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I’m far from alone in asserting that Steve Jobs was an inspiration to many entrepreneurs and CEOs of all ages. For many of us, his contrarian thought process, rigorous attention to detail, and spectacular showmanship formed a model for how to innovate, run a business, and find new customers.  I tracked Jobs’ career during my college and law school days and went so far as to email him a couple of times to thank him for the inspiration that he provided to me. Over the years, his 2007 speech introducing the iPhone served as a model for me. It showed me how to make a presentation that is both informative and inviting. I’ve written about that here. Later, when I was preparing to deliver a commencement speech, I used his 2005 Stanford commencement talk as an example. Steve Jobs’ presentations were admired by many. But not as many people have looked behind his presentations to understand that level of preparation that was involved in each presentation. An article earlier this year from Inc. magazine said it very well: Every product launch was brilliantly performed. Every move, demo, image and slide was in sync and beautifully choreographed. If I sound like I'm describing a Broadway show, you're right. A Steve Jobs presentation had more in common with an award-winning theatrical performance than a typical product launch. Apple still uses the time-tested formula including the final secret ingredient: Jobs rehearsed relentlessly. Carmine Gallo, the author of this article, pointed out that Jobs’ presentations looked effortless precisely because he put so much effort into them. These ideas are totally in keeping with the conclusions that I have reached in three decades of observing trial lawyers. I’ve heard far too many first-chair trial lawyers claim that the reason they didn’t practice their opening statement relentlessly was because it wouldn’t appear spontaneous if they did. Quite the contrary; the openings that I have heard that appeared the most spontaneous were precisely the ones that were the most thoroughly rehearsed. Apparently, Steve Jobs shared that approach. His grueling hours of practice became legendary in the tech industry. The Inc. article, in analyzing the desirable amount of practice time, concluded that the ideal is the 20-20 rule, which means that for a 20-minute presentation, one should go through the whole thing at least 20 times. This is consistent with the conclusions that I’ve reached about trial practice. We like to use a rule that a 60-minute opening should be practiced for at least 30 hours. We all want to look relaxed, confident and conversational in making our presentations. That is a good instinct because that style is in fact persuasive, but the way to get there is not with last-minute cramming, an opening statement practiced privately in a hotel room with no one listening, or an off-the-cuff talk relying on a few bullet points. The best openings I’ve ever seen are the result of countless hours of practice — often done in one-to-one sessions with an A2L litigation consultant. As is the case with any presenter, practice is what separates good trial lawyers from great trial lawyers. You might say, great trial lawyers just “think different” when it comes to practice. Other free A2L articles about trial preparations, delivering great presentations, practice, and developing opening statements include: $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation Dan Pink, Pixar, and Storytelling for the Courtroom Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation Storytelling at Trial Works - But Whom Should the Story Be About? Free 144 page A2L E-book download: Storytelling for Litigators Free A2L webinar - Storytelling as a Persuasion tool The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations 7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement In Trial Presentation - A Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)

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

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We at A2L constantly have the pleasure of working with trial teams composed of some of the nation’s best trial attorneys. The teams we work with can be composed of dozens of attorneys, but ordinarily there are three to 12 members. And sometimes, as can be true of any group that is assembled for a particular purpose, there is one member of the group who, without good reason, makes everyone’s life harder. The very presence of this person can have a dulling effect on the trial team’s morale and effectiveness. Any trial team can be seen as an elite unit, like an army platoon, that has a well-defined mission that everyone shares. That common goal of winning the case is usually enough to unite the trial team in a single-minded purpose and to enable everyone to do their best work possible in pursuit of that goal. This type of team unity correlates very well with ultimate success at trial. But when one team member has a difficult personality – for example, proves to be more interested in his or her personal achievements than in the success of the team as a whole – all bets are off. In our article, 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams, we outlined traits necessary for trial team success. A single difficult personality on a trial team can obstruct success in any of the key areas.  

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Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently

I’ve written often about trial preparation -- and yet it seems like it’s never enough. I have a unique view of the litigation industry since I work with the absolute top-performing trial lawyers and with many other attorneys who aspire to be like them. What distinguishes the high performers from the mere aspirants is primarily their rigorous and intense preparation. Long-time readers of this blog might remember some of the articles we’ve written to try to help good trial attorneys become great trial lawyers. Here are some of them: 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do Sample One-Year Trial Prep Calendar for High Stakes Cases How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics? How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer and my absolute favorite in this trial preparation best-practices genre:  10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams If I had to summarize these articles, it would be simply that great trial attorneys prepare much earlier and much harder and with much more openness, communication and curiosity than merely good trial lawyers. They are comfortable with technology. They understand how to develop a courtroom presence. They practice relentlessly. I see it all the time.

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Law360 is a top legal industry publisher owned by Lexis-Nexis. Its daily newsletters are a must-read for trial lawyers involved in big-ticket litigation. This interview, Trial Consultants Q&A: A2L Consulting's Ken Lopez, was originally published on April 28, 2017, and is reprinted here with permission. Links to A2L articles and resources have been added by A2L in this reprint. Q: What aspect of trial consulting do you and your firm specialize in? What is unique about your firm, compared to other trial consulting firms? A: Founded in 1995, our firm is a leading national litigation consulting firm that helps trial lawyers and other advocates more reliably win complex and high-dollar disputes. We are typically in trial year-round and deliver world-class client-pleasing results in three key service areas: jury research and consulting, litigation graphics consulting, and trial technology consulting. We have recently been voted #1 in each of these categories by major legal publications. The composition of our leadership distinguishes it from other trial consulting and litigation consultant firms. Unlike firms whose origins are rooted in the trial technology business, the engineering business or the marketing/public relations fields, our team is composed of experts in the persuasion sciences. These include former litigators from top law firms, attorney-artists and social science Ph.Ds with decades of experience working with judges and juries. We primarily serve AmLaw 100 law firms and their clients. However, the firm regularly works with boutique law firms and in-house departments. It counts amongst its clients nearly all top law firms and a large portion of the Fortune 500. Most people find A2L through its litigation and persuasion-focused blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. It has nearly 10,000 subscribers and was named one of the top ten blogs in litigation by the American Bar Association. Q: What was the most interesting or memorable case that you worked on? A: The average case at A2L Consulting is a business dispute between global companies with $100 million at stake where we provide jury consulting, a mock trial, litigation graphics, and courtroom hot-seat trial technology support. One of our most memorable cases was entirely — not average. Through a top trial lawyer, we were hired to work on behalf of a surviving family member of the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Everglades. This was not a plane that exploded or quickly crashed. Instead, oxygen containers in the cargo area helped fuel a fire that caused smoke to fill the plane. Then, the oxygen-fueled fire burned through the passenger cabin floor from below. After some time, controls on the plane were destroyed by the fire. Then, the plane flipped and dove into the Everglades below. No one survived. It took a long time for the tragedy to unfold and the passengers had awareness of what was happened. We know this because the plane was equipped with recording devices in both the cockpit and the passenger cabin. The recording is confidential, but none of us who worked on this case will ever forget what we heard on that recording. To help the jury visualize the experience the passengers had, we could have created a 3-D animation to show what the experience inside of the cabin was like. Instead, we synced that chilling audio with an animation we created that helped tell the tragic story. Once the animation was admitted into evidence, the case quickly settled. Q: Which stage of the trial process is the most challenging, and why? A: While we support all phases of litigation from prefiling to appeal, our firm most often focuses its consulting efforts on the opening statement. Indeed, we speak and write about opening statements often. Perhaps second only to jury selection, the opening statement can make or break an entire case. It provides the framework and narrative upon which the judge or jury will hear the evidence. For many, consciously or subconsciously, the decision about the outcome of the case will be made during opening statement. Because the opening statement is so critical, the best trial lawyers expend enormous amounts of effort preparing for openings. I’ve seen some trial lawyers practice their opening more than 100 times over the course of a year. Not surprisingly, these trial lawyers tend to win their cases. In every type of litigation consulting we provide, the opening statement is a central focus. When we conduct a mock trial, the attorneys present their openings to mock jurors or mock judges. When our senior litigation consultants work with top trial lawyers to refine their trial presentation, we ask them to present their openings as part of that process. When we design a PowerPoint presentation for opening, we ask our clients to do run-throughs of openings. When we introduce one of our trial technicians/hot-seat operators to a trial team, we ask the first chair to practice opening statements so they develop a rapport with the trial tech. Indeed, sometimes, we are asked to draft an opening statement as part of our litigation consulting effort. Opening statements are the most challenging part of the trial process because they should be. Cases are regularly won and lost because of them. Q: How has trial consulting evolved over time? What major differences are there between the industry when you started and the industry now? A: Our firm, now a national litigation consulting firm with jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting and trial technology consulting practices all voted #1 by the legal industry, was started as Animators at Law, an animation and litigation graphics firm for trial lawyers focused on persuasion. Back in the mid-1990s when we started our firm, the idea of using demonstrative evidence/litigation graphics during a trial was new. Today, no serious trial lawyer would go to trial in big-ticket litigation without litigation graphics and nearly all would hire a litigation graphics consulting firm like ours. When we started our firm, PowerPoint did not exist. Most litigation graphics were printed trial boards. Today, trial boards are used as unique emphasis tools that supplement a PowerPoint trial presentation. The practice of jury research has changed too. It has evolved from a guru-dominated practice where gut instinct drove many decisions. Today, there is more scientific rigor among top jury research firms. They let the data speak for itself and supplement that data with advice based on experience. Of course, the trial technology practice has radically changed. In the 1990s, it barely existed. Now, the complexity of cases demands that an experienced trial technician/hot-seat operator run the technology, show the trial presentation and be ready to pull up evidence on a moment’s notice. Q: What are some of the biggest challenges when working with attorneys and their clients? A: One of my colleagues likes to say, “they call it the practice of law, but nobody is practicing.” I agree wholeheartedly. If I could change one thing about the way trial lawyers prepare for trial, it would be the way they practice. The correlation between open practice in front of peers and winning cases is unmistakable. Half of the time, trial lawyers practice extensively and seek feedback from litigation consultants and colleagues. These lawyers tend to win their cases. When we see a trial lawyer who wants to privately prepare their trial presentation on the eve of trial, we worry. It’s not that this approach can’t work. It often does. Instead, we simply recognize that the more a trial team openly practices, the more often that trial team wins.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Imagine a world in which the best trial lawyers work in small boutique litigation firms and charge clients half of current rates. Many people have imagined such a world for a long time, and even though we're not there yet, we're closer than we used to be. Today, a few of these smaller firms do exist. They are being run by some of the world's best trial lawyers, and these lawyers do in fact charge a lot less than they used to. However, this does not represent a new type of law firm; this type of firm has always existed. After a while, these firms either become large law firms with a refreshed culture of entrepreneurialism (e.g. Boies Schiller) or they get absorbed into a big law firm (e.g. Bancroft LLP into Kirkland & Ellis). Only a small handful of firms have found something of a middle ground and are able to deliver large law firm results without a lawyer headcount in the thousands (e.g. Bartlit Beck and Williams & Connolly). Working closely with boutique law firms as we do, I see that large companies are getting much of what they hoped for. They get exceptional lawyering, better rates, and that big-firm swagger that unmistakably contributes to winning cases. There are some gaps, however, and the best of these firms acknowledge it and fill it with litigation consultants. It turns out that sometimes the resources and scale of a large law firm are precisely what is needed to overwhelm and overrun an opponent. A large enough army can always overrun even the most elite small special forces team. However, this is only true if the elite group does not have a means of bringing in more support on a moment's notice. The best in-house departments see this nimbleness as a strength.  Our litigation consulting firm is often called upon to serve in this role. So here are 12 ways that we can make a litigation boutique as powerful as a very large law firm. We help keep prices down. If you're a big law firm, built into every hour billed is a cost for marketing, all those offices, and all that support staff. That is not true for a small firm. The small firm does not need to keep full-time staff on hand for services that are more efficiently outsourced (e.g. litigation graphics, trial technician services, and other trial consulting services). See 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms. We amplify the skills of the best members of the trial team. Part of our role for many of the top trial lawyers is to help them hone their skill set. See Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere. We amplify the skills of other members of the trial team. In the new litigation boutiques, there are often a handful of superstars, but there are always some lawyers who can benefit from learning the best practices of the best trial lawyers. Firms like A2L are in a unique position to transfer skills from one top trial team to another. See How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer. We free up the busiest trial lawyers to do what they do best. When you're one of the elite, management of your time is essential. Saying "no" and letting go becomes the new "yes." See How Valuable is Your Time vs. Litigation Support's Time?

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Our clients at A2L tend to be the best of the best trial lawyers. It's a privilege to work with the people that we work with. We learn from them, and they learn from us. It's that last point, though, that can be a sticking point for trial lawyers who are not used to working with litigation consultants. They wonder . . . Why would I need a litigation consultant or coach if I'm already recognized as one of the best at what I do? I know I'm one of the best, and I know this litigation consultant is not better than me, so how are they helpful?  What if I'm perceived to not be as good as my reputation? All these responses are very normal reactions to someone accepting coaching for the first time or for the first time in a long time. However, they can all be answered with some combination of the following three answers: Most of us have had a coach at some time in our lives. If we were very young, they were probably better than us, and they could show us the right things to do to be better at our craft. If we were adolescent or older, our coaches were often not better than us at the thing being coached. Instead, in adulthood, our coaches are usually not there to model the behavior that makes us better. Rather, they are there to help us be our best. Whether it is observing our golf swing and using cameras and computers to compare it with the ideal golf swing; whether it is telling us whether our piano concerto is being played with emotion and passion as opposed to being too mechanical; or whether it is suggesting a rearrangement of the order of an opening statement; the idea is the same. The goal of a great coach is to bring out the best. See, The Real Value of Jury Consulting, Litigation Graphics & Trial Tech. At the risk of quoting a litigator colleague too often in my writings, I will note again that they call it the practice of law but nobody is practicing! It’s only a minority of trial lawyers who routinely practice their trial presentations. I think they are doing themselves a tremendous disservice when they don't practice, and I don't believe the clients should tolerate this. A litigation consultant will make sure they practice and will help them practice. See, 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do Even Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Katy Perry, and Joel Osteen have had coaches. All of these people were better than their coaches. You may be the best at what you do, but ask yourself, why do people who are the best at what they do still use coaches? To make it really hit home, ask yourself why many of your colleagues from other firms use litigation consultants to improve their results at trial? The answers will help you become a better trial lawyer. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators Other FREE A2L Consulting resources about practicing for trial, using litigation consultants, the value of a litigation coach, and how to best practice your trial presentation: 7 Things In-House Misses When Litigation Consultants are Underutilized Lawyers: It’s Time to Make Time for Trial Preparation 12 Reasons Using Trial Consultants (Like Us) Is Possibly Not Fair The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio [Free Download] Trial Lawyer’s Guide to Jury Consulting & Mock Trials The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? Litigator & Litigation Consultant Value Added: A "Simple" Final Product Litigation Consultant: Embrace a Two-Track Strategy & Win the War 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial FREE E-BOOK: Making Great Speeches and Connecting with Your Audience Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators 16 Trial Presentation Tips You Can Learn from Hollywood Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle Mock trial services lead by a jury consultant with 400+ mock trials 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams Free Guidebook: Why Should I Work with A2L Consulting?

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting When I speak to an audience about the work A2L does (other than trial lawyers from large law firms), I sometimes hear the question, “Is the kind of work A2L does fair?” That is, is it fair to have trial consultants support a trial team and use the latest in persuasion science to advocate only one side of a case? In a group setting, my lawyerly answer is usually something like, “What does ‘fair’ mean to you?” Then we litigate the nuances of fairness. What I really think, however, is that the work we do definitely tips the scales of justice in our client’s favor. Is that fair? Probably. After all, ferociously advocating one’s position using all available tools is one of the hallmarks of our justice system. But what if, as is typical, one side has a larger litigation budget than the other. Is it fair to have a firm like ours on one side and not the other? I've heard others reply to this question by comparing the vast differences in trial lawyer quality and arguing that the system is designed to smooth these talent gaps out. I don't have a specific answer right now, so I I'll simply say that I think it's a fair question. Trial consultants do influence outcomes of cases, sometimes to an enormous degree. Indeed, a branding firm, after surveying our customers and staff, once recommended that we use “Unfair Advantage” as our firm motto. I never really fell in love with the motto, and we didn’t end up really using it, but I understand the sentiment completely. In more than 20 years and thousands of cases, I’ve never seen one that was not improved by the input of a trial consultant. I've seen losing cases turned to winners and damages swing in the billions of dollars. Consider 12 advantages that trial consultants offer – ones that your opposition might say are just not fair. A Fresh Pair of Eyes: Trial lawyers who like to get their answers questioned outperform those who are not open to much input. Trial consultants offer a safe place to bounce theories, narratives, demonstratives, voir dire strategies, trial presentation strategies and more off smart people who are on your side. See 7 Reasons a Fresh Pair of Eyes Are Beneficial Before Trial. An Experienced Pair of Eyes: If you've been in the litigation industry for decades like me, you've watched as trial lawyers who used to go to trial every year now go to trial only every three, five or even eight years. Meanwhile, trial consultants have moved in the opposite direction and often see dozens of trials per year. So high-performing clients and high-performing trial lawyers very sensibly rely on trial consultants to enhance the trial experience of the team. See With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? Practice: One of my former colleagues turned judge was so right about this: “They call it the practice of law but nobody is practicing.” Trial consultants help trial teams practice effectively. This is critical because so few trial teams are really practicing. Those who don't practice in front of peers underperform others. Those who do, outperform most trial lawyers. It's so obviously correlated with good outcomes, I believe that the quality of practice is a reasonable proxy for the outcome of a case. See 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation.

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