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Trial Lawyers and the Power of Silence

One of my professional mentors had a saying: Let silence do the heavy lifting.  This is good advice in many business and personal contexts. When you want to hear what another person really thinks, stop talking and wait for him to speak. Let him finish his statement, and don’t “rescue” him by interrupting him. Two thousand years ago, a rabbi in the Talmud said, “All my days have I grown up among the wise, and I have not found anything better for a man than silence.” This principle is still valid, and it applies well in the context of communications during trial between attorneys, juries and judges. I’ve noticed that many trial lawyers all too often believe they have too much to say in too little time and are obsessed with pressing a great deal of information into the hands of the fact-finder. But endless words are not always your friend if you want to be a successful persuader. Recently I observed an opening statement in which a trial lawyer applied these principles perfectly. Her client needed to make a point about the existence of ongoing communications between two parties over the course of a decade. This point was so important that it warranted special attention during the preparation of the opening statement. So we designed a litigation graphic that focused on these communications. We made sure that these timeline events rolled out slowly to the jury, slowly enough that the brief periods of silence between them caused some discomfort. This tactic noticeably changed the pace of the opening statement. It set a tone that forced the jurors to pay attention. And it wouldn’t have worked as well if the lawyer hadn’t presented her statement quietly and at a slow pace. As this masterful trial lawyer went on with her statement, the room audibly went silent and the jury paid attention. This was an emotional moment that focused the jurors’ minds on the fact of the regular ongoing communications – an essential part of the case for this lawyer’s client. This lawyer let silence do the heavy lifting. We have done this before, in other contexts. In an airline merger case, we scrolled a list of past airline bankruptcies before the jury in a way that was slower than usual – and noticeable. The message was that the airline industry had long been suffering through a dire financial situation and that the merger should be allowed to go through to reduce further bleeding. In all of these cases, the key element is that a skillful trial lawyer can plan her exhibits slowly and carefully and let silence speak loudly.   Other A2L free resources about litigation graphics, timelines, and connecting with judge and jury include: 3 minute video: Three top trial lawyers discuss persuasion using litigation graphics A Must-Have Complimentary 50-page Guidebook for Those Who Use Timelines to Inform or Persuade 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint Connecting With Jurors by Turning Off Your Screen 3 Excellent Ways to Use “Top-Bottom” Timelines in Trial 5 Trial Graphics That Work Every Time 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document 4 Types of Animation Used in the Courtroom Why a Graphically Immersive Trial Presentation Style Works Best Stop Using Bullet Points Why the former President is a Master PowerPointer The Redundancy Effect Search our site for just what you need 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide" 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid Trial Timelines and the Psychology of Demonstrative Evidence Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make

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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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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Every month, 1,000-2,000 free e-books and webinars are downloaded and viewed on A2L Consulting's web site. These free resources are likely the single best place on the Internet to learn how the best trial lawyers prepare for and win at trial. It's an exchange of litigation's best practices like no other. Judging by the topics searched for and read during the 100,000+ visits to A2L's website and industry-leading litigation blog so far in 2017, the legal industry is especially eager to learn more about voir dire, storytelling for persuasion (including visual persuasion), and jury consulting generally. Below are the top 10 free litigation best practice resources that have been downloaded and viewed so far in 2017. Choose your favorite(s) now, share this list with friends, and improve your results. Really, everything below is complimentary.    10. The Opening Statement Toolkit: In this 219-page book, you will find 66 articles curated from A2L's massive collection of posts related to litigation and persuasion. Each article relates to opening statements in some way.    9. Why Work with A2L: This free guide details how we think as litigation consultants and the value that litigation consultants provide generally. It's a useful tool to hand to in-house counsel to explain how jury, graphics, and technology consultants can contribute to winning a case.    8. Top 75 Articles of All Time: Our litigation consultants have compiled 75 expert articles on topics related to litigation support and litigation generally. This free book compiled the top 75 articles written in the first five years of our litigation and persuasion blog.    7. The Voir Dire Handbook: This one-of-a-kind and brand-new book will be helpful to junior and veteran courtroom practitioners alike. Because the composition of a jury can dramatically affect the outcome of the case, it is vitally important to get voir dire right and use whatever tools are available for doing so.    6. Using Litigation Graphics at Trial: In our most comprehensive e-book about litigation graphics and courtroom persuasion, A2L's jury and graphics consultants have compiled 74 expert articles in what is a first-of-its-kind book.    5. Tactics for Complex Civil Litigation: Whether you are a veteran trial lawyer or support trial teams, you will find this book valuable. This guidebook includes 74 articles about how to best to prepare and try a complex civil case for bench and jury trials.    4. How to Use Storytelling in Litigation E-Book: In our biggest e-book yet on courtroom storytelling, our litigation consultants have compiled 75 expert articles on topics related to litigation support and litigation generally.    3. How to Design and Use a Great Trial Timeline: This book is a must-have for anyone who prepares informative or persuasive timelines designed to influence and change what people think.    2. Using Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool at Trial Webinar: Whether you are in-house counsel, outside counsel, or litigation support, this 60-minute webinar plus 20-minute Q&A will improve your understanding and use of storytelling techniques during litigation. Led by seasoned litigator, Tony Klapper.   1. The Litigation Consulting Report Blog: Every month, 200 or more people subscribe to our blog. Six years into its existence, there are nearly 10,000 subscribers. You or a friend can subscribe free here, and you can control how often you hear about new articles (published 1x-3x/week) here.

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Timelines are a frequently used, time-honored trial technique that we have discussed in these pages more than once. Since human beings like to focus on a story – what happened first, what happened next, and so on – timelines have the power to summarize, in a simple and straightforward way, the entire narrative of a case. But not all timeline graphics are created equal. Here are three ways to use what we call “top-bottom” timelines that most successfully take advantage of their power to persuade. In the first type of “top-bottom” timeline, the chronological portion of the line, in years, months, days, whatever is relevant, sits in the middle. At the top lie the actions of your client, tagged at the appropriate time when they occurred. Below the line are the actions, or inactions, of the other side in the litigation. Let’s say the case centers around a construction contract, and your point is that a subcontractor’s inaction caused a critical delay in the completion of the contract. Above the line are the actions of your client, the main contractor – the days when it began work, when it completed certain key steps of the project, when it contacted the subcontractor for progress reports. Below the line are the actions of the subcontractor, which diminish in number and in significance as the deadline approaches. The jury can look at the timeline and immediately draw a distinction between your client’s actions (good and appropriate) and the other company’s actions (few and showing evidence of foot-dragging).

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  by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting We recently asked three top trial lawyers about what makes them so successful in the courtroom. They are quite a successful trio. One of them is Bobby Burchfield of King & Spalding, whose bio notes, “Mr. Burchfield has never lost a jury trial.” That's an especially impressive track record as he's been in practice more than 30 years. So what does winning take? Well, as we saw in previous clips from the same interviews, these trial lawyers believe, as we do, that storytelling is at the heart of building a successful case. Furthermore, as all demonstrative evidence consultants and most trial lawyers will tell you, combining persuasive visual evidence with persuasive oral communications produces a truly synergistic persuasive effect. Persuasion is a rare circumstance where 1+1 really does equal more than 2. Of course, as we have long counseled, just because something is projected on a screen does not make it helpful at a trial. In many cases, as in the case of lawyers who use bullet points to summarize their arguments on screen, some visuals actually make you less persuasive. If yours looks like the image here, then you are certainly doing more damage than good. For more on why that's true, please see our articles 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere), The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make, and Why Reading Your Litigation PowerPoint Slides Hurts Jurors. In this three-minute clip, we hear from the best of the best -- Bobby Burchfield of King & Spalding, Rob Cary of Williams & Connolly, and Patrick Coyne of Finnegan. And we certainly don't hear them talking about the power of bullet pointed lists. Instead, you hear these trial-tested litigation experts talking about the use of animation, the value of timelines, and the importance of showing real evidence to ground your argument in credibility. Burchfield said, “People learn both by seeing and by hearing, and if you can combine those two in one presentation, the more sensory perceptions you combine, the better off you are. Timelines are powerful persuasive tools. A timeline shows from left to right who did what and to whom. Sometimes you show in a timeline above the line what your client knew and below the line what your client didn’t know. It can be a powerful story to show contrasting events that were going on simultaneously. This helps the jury put the entire case into context.” Cary noted, “When a jury can see something that visually displays the evidence, that cloaks you in credibility. That’s critical in earning their trust.” Coyne pointed out, “People are predominantly visual. Most people need an image. They need it to tie things together. Ken [Lopez] and his people did a fantastic animation for us. The judge turned to the other side and said, ‘If I credit this animation, you lose. Do you know that?’ It was a very compelling animation. That’s what I mean by appealing to the judge by giving him a visual that explains what you’re trying to say.” Watching lawyers like these work is a pleasure and their teams score high on our assessment of what makes a great trial team. Other articles related to persuasion in trial, the use of bullet points, and trial presentation best practices from A2L Consulting: Don't Use PowerPoint as a Crutch in Trial or Anywhere 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 4 Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations The Effective Use of PowerPoint Presentation During Opening Statement 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting As we approach the end of 2016, I'm reviewing the many free resources that have been viewed and downloaded from A2L Consulting's extensive litigation-focused website this year. From podcasts to blog articles to free downloadable e-books to free webinars, we have given back this year to the trial community more than ever. Our blog has been accessed 250,000 times, our 20+ free e-books have been downloaded tens of thousands of times and more than 1,000 new subscribers have signed up for a free litigation and persuasion-focused blog subscription in the past year. To help sort through all that data and information and focus on just the best content and resources, here are the 10 items, all completely complimentary and without additional obligation, that saw the most intense attention this year from the litigation industry's top players. Visits to A2L's free resources (podcasts, e-books, webinars etc.): This central set of resources allows visitors to our site to direct themselves to the information they most need.   Storytelling for Litigators Webinar: The science of using storytelling for persuasion is in its nascent stages. This webinar explains what is now known and how to best use storytelling techniques to influence other people’s thoughts and conclusions.   The Patent Litigation Handbook 4th Edition: During A2L's more than 20 years in business, intellectual property cases have represented nearly half of our total work. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when we want to update one of our handbooks, we often turn to our patent litigation handbook. It’s a perennial winner.   The Voir Dire Handbook: I'm surprised by how popular this book is, but voir dire continues to be one of the most searched for terms on our site. We routinely help support trial teams during jury selection and conduct mock exercises that have a voir dire component.   Complex Civil Litigation Handbook: This book is a necessity for anyone who enters civil courtrooms, develops theories for civil cases, or works on complex civil litigation.  

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5 Trial Graphics That Work Every Time

by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D. Managing Director, Jury Consulting A2L Consulting         and Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D. Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Having conducted hundreds of mock trials and observed and polled jurors in hundreds of actual trials, we see the jurors asking the same questions over and over again – questions that the trial presentation should have answered. In view of that, here are five different subjects for trial graphics that are almost sure to answer some jurors' question in every case. They are so standard as scene-setters that they almost always have a place in a trial. Without them, triers of fact often feel as if they have come in after the movie started and that they can't rewind to get the answers.  These five trial graphics fill in important blanks, prevent confusion, and create the foundation to tell your story, your way. Imagine the difference between being introduced to someone merely by name (“This is John Doe”), to whom you nod politely, but in whom you are unlikely to take interest -- and being introduced more fully (“This is Professor John Doe, who is in charge of research on meteors at M.I.T.”), whom you now likely have greater interest to get to know. 1.  An organizational trial graphic or players chart showing the major players, their relationships, and their role in the case as you see them. A players chart answers questions like: Who initiated the relationship? What did each need or bring to it? Why? Who is in charge? Who did what? Who knows whom? What are the coalitions and who are adversaries? Who was a good or bad actor? A2L is hiring! Know a talented presentation designer for our DC headquarters?

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  by Ryan H. Flax, Esq. In our most recent post, we discussed how important it is to use an opening statement to make jurors like you as a person and thus embrace your client’s case. Another key theme of opening statements is storytelling. Everyone is always advising lawyers to use storytelling to be more persuasive. So, why isn’t it happening more? Maybe no one is reading these publications. Or perhaps when preparing for trial, we’re mired in details and chronology. In law school, we’re taught how to deal with this Venn diagram involving the intersection of the law and the facts. Never are we taught that the real intersection we care about involves human beings, how they think, how they learn, and how their influenced.

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