’re Not, Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It?, Why Do I Need a Mock Trial If There Is No Real Voir Dire, 21 Ingenious Ways to Research Your Judge, 7 Videos About Body Language Our Litigation Consultants Recommend, 15 Things Everyone Should Know About Jury Selection and 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial.

A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the jury and how it works. Read this book and reflect on its contents to know more than most trial lawyers do. This book is based on hundreds of trials and years of data, not mere theory or presumption. We hope you enjoy it and share it. Please send us your feedback and let us know if you have any questions or comments, any time. If you have any questions about a case, a witness, a jury pool, a venue, strategic options or dilemmas, or think your case is unwinnable, we’re only a phone call/email away and would love to hear from you. 

Jury Consulting Mock Trial

Tags: Jury Questionnaire, Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Litigation Support, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Jury Selection, Psychology, Body Language, Damages, Persuasion, Cognitive Bias

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

7 Reasons a Fresh Pair of Eyes Are Beneficial Before Trial

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 @ 02:53 PM

iStock_38166022_SMALL.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

When it comes to making a decision about hiring a litigation consulting firm like A2L to support a trial team, I notice that many factors are intuitively persuasive to the consumer of such services.

With litigation graphics, most trial lawyers understand they benefit from outside help since jurors are mostly visual learners, and visual persuasion experts help bridge the communications gap between the trial lawyer and the typical American.

With jury consulting, most trial teams respond to the notion that an experienced jury consultant has watched thousands of jurors deliberate and can thus offer insights based on that unique experience. Further, it just makes sense to most people that a jury consultant is in the best position, given her training, to create a proper forum for scientifically valid and actionable jury research.

However, more important than these considerations, there is one factor that seems to occur to almost everyone who is evaluating the use of a litigation consultant. It is the idea that a fresh pair of eyes is almost always helpful when preparing for trial.

By a fresh pair of eyes, I'm referring to a litigation consultant who has been engaged to support the trial team sometime in the year before trial. At this point, early theories have often been developed, perhaps a draft narrative is in place, and the evidence has largely been evaluated. However, all too often, scant attention gets paid to the presentation of the case until the final few months before trial.

It is in this period that people seem to recognize the value of the “extra pair of eyes” in giving the trial strategies and tactics their final form. Here are some specific reasons why these new eyes can help. 

  1. Trial lawyers are likely to be too close to their case. After their long hours wrapped up with the case, they have subconsciously developed a theory or theories about the case that will be hard to shake. If these theories can be improved, it will take an outsider to convince the trial lawyer of that. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators and 5 Surprises in Going from IP Litigator to Litigation Consultant.

  2. Trial lawyers identify with the client. That is a natural and understandable thing to do, since trial lawyers are supposed to zealously represent their client and think the client’s views are correct. However, sometimes the client’s ideas, though they reflect its perspective and industry realities, may be too hard to sell to a jury. Enter the new pair of eyes. See, 7 Reasons Litigation Graphics Consultants are Essential Even When Clients Have In-House Expertise and 5 Ways Litigation Consultants Add Pizzazz to a Tedious Case

  3. It’s hard to imagine “simple” when you are very smart. Trial lawyers are accustomed to being the smartest man or woman in the room. Sometimes, though, they will adopt a theory that lacks the common touch and is hard to explain to the everyday, common-sense thinker in the jury box. The outsider can help with this as well. See,
    21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant,  When Smart Ain’t So Smart - Cognitive Bias, Experts and Jurors and 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations.
  1. Don't Eat Your Own Fundraiser Doughnuts. When a trial team becomes too insular or if the 1st chair litigator becomes dictatorial, a closed feedback loop can develop. In this situation, all ideas are simply confirmed as good ideas by the internal team. Never is a fresh pair of eyes more valuable. See, 7 Bad Habits of Law Firm Litigators.

  2. Simple is hard to get to. Often, the most straightforward way of presenting the facts is the best. A trial lawyer can sometimes become taken with, even obsessed with, a more comprehensive yet more complicated approach to the facts. An outsider can give him or her a new perspective on this. See, Litigator & Litigation Consultant Value Added: A "Simple" Final Product and Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy

  3. Collaboration can be creative. From the clash of ideas, a trial lawyer and a litigation consultant can develop new approaches to a case. They need to treat each other as equals and not be afraid to be wrong, nor be afraid to criticize the other person’s approach. See, How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team and 9 Things I’ve Noticed About Effective Litigation Graphics After 20 Years as a Litigator

  4. Trials are rare, but not for litigation consultants. The “extra pair of eyes” will be someone who has been there and seen it all in the courtroom. Many trial lawyers, however skillful, go to trial once a year at most. See, With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? and 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel

Other A2L Consulting articles related to the support top-end litigation consultants provide to top-tier trial lawyers include:

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Visual Persuasion, Persuasion

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

A Harvard Psychologist Writes About Presenting to Win

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Mar 14, 2016 @ 04:59 PM


cuddy-presenting-win-litigator-belief.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

I wrote about Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy's body language TED Talk in 2012. Her findings about how striking a power pose can measurably affect your persuasiveness are as relevant for litigators today as they were four years ago.

Professor Cuddy has released a new book called Presence, and it is filled with an even greater wealth of useful information for litigators. She goes into detail about what one can do to prepare for a high-pressure situation like a job interview, a competitive swim meet, or a venture capital pitch - all situations similar enough to an opening statement that we can safely assume the same advice applies.

When one is delivering as their best self, they are said to be exhibiting "presence." She says that presence is most clear to others when "we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves." In other words, when we believe in our message and believe in ourselves, we are in fact scientifically more believable to others - and there are ways to hack your own brain, like the power pose, to make these findings work for anyone.

Make no mistake, presence is not about feigning confidence or passion. Instead, exhibiting presence is more like being in sync with your true self. For these techniques to work and for you to maximize your persuasiveness in the courtroom, you really must authentically believe in yourself. But how?

Her suggestions for achieving presence are not conjecture. Cuddy roots her advice in solid science and rigorous study. For example, one study involved analyzing videos of 185 pitches to venture capitalists. In this setting, much like the courtroom, there is a clear winner and loser. Key behaviors (all sub-elements of presence) of all the presenters were assessed and compared with those who were successful in getting venture capital funding. 

The results are fascinating. Four factors clearly dominated all others in determining who got funding:

  1. Enthusiasm
  2. Confidence
  3. Passion
  4. Lack of Awkwardness

If you think about the great opening statements (and the worst) you have seen, don't these factors just make perfect sense? Doesn't that last point, in particular, resonate with some experiences you've seen (and hopefully not had) in the courtroom? For me, it certainly brings up memories of poor uses of PowerPoint, courtroom technology failures, and litigators who flubbed all sorts of things in front of a judge or jury.

Cuddy goes on to discuss a study involving mock job interviews where the candidates have to speak for 5 minutes to a group of judges who, by design, appear stoic during the entire interview. Some of the interviewees prepared by using a variety of mind and body power-enhancing techniques and some did not. Like the VC funding study and others discussed in the book, the findings of this study offer key lessons for litigators.

It turns out that you can cause others to see you as more persuasive by practicing a few key physical and mental exercises in advance of delivering your message (e.g. your opening statement). Of course, these findings apply to any high stress situation where you must be persuasive or "on."

If you want to increase your presence and thus your persuasiveness, practice some or all of these behaviors in a quiet place when no one else is watching you:

  1. Make Belief: Professor Cuddy encourages that, based on scientific studies, those going into stressful situations where persuasion will be critical, should first conduct this short three-part exercise. Step one is to identify several personal values that are important to you that you know are valued by others about you. Next, identify that value or trait that you rely on most (for me, I value my ability to deliver creative thoughts very quickly). Now, reflect on a time when you did that very well. This exercise tricks your brain into getting into a state of increased power and confidence so that you come across as more persuasive.

  2. Convey Confidence to Yourself: Before your next opening (or mock opening), assume a superhero-like power pose or a victory post for a couple of minutes. Just this act will significantly increase testosterone and decrease stress hormones.  Also, before walking into the courtroom, avoid working in a hunched position, as you would when looking at your phone. Doing so causes your brain to behave in a less powerful and confident way. If you are anxious, trick your brain into treating that anxiety as a positive by repeating, "I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited." 

  3. Act as if: Related to the above two concepts is the idea that we really can fake it until we make it. As Cuddy analogously explains throughout the book, if you act as though you have won your case before you walk into the courtroom, as you walk into the courtroom, and throughout the entire case, the natural swagger that this will cause you to exhibit will make you more persuasive.

At A2L, we're not usually hired to increase a litigator's presence, but we often end up delivering that result. You might ask how does a litigation consulting firm like ours help litigators achieve presence? Well, by helping litigators develop their presentations, making them highly persuasive, testing the presentations, practicing the presentations, and doing all the aforementioned work while being encouraging and not critical, we normally send a litigator into battle more confident than ever. It's exactly the kind of authentic from-the-inside kind of confidence that helps a litigator be more persuasive. 

One of our mottos at A2L is that "We Make Belief." I bet Amy Cuddy would approve of our approach.

Other articles from A2L Consulting about trial presentation, trial preparation, and courtroom presence include:

 

opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l

Tags: Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Trial Preparation, Psychology, Practice, Visual Persuasion, Opening, Persuasion

3 Trial Preparation Red Flags That Suggest a Loss is Imminent

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 @ 09:24 AM


trial preparation red flags litigator behavior loss associatedby Ken Lopez

Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

In 20 years as a litigation consultant, I’ve personally seen hundreds of litigators try cases, and I have heard the observations of my colleagues on other cases, probably amounting to thousands of cases in all. So I’m in a pretty good position to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work, based on a non-scientific study of trials and trial teams.

One might think that a litigator who has been living and breathing a case for years is more likely to win a jury verdict than a litigator who has just been brought in for the trial. But I just don’t see that. Litigators do well in both situations. It is true, however, that trial teams that prepare longer and harder for trial are more likely to win.

There are, however, some trial preparation patterns that constitute “red flags” and indicate to me that a trial team may be headed for trouble. Here are three of them.

1) Extensive debates among the team about font, color, and PowerPoint templates. This often spells trouble. For example, if your litigation graphics shop (likely experts in visual persuasion) have produced more than 10 PowerPoint template/font/color combinations, and the merits of each are still being debated by the lawyers, the team is likely focusing on the wrong thing. Now a healthy debate about color, fonts, and templates can be OK. But don’t forget that there’s no real scientific agreement on what colors or fonts are persuasive, and also remember that some litigation graphics shops are experts in the nuances of color theory, font choice, and visual persuasion. So, when I see a litigator spending weeks on a template, I know we're in trouble.

2) Secretiveness about the case. Sometimes we see clients who are hesitant to talk about their case or who bristle when asked, "How could the opposition win?" The best litigators want to have their answers questioned. They are the furthest thing from yes-men or yes-women. See $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation to understand the kind of work some high-end litigators put in to generate a win.

3) Infighting between law firms. Once this breaks out, the real battle becomes which law firm will triumph rather than which side of the case will triumph. It almost always leads to a loss. If there is the slightest whiff of this behavior, in-house counsel must step in and eliminate it immediately. Allowing this sort of "drama" to persist simply increases the likelihood that the corporate budget for the arts is about to increase markedly (in the form of a losing verdict). See 5 Tips for Working Well As a Joint Defense Team.

However, all these behaviors, in my experience, can be reversed. Very often, they are simply tactics to avoid dealing with a real problem in the case. Good mock testing and good recognition of the behaviors as they are happening can often save a case in trouble. Sometimes, it is up to in-house counsel to assert their leadership and eliminate these behaviors.

Other A2L articles and resources about litigation leadership, in-house counsel, and trial preparation include:

in-house counsel litigation toolkit e-book free download

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Leadership, PowerPoint, In-House Counsel

Jury Research and Mock Trials During Presidential Elections

Posted by Laurie Kuslansky on Fri, Feb 26, 2016 @ 11:32 AM

jury research mock trials
by Laurie R. Kuslanksy, Ph.D.

Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting
A2L Consulting

The litigation arena competes with the political arena in presidential election years. Everyone including large pollsters, such as Pew Research and Quinnipiac, major networks, each political party, each candidate, and myriads of social scientists and politically-interested entities are conducting research using the same resources - i.e., your potential mock jurors and facilities.

Many services for conducting mock trials and other forms of jury research, including focus groups, online surveys, telephone surveys, ballroom studies (large format live research involving potentially hundreds of live mock jurors) and “mall intercepts” (in-person interviews) are called upon by political campaigns, pollsters and other interested parties.

Both camps need:

  1. Recruiting of research subjects
  2. Eligible adults to serve as subjects
  3. Focus facilities for space to conduct live research
  4. Online and phone survey implementers

What is the impact on people interested in conducting jury research in a Presidential election year?

Due to a finite supply and increased demand:

  1. If you want a specific date to do jury research, don’t depend on short lead time or rushes to get it. Availability is more limited than normal as there are many others in line for the same services and space. Instead, plan and prepare better instead of waiting till the last minute;

  2. Recruiters are requesting longer lead time in which to solicit mock jurors, so allow extra time to do this, including preparing in advance a list of involved people and entities with whom any affiliation or knowledge should preclude a potential mock juror from participating (“Terminants”). This can be done leisurely while other details are being hammered out, contracts await being signed, and payment is being arranged;

  3. Comparison shopping is more difficult and less effective in price negotiating. If you plan and commit to doing jury research earlier, you can avoid this loss of leverage. The closer to the date that you seek options, the less you can optimize your choice and the more you are bound by simply what is available, if anything.

  4. Survey subjects are harder to come by, especially in areas laden with caucuses or anywhere highly politically engaged.

In short, avoid coming up short by understanding that you need to plan earlier and work more efficiently in the event you may or will conduct jury research. Doing so will put you at the head of the line and save money on the bottom line.

I vote for clients enjoying strategic planning, cost effectiveness and freedom of choice. You?


Other articles related to jury research, mock trials, and jury consulting from A2L Consulting include:

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Tags: Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Juries, Jury Consultants, Jury Selection

9 Reasons Litigation Consultant is the Best Job Title in Litigation

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 @ 03:39 PM

litigation consultant trial consultantby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

I am very proud of A2L Consulting's role in the creation of the job title "litigation consultant." Over the years, this position has evolved somewhat, but it remains substantially similar to the way we designed it in the mid-1990s.

Back then, it was my full-time job. Today, I still get a chance to do parts of it now and then, and after 20 years, I believe it's the best job in litigation.

The role of a litigation consultant is to work with trial teams and help them develop the best visual and rhetorical strategies for persuading factfinders at trial, ADR, or in any dispute. In the 1990s, no one but the attorney-consultants at A2L called themselves litigation consultants and few if any firms offered a similar service.

Now, litigation consultants are generally litigators themselves often hailing from a large law firm. They spend most of their time directing the development of persuasive PowerPoint presentations, working with jury consultants in mock trials, and helping top litigators more effectively tell their stories at trial.

As we've written before, this role is becoming increasingly important in the litigation industry where even top litigators make it to trial only once every few years. By contrast, a litigation consultant may see the inside of a courtroom dozens of times or more per year.

If you love litigation like I do, this is the best job in the world. Here are nine reasons why I think this is so.

  1. Trial. Let's be honest, the best part of litigation is not the endless years of paper pushing in advance of trial, it's the theater of preparing for and performing at trial. A litigation consultant skips all of the pre-trial tedium and gets to engage in all the best parts of litigation. See, 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do.

  2. Creativity. When we survey our clients about our litigation graphics consulting, they always tell us that the creativity we bring to the trial team, both visual and rhetorical, is what they value most. During law school, I taught myself computer animation as a hobby. Odd, I know, but clearly there was an artist who was trying to burst out. Whether you're a fine artist, an animator, or just have a strong creative bent, there are few things more satisfying than working hard to explain complicated materials to lay people using pictures and a few sound bites. SmartCEO Magazine quoted me saying, "We look like an ad agency — the classic view — everyone gathers. In the legal world, we call it a focus group, but it’s really a brainstorming session and the project group presents the case and gets feedback. Someone might say, ‘That doesn’t make sense, what are you talking about?’” Lopez makes it clear that team keeps working until no one asks that question." See, 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant.

  3. Atmosphere. Some law firms are great to work at and many of those firms are our clients, but from what most Biglaw partners tell me, most law firms are lucrative places to work but are not necessarily fulfilling places to work. A litigation consulting firm, however, is typically a relaxed and creative atmosphere. It operates like a business rather than a quasi-partnership with a confusing leadership structure. While we work hard, we enjoy our time a great deal as well. See, Top 7 Things I've Observed as a Litigation Consultant.

  4. Appreciation. Our clients genuinely appreciate us, and their clients do as well. We regularly receive testimonials, gratitude, and even presents from our clients. See, 10 Things Litigation Consultants Do That WOW Litigators.

  5. Impact. We know how much impact we have because we see it all the time. Judges go on the record praising our work, and jurors often comment on the quality of work (or lack thereof exhibited by the opposition). I find this very rewarding. See, 10 Types of Value Added by Litigation Graphics Consultants.

  6. Thought-Leadership. This blog has been named among the best in litigation by the American Bar Association. It is the primary way we distribute our thought-leadership in the industry, and I think we are clearly in the top-tier of anyone doing so. I believe this is why several hundred people sign up for a free subscription to this litigation and persuasion blog every month (we're approaching 8,000 subscribers now). See, Why We Blog (and Maybe Your Firm Should Too).

  7. The people in the office. Working in an environment where Ph.D. psychologists, award-winning artists, technology experts, and litigators all collaborate is wonderful. I often joke that somehow we've managed to get all the people who didn't hang out together in high school to row in the same direction. See, 5 Surprises in Going from IP Litigator to Litigation Consultant.

  8. Winners and losers. If you love litigation, then you probably love competition. The wonderful thing about competition in the courtroom is that there is normally a clear victor. Our victories typically make up a signficant portion of the top victories of the year listed in various legal publications. See, $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation.

  9. Smart people. I believe that we are all the average of the 10 people we spend most of our time with. Working with litigation partners from Biglaw is an amazing privilege. These are some of the smartest people in the world, and many have made me a more effective person.

I think people who love their work usually do great work. Hopefully, you can tell that I love this role in our organization even if I spend most of my time in management, sales, and marketing these days. Both roles are jobs that I love.

If you think being a litigation consultant is something you might like to do, we happen to be expanding our litigation consulting team in our DC headquarters office. The right person is usually a litigator with Biglaw experience, a creative side, and someone who is looking for the lifestyle change that working outside of a law firm can provide. Follow any of these links on LinkedIn, Law360, or Craigslist to apply for the position.

We're hoping to fill the position during February 2016, so hurry.

Other articles related to being a litigation consultant, the value of litigation consulting and the business of litigation consulting generally include:

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Trial Consulting, Storytelling, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Persuasion

I’m Right, Right? 5 Ways to Manage Juror Bias

Posted by Laurie Kuslansky on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 09:04 AM


juror bias confirmation bias availability bias cognitive biasby Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.

Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting
A2L Consulting

The most powerful thing that shapes how jurors end up deciding a case is not you but the jurors. The baggage they bring to court, not what happened once they got there, holds the most sway. Assuming otherwise is like trying to change the political persuasion of a diehard party-line voter ... in the voting booth. The odds are better that their minds will change the evidence than that the evidence will change their minds.

These preconceptions and biases are resistant to change. Understanding two powerful cognitive phenomena relating to their biases can help you assess jurors more astutely and use your precious few strikes more effectively during voir dire. It can also help you tailor your trial strategy based on who is left on the jury.

Cognitive biases such as the following can systematically impact people’s decision-making. The pairing of the following two cognitive biases can be powerful determinants of jurors’ reactions to a lawsuit: confirmation bias and availability bias.

1. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, gather, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions [PDF]. It results in people favoring information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs or biases. When they encounter an example supporting their existing belief, they place greater importance on the “evidence” supporting their belief, while discounting examples that do not support their belief, such as evidence that is not useful to proving their predetermined conclusion. In deliberations, this is likely to show up as posing questions leading toward the conclusion they already believe. If they happen to be the foreperson, or a leader, they may even paraphrase the actual verdict questions into wording that leads toward the result they believe and seek. This bias goes beyond simple selective attention; it involves actively filtering and using information, finding a conclusion first and seeking helpful evidence second. It’s like saying, “I know the answer. What’s the question?” Hence, their belief is the gate and you must get past “Go.” It trumps your evidence because information incongruent to their already-existing belief won’t get past the gateway to their thinking, memory, recall or decision-making. Hence, while you may be talking and showing, they aren’t listening or watching – unless you understand their belief first, incorporate it into your thinking, and then figure out how to make your case sync with it. Otherwise, your words fall on deaf ears.

The real 1-2 punch is the combination of confirmation bias with availability bias:

2. Availability bias or heuristic (mental shortcut) refers to the fact that vivid events affect decision making that relies on memory more than other events do. People tend to rely on the most immediate examples of an event and overestimate their probability since memory is biased toward events that are more unusual, more emotionally charged [PDF], more recent, and observed personally. The media reinforces this bias by reporting on more extreme events, enhancing their prominence (availability) in memory. As a result, people overestimate the likelihood of such events, such as carjackings or shark attacks.

Ask people outside the legal profession of any cases they know or remember, and invariably, the “McDonald’s Hot Coffee” case comes to mind and is the basis for believing that lawsuits are frivolous and damages are outrageous (although most people do not know the evidence or law in that case).

Transport this phenomenon into the courtroom, alongside confirmation bias. Imagine that certain evidence is presented in a dramatic, vivid fashion and is emotionally laden, on the backdrop of a mostly ho-hum trial, and is referred to by various witnesses. It will stand out from the rest, be remembered better, and likely have more traction than the rest. It is not just the phenomenon of cumulative evidence pointing to the same thing. It goes further – leading some to believe that the event is more common than it is.

storytelling for judge jury courtroom best method for trial persuasion and emotion

Depending on which side of the courtroom you sit, this can be good or bad news. What to do about these biases?

  1. Understand them.

  2. Explore and consider what likely jurors may believe and reverse-engineer your trial strategy and story so they are consistent with this.

  3. Make sure to explore these as best as you can in voir dire – i.e., their pre-existing beliefs and experiences that may relate to your case or client adversely.

  4. Understand their agenda. It is more potent than yours.

  5. Consider how to make your key points or events more or less memorable, depending on your case goal. If possible, consider how to make them more vivid, unusual, repeated – or not. Perhaps you need to find a way to “bury” such a negative event by neutralizing it among others, doing your best to make it ordinary.

By understanding your triers of fact better, you can make extraordinary use of ordinary facts.

Other articles by the trial, litigation, and jury consultants at A2L Consulting discussing juror bias and the persuasion of jurors generally:

jury consulting trial consulting jury research

Tags: Trial Consultants, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Jury Selection

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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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