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It turns out that a large number of Russian ads on Facebook that viewers did not know were Russian ads influenced the way people thought about various issues last year. They may have even influenced the 2016 presidential election to some degree. Rather than delve deeply into the appropriateness of these ads (in my view, they were wholly inappropriate), who exactly directed their placement, and how exactly they affected behavior, let's instead look at these ads from a trial lawyer’s perspective.   After all, if pictures and a few short phrases can be used to change the voting behavior of the electorate, it stands to reason that pictures and some well-chosen phrases can be used to change the voting behavior of jurors. In the courtroom, there's no ethical debate about this process, since jurors know exactly where the message originates from -- the mouths of lawyers, experts, and witnesses. So if an attorney can use proven persuasion techniques and it's ethical to do so, the attorney must do so to zealously represent his or her clients. This is precisely why high-end persuasion firms like A2L exist. We're here to help persuade, using all appropriate and ethical means, both visual and rhetorical. We're not Russian hackers. Instead, we're hackers of human psychology, since we help top trial lawyers use proven techniques to maximize their persuasiveness. We do this by bringing together a remarkable combination of trial lawyers, social scientists, and artists to do what we do, a process we call litigation consulting. Let’s look at the Russian ads in this light. Because of some good investigative journalism and investigative work in Congress, many of the ads, Facebook groups, Facebook pages, and messages have been identified and published -- and most of them are really disturbing. The ads used some of the same time-honored techniques that trial lawyers use – but because their source was disguised and because they were intended to disrupt, not to persuade, they were dangerous. For example, many of the ads targeted topics where there is a deep division or poked at issues in a way designed to inflame. In almost every case, they used a favored technique of marketers, trial lawyers, and politicians alike -- FEAR. And that makes sense. Fear is a ten times greater motivator than hope of gain. That’s why marketers tell us that the one-time low pricing will end Sunday night, not how happy we will be on a new mattress. That’s why politicians tell us that immigrants should fear deportation if their opponent is elected, not that the melting pot is a good thing. And finally, of course, that’s how a specious argument that an everyday product causes cancer can overwhelm a defense based on good science. Fear wins, and good trial lawyers on both sides of the courtroom must use it. I wrote a lot about this topic in my five-part series about the Reptile Trial Strategy. It's no surprise that ads traced back to Russia focused on hot-button topics like Black Lives Matter, Muslims supporting Hillary Clinton, gun rights, LGBT rights, and more. Let's look at the techniques used in three Russia-linked ads: 1. Heart of Texas: This Facebook group that advocated for Texas secession quickly gained more than 250,000 members. The ad below uses a fake Facebook event as part of its messaging. What made a quarter of a million Texans unwittingly sign up for a Russian-backed Texas secessionist movement?  The ad works because it stokes existing biases while seemingly coming from a credible source. If we define bias broadly as any commonly held belief by a person that makes it harder for them to accept contrary evidence, you can see how this could work in the courtroom.  Obviously, we’re not talking about using racial, ethnic, or sexual preference biases as part of advocacy. Instead, I’m referring to those beliefs that many jurors show up to trial with -- like bankers are all motivated by greed, big energy companies don’t really care about the environment, or tech companies will ruthlessly steal from one another. Just as the Russians used biases in a deplorable manner, trial lawyers can play to other biases by encouraging jurors to accept and double down on their beliefs. As I wrote in a recent post, when you combine a credible source such as an expert witness with a message that jurors are ready to hear, you are likely to come out ahead. Consider how I embraced these biases and re-messaged these in a recent blog post about bias below. As you read each think about how you might couple each with persuasive visuals to maximize persuasion.  Bankers are greedy, so why would they ever do something that risked their money? (Possible visual storytelling aid to accompany: evidence of penny pinching at all levels of the organization summarized on a chart to demonstrate a culture of avarice) XYZ oil company has been more reckless with the environment than you or me, but given what they went through before, do you really think they are dumb enough to do it again? (Possible visual storytelling aid to accompany: list in a slowly scrolling chart the tangible consequences the organization faced as a result of the last disaster) Sure, tech companies will do anything to get ahead, but can you imagine anything more humiliating to someone as competitive as the CEO of ABC company as looking as if you’re not as smart as the other guy? Nothing is worth that when you are a competitive tech geek. (Possible visual storytelling aid to accompany: text callouts coupled with the CEO photo openly demeaning the intelligence of the opposition)

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Welcome back from summer (to most), and welcome to the busy fall/winter litigation season. This blog, The Litigation Consulting Report, is now just about 4 ½ years old. In that time, we have written nearly 500 posts on dozens of trial and presentation-related subjects, including everything from TED talks to Reptile trial techniques to voir dire best-practices. We've earned accolades, won awards, won countless trials, and we have steadily grown our number of subscribers year after year, and I'm especially thrilled to say that we've just signed up our 7,500th blog subscriber! Every subscription is free, and perhaps that is part of the reason it took us less than a year to grow our community from 5,000 subscribers in September 2014 to 7,500 subscribers in September 2015 — a 50% increase. To celebrate reaching 7,500 blog subscribers, today we’re publishing (as a free download) this collection of our very best articles to date called, A2L Consulting's Top 75 Articles of All Time. By "very best," I mean that our readers have, by choosing which articles they read most, told us which articles they think are the best. On the Web, your clicks are your votes. We’re thrilled to receive this feedback from you.

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting This is the fifth and final installment in a series of articles focused on how defense counsel can overcome the increasingly popular Reptile trial strategy. In parts one through four, I offered an introduction to the strategy, I shared ten ways to recognize when the strategy is being used against you, I explained why the strategy does not actually work in the way that its authors describe, and I explained that despite the bad science, the Reptile trial strategy still works. In this post, I summarize how to overcome the strategy in both the pretrial and trial phases of a case. I rely heavily on the work of Jill Bechtold of Marks Gray and Steve Quattlebaum of Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull. They were my co-presenters at a recent defense attorney-focused conference devoted to repelling the Reptile strategy. One theme that clearly emerges from the 12 points below is that being a good defense lawyer is more important than ever. No longer is it enough simply to outlast your opponent. No longer is it enough to come up with a great theme and narrative just before trial. Because the Reptile strategy often begins with the complaint, a defense against it must start shortly thereafter -- or you will pay the price later. Spot the Reptile: It can appear as late as closing arguments, but more often than not, plaintiffs counsel will introduce the key themes as early as the complaint. See, 10 Ways to Spot the Reptile in Action. Read the Book: I hate to say this, but you probably should read it. It is Reptile: The 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution by David Ball and Don Keenan. Spot your Opponent on the Reptile Hall of Fame: http://www.reptilekeenanball.com/reptile-allstars/ Plaintiffs counsel with a record of using the Reptile strategy are listed here. Is one your opponent?

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting In my previous three posts concerning the “Reptile” trial strategy, I provided an introduction to the strategy, I discussed how to spot it, and I discussed why the science that its authors claim supports the strategy is just plain wrong. As I have mentioned in previous articles, this trial strategy has been largely absent from the types of cases that we work on at A2L. However, with high-stakes pattern litigation on the rise, and with the increase in sophistication on the plaintiffs side in big-ticket litigation, the “Reptile” is something that medium and large law firm defense firms must be able to spot and to cope with. In this article, I will focus on the critical fact that, despite the bad science that its authors employ, the Reptile trial strategy still works. In other words, the “Reptile” advocates are tapping into authentic ways of persuading jurors. There are at least seven reasons for that. The “Reptile” advocates suggest using a strong theme that is constantly reinforced throughout the case from complaint to closing. That's just good lawyering, and a majority of lawyers still don't do this. See 14 Differences Between a Theme and a Story in Litigation. Similarly, they encourage focusing on a consistent strategy from the very beginning of the case. Few defense counsel do this throughout a case, and again, following this practice is just good lawyering. See Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy. They encourage the use of narrative as a persuasion strategy. We've written about that many times, and they are right to encourage it, because it works very effectively. Our proposed narratives are based on real psychological science and theirs are not, but the use of narrative is a very good idea. See $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation.

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting As I discussed in Part 1 of this series, the “reptile” trial strategy is quickly spreading among plaintiffs counsel. Some plaintiffs counsel have, in fact, claimed that the strategy has resulted in verdicts totaling more than $6 billion in the past few years. In a large room of defense attorneys to whom I made a presentation last week, more than half reported having seen the strategy used in one of their cases. I think that may just be the tip of the iceberg. It appears that many defense counsel are being subjected to the strategy and don't know it is happening to them until it is too late. In light of this fact, below are 10 ways to spot the strategy. In subsequent articles, we will discuss what to do to counter it. From the very start of your case, look for any of the following 10 phenomena: You encounter themes suggesting that the community needs to be protected from the defendant; e.g. “Walking past stores on Main Street is part of what it means to be American.” The behavior of the plaintiff or other contributing or mitigating traits of the plaintiff are ignored, and instead the plaintiff works hard to keep the focus on the defendant or even an idealized defendant. Plaintiffs introduce a discussion of “safety rules” throughout all pre-trial phases of the case; e.g. “Do you agree that keeping the public safe is a key role of your train operators?”

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Last week, I spoke at an annual gathering of defense attorneys whose subtitle was “Lawyers and Other Reptiles.” What's going on? Who are these reptiles? It’s an interesting story. This conference was planned as a way to bring together defense attorneys around the nation who want to learn how to turn aside a frequently used set of trial tactics championed by David Ball and Don Keenan in their "Reptile" series of books and webinars. Ball is a North Carolina-based jury consultant, and Keenan is an Atlanta-based plaintiffs trial lawyer. According to Ball and Keenan’s publicity materials, the “reptile” concept is “the most powerful tool in the fight against tort reform.” Ball and Keenan say that through their books, DVDs, seminars and workshops, “the Reptile is revolutionizing the way that trial attorneys approach and win their cases.” The proof, they say, is in the numbers, as more than $6 billion in verdicts and settlements have resulted from these tactics since they launched them in 2009.

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