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The Top 10 Litigation Articles of 2018

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

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We have written many times about what separates good trial teams from world-class trial teams. One article collectively written by many people inside and outside of A2L stands out to me as seminal. It can be found here: 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams If I could have all trial lawyers read only one of our articles, it would be this one. It is one of more than 600 on our site, but it succinctly reflects our leadership's best thinking, and it best summarizes what most of the other 599+ articles say. This simple list of 10 criteria, especially when used as a trial team self-assessment tool, is a thing of magic. In arriving at this deceptively simple list, we captured hundreds of years of trial experience. At first, we identified 50 trial team traits that set the great ones apart from the ordinary (you can see these in this article). When we reduced these 50 traits to 10 key criteria, I think we revealed the secret ingredients of a successful trial team. And in the two years since that was published, I have not seen any reason to revise the criteria. In fact, I’ve seen this list turned assessment tool perform consistently: Trial teams with low scores lose cases; trial teams with high scores win cases. Nowhere on this list do we explicitly use the term groupthink, but our thoughts on the subject are certainly implied through our selection of these 10 traits. First, what is groupthink? Wikipedia says: “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.” During trial preparation, members of a trial team can easily put not wanting to be wrong or different ahead of challenging a group decision. We have written about trial teams becoming dysfunctional under severe stress several times before in articles like: 5 Signs of a Dysfunctional Trial Team (and What to Do About It) When a Good Trial Team Goes Bad: The Psychology of Team Anxiety Groupthink is a little different than the nearly complete group breakdowns described in these articles, however. It's a little more subtle and not quite as nightmarish. Still, groupthink can derail a case -- and it often does. Although groupthink can raise its head at any time, we often see it emerge when a trial team is evaluating an opening PowerPoint deck under development, particularly if there are more than five people doing the evaluating. Members of the team will avoid challenging everything, including the specific slides, the order the story is told in, and what not to say during opening. Instead, they will give the appearance of agreement by staying silent. This is groupthink and it does not help win cases. It does the opposite. Here are nine ideas for solving these problems in a trial team. Get the “buts” out of the room: This is an expression we use at A2L. When you are doing creative work, nothing shuts down the creative mind more than someone who jumps in to say why something won't work. These statements usually start with the word “but.” See, Dealing With That ‘Bad Apple’ on Your Trial Team. Establish rules for your trial team meetings: Here are two we often use: silence is acceptance, and no spectators allowed. Ask your litigation graphics team for variations to stimulate thinking. Looking at one litigation graphic may generate some discussion, but looking at two variations guarantees it. Ask for this from your provider. See, 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important.

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You don’t have to take it from me. There’s a good reason that Bread – the 70s band that virtually invented California soft rock with unforgettable hits like “Baby I’m-A Want You” and “Make it With You” – hit #4 on the Billboard Chart in the spring of 1971 with “If.” (“If a picture paints a thousand words . . . “) Pictures do, in fact, paint a thousand words. It is a universal truth. Images are evocative; they engage the viewer and hold her attention; they can convey abstract concepts more efficiently, and often better, than words; they can level disparities in literacy, language, and intellect. For us here at A2L, the adage is not a subject of mere lip service, but an article of faith – a conviction that your presence here signifies that we share. All that being the case, why aren’t you all insisting upon having me, your litigation graphics and persuasion expert – or someone like me – present at your mock trial and focus group exercises? You certainly should. Just as the purpose of a mock trial or focus group exercise is to test-drive the arguments that the lawyers intend to present verbally at trial, it is also a crucial opportunity to assess how well the litigation graphics visually echo and even amplify, those arguments to create winning impressions. To create those impressions, you’ve brought together a team of professionals to produce a compelling factual, legal and visual presentation and to assess the impact of that presentation on your likely jurors. If you believe, among other things, in the power of compelling visuals to sharpen the focus and boost the potency of your arguments and themes, then leaving your litigation graphics consultant home is one big mistake. Just as we coach you to integrate litigation graphics in ways that avoid divided juror attention, we counsel against splitting the attention of your team and diluting the quality of its members’ observations by doubling up their responsibilities at mock exercises. To assure maximum performance, let every member of the team serve his or her highest and best use – think Indy 500 pit crew. This includes a principal member of your litigation graphics team: let him or her focus squarely on the jurors’ engagement with and reaction to the visuals. With their words, gestures, body language, attention or disinterest, mock jurors tell us how well our litigation graphics accomplished their intended purposes – what worked and what didn’t. They can tell us what they understood and what left them confused. However they “tell” us what they think, if the jurors do not exhibit the desired response, it is the time to change the graphics to evoke a better one. Who better to pose carefully tailored questions in real time to gauge the visuals’ punch or to scrutinize and take away for productive use in reworked visuals these crucial real-time impressions than the professional responsible for creating them? Testing the strengths and weakness of your case is a fundamental purpose of mock trial and focus group exercises. So much of what the format unlocks is intimately tied to being present in real time. In that respect, nothing beats watching real people grapple with the real issues and actually engage with, study, and even poke holes in the real mock trial graphics. It makes the most of the exercise and is the best way to ensure continuity as the team takes the litigation graphics to the next level for trial.  Hearing about it secondhand is no substitute. Not even financially. Since the recordings of the exercises can be stopped, rewound and restarted when studied after-the-fact, any significant cost savings intended by leaving the litigation consultant behind are seldom realized. Since a picture paints a thousand words, let’s practice what we preach: insist that your litigation graphics consultants watch your mock trial and focus-group exercises, rather than simply read about them. Other free A2L Consulting resources related to mock trials, focus groups, and litigation graphics consultants: Why You Should Pressure-Test Your Trial Graphics Well Before Trial 5 Ways to Win Your Trial by Losing Your Mock Trial 9 Things That Define the Best Litigation Graphics 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics Free Webinar: PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design™ 13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck Trending: Mock Trial Testing of Litigation Graphics AND Arguments 3 Observations by a Graphic Artist Turned Litigation Graphics Artist 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant 6 Triggers That Prompt a Call to Your Litigation Consultant 11 Small Projects You Probably Don't Think Litigation Consultants Do 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest 11 Ways to Start Right With Your Litigation Graphics Team 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint Presentation Graphics: Why The President Is Better Than You Using Litigation Graphics in Bench Trials: How Different Is It From Jury Trials? 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations 8 Videos and 7 Articles About the Science of Persuasion Please Pretty Up These Litigation Graphics How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?

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At A2L, we are either conducting or actively planning a mock trial 365 days a year. As you probably know, mock trials are a tool that is very often used by serious trial teams involved in large trials to help uncover the ideal strategy to win a case. In a typical mock trial that we conduct, over 40 jurors will be recruited in the trial venue through a rigorous screening process. We even incorporate expected voir dire questions into the process. Based on individual verdicts and backgrounds, mock jurors are carefully evaluated to create three or four panels of 10 to 12 mock jurors. “Clopenings,” combined argumentative opening/closing statements, are presented for both sides of the case, litigation graphics are used to support these statements, and videotaped witness testimony may be included as part of the presentation. Typically, real-time data collection methods using an Audience Response System (“ARS”) will be used, similar to the approve vs. disapprove line graphs shown on the news during election seasons. Deliberations are conducted. A focus discussion following deliberations is facilitated by our jury consulting and litigation consulting team members. All proceedings are typically observed through one-way mirrors or via closed-circuit TV, as shown in the included image. Watching the deliberations is shocking for most trial lawyers. Without the constraints of the law or internal consistency, jurors’ responses can seem inconsistent, irrational, inexplicable and thus, frightening and random. They are not. Jurors rarely understand the cases as much as hoped, and they follow predictable behavior patterns (see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said). While their rationale may not match the lawyers’, there is a rationale to those willing to understand it from the jurors’ perspective. Finally, data are collected from the jurors, the results from the deliberations are tallied, and an oral and written report is presented to the trial team. This report includes specific tactics, both rhetorical and visual, that should be used at trial. We have written and taught about best practices for mock trials extensively. Some of those articles and webinars include: The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said - Watch Anytime Together, these resources provide an excellent manual for conducting a mock trial for an upcoming case. However, they don’t deeply address a trial team behavior I’ve seen show up in just about every mock trial our firm has conducted: The lawyers try to win – and I don’t mean fairly.

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If you're one of the nearly 10,000 long-time readers of this litigation consulting blog, you know that periodically, we list the recent articles that have proved the most popular. We measure popularity based on the number of times an article has been read, so these really are reader rankings. In today's article, I want to do something a little different. This time I'm listing not only the top three articles of the last quarter but also the current top three articles of all time (since 2011 when we started writing this blog). In a particular quarter, the top article may see a few thousands of individual readers reading it. However, an article on our blog for five or more years may see tens or hundreds of thousands of readers. Consistently, topics related to jury selection rank higher than those related to litigation graphics. I think this is because litigation graphics tend to be used primarily in large civil cases, whereas jury selection occurs in large and small cases and in both criminal and civil cases. These top articles should be interesting to many different types of readers. If you are interested in presenting at trial most effectively, the Netanyahu article should be studied carefully. If you participate in jury selection or hire people who do this kind of work, the voir dire article is a foundational piece. Top 3 Articles of Q2 2018:  Netanyahu Persuades and Presents Better Than Most Trial Lawyers     What Steve Jobs Can Teach Trial Lawyers About Trial Preparation     How Much do Jury Consultants, Litigation Graphics, and Hot-Seaters Cost -- Honestly?     Top 3 Articles Since 2011 (the life of our blog, The Litigation Consulting Report):   5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always   The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses   10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman

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At A2L, we work on many disputes and trials of various types and sizes. Before starting work, we routinely provide our customers with estimates of what we think it will cost to engage us to conduct a mock trial, prepare trial presentations, assist in the development of the opening statement, and run the courtroom technology.   While it’s never easy to estimate the final costs of fast-moving complex litigation, it's something that firms like ours and large law firms do every day. We've been doing it for 24 years, and we've even pioneered some innovative pricing strategies for litigation graphics and trial tech work. However, I've noticed two schools of thought when it comes to estimating, and one of them seems to lead to better outcomes.   In shorthand, I'll call these two methods a top-down method and a bottom-up method. In my experience, the top-down method leads to more successful engagements, more wins, and much better and trusting relationships.  

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The Top 21 Litigation Articles of 2017

Every year going back to the start of this blog in 2011, I have paused to look back over the past 12 months of articles and see which were deemed best by our readers. Some articles have been read 90,000 times while others, often surprisingly, are only viewed a few dozen times. In this method of article ranking, every reader view is a vote. This year's top 21 list is consistent with recent years. Articles about storytelling and voir dire are the most read. The #1 ranked article, in particular, was very popular because it was not only about storytelling but features three top trial lawyers (all clients of A2L) talking on video about how they incorporate storytelling techniques into their advocacy. Enjoy these articles and please do encourage a friend to subscribe (for free) to this blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Soon, we will have more than 10,000 subscribers. Each of these articles can be tweeted or shared on Linkedin using the buttons below the article. Click the titles to view the articles. 21. What Trial Lawyers Can Learn From Russian Facebook Ads 20. 5 Key Lessons You Can Learn From Mock Juries 19. How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer

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Many people are familiar with mock trials, which are full-blown exercises before a trial in which witnesses are presented and arguments made before mock jurors, who proceed to render a “verdict.” The results of mock trials, as we have discussed here before, can be extremely helpful to litigators who want to know how strong their case is, which arguments and testimony to pursue at trial, and which ones to forget about. As Slate magazine wrote in an illuminating article in 2005: Either side of a case can hold a simulated trial, and they're used in both civil and criminal cases. But because these productions can cost quite a bit of money, they're most often used by lawyers who represent wealthy clients or companies in a civil suit. First, the attorneys find a random pool of mock jurors in the jurisdiction where the trial will be held. Participants are selected by random telephone calls, classified ads, or through an employment agency. (Anyone who has recently received a summons to serve as a real juror is immediately disqualified.) Another technique that is perhaps not as well known is the early-stage focus group. These are far less formal than mock trials. They are a bit like brainstorming sessions in which jurors tell trial lawyers, often in real time, what they thought about a particular piece of evidence or a particular argument. Focus groups have several advantages: 

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