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The Litigation Consulting Report

The 10 Top Free Trial Lawyer Resources of 2016

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 @ 03:57 PM

best litigation ebooks webinars cle for trial lawyers of 2016by Ken Lopez
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.

  1. free litigation ebooks for trial lawyersVisits 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.


  1. ryan-flax-a2l-litigation-consultants-webinar-recorded.jpgStorytelling 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.


  1. a2l-patent-litigation-consulting-4th-toolkit.jpgThe 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.


  1. a2l-consulting-voir-dire-consultants-handbook-cover-drop.jpgThe 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.


  1. complex-civil-litigation-ebook-free.jpgComplex 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.


  1. trial-timeline-ebook.jpgTrial Timelines E-Book: Used in almost every case, timelines are an essential communication tool. If you think that a timeline is simply a date bar with topic flags, this book has a great deal to teach you about this valuable concept.


  1. storytelling-and-persuasion-for-litigators.jpgStorytelling for Litigators E-Book: This book and its prior edition has been downloaded thousands of times.


  1. expert-witnesses-how-to-answer-questions-deposition-cross-1.jpgThe Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses: No matter how well prepared a witness is, he or she can face a tricky question or a trap planned by opposing counsel. This article identifies 14 of those common situations and the best strategies to foil these tactics.


  1. best-voir-dire-questions-to-ask-mock-trial-federal-court-1.jpgFive Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always: This blog article originally published in 2013, has been read nearly 20,000 times this year alone.


  1. litigation-consulting-report-blog.pngOur litigation blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Now, every year, more than a quarter-million visits are paid to our blog. It's been named a top litigation blog by the American Bar Association, The Persuasive Litigator, Cogent Legal, Justia, LitigationWorld and many other organizations. Why not claim a free subscription here or share one with a friend?

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Litigation Consulting, Trial Consulting, E-Book, Demonstrative Evidence, Webinar, Litigation Support, Patent Litigation, Voir Dire, Storytelling, Timelines, Podcasts, blog

5 Trial Graphics That Work Every Time

Posted by Laurie Kuslansky on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 @ 02:14 PM

five-trial-graphics-that-always-work-at-trialby Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Jury Consulting
A2L Consulting


Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.
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.

players chart trial graphic

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?

2.  A chronology and timeline of key events that shows what happened in what sequence, which leads to conclusions about cause and effect.

timeline trial graphic

A timeline or chronology answers questions like:

When did the relationship start?

What happened during the "courtship" and "honeymoon" periods?

When did things go wrong?

When did the deterioration start?

What happened just before or after it?

When did the relationship end?

How did each side react?


3.  What each gained or lost from the events in the case. This shows motive or the lack of it, equity, value and other important points.

elements of crime trial graphic

A gain/loss, events, or elements trial graphic answers questions like:

What did each put in or take out of the situation?

What was their value?

Does it seem fair and balanced or not?


4.  How the damages do or do not add up in a way that jurors can follow along by themselves, simply.


If lay jurors cannot “do the math” in their own terms, it’s hard to convince them to award or mitigate damages. They can't fight opposing views just by taking your word for it or decide the battle of the experts in the experts' terms.


5.  Who is...?

expert cv resume trial graphic

Charts that show the identity of the litigants or key players and play up or down their history, size, wealth or function can make or break how triers of fact view them, blame or credit them, determine who is the victim, apportion fault and damages, decide credibility and reach other important conclusions about liability and damages. Are they so rich that damages won't affect them?  Are they so experienced that they should have known better?  Are they so well credentialed, that you should believe them, even if you don't quite understand them?

Without answering these essential who/what/where/when/why questions that accompany any case, you may not be able to satisfy the triers of fact when it comes to the more challenging questions of the case at hand. Instead of depriving them of this important information, make it handy.

Other articles and resources related to using a trial graphic, litigation graphics, demonstrative evidence, and winning using these tools:

powerpoint litigation graphics consultants

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, Timelines

5 Ways to Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements - Part 2

Posted by Ryan Flax on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 @ 11:28 AM


law-facts-storytellingby 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.

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

Studies and countless mock jury exercises show us that deliberating jurors discuss the case as a story – a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and a whole set of characters. If this is so, whose story do we want the jury using: ours, opposing counsel’s, or some completely novel concoction of their own making?

Don’t be a slave to chronology. The natural tendency is to tell it exactly as it happened in chronological order. The problem is that this isn’t interesting, and, as we know, the theory of primacy means that the important stuff must be said first even if it didn’t happen first.

Your story must have structure. Give your story a logical beginning (where did your client start out?), middle (where did the relationship between your client and the opposing party begin?), climax (why are we really here?), and ending (“so here we are in the courtroom”), but don’t just place the events in the order in which they occurred. Which ones matter? Which ones convey the emotion and theme of your case? Sort out these questions to distill your case into a terse and interesting story.

Have a theme, tell a story. Give your jurors a reason to listen to you. Keep them interested.

Why use storytelling?  Let’s briefly go through the science.

FMRI scanning studies at Princeton University have shown that good storytelling causes the brains of the listeners and the storytellers to sync up in terms of the parts that are most active and when.1 So the saying “we’re on the same wavelength” can be literally true. In such cases, the listener’s brains act more like participants in the story than observers of the action – they become psychologically and emotionally invested, which is what we want.

When telling a story, it is essential to use sensory language. Paint a picture of the scene and the characters.2 Simply using words and argument without sensory language is interpreted by jurors as noise and is not interesting. Sensory language activates the whole brain and does so in the areas related to the senses (sight, taste, movement, etc.).3

Stories also do for jurors what they need to be good jurors. Stories interrupt daydreaming, organize information, and make the case more interesting.

When organizing your story, remember these five rules of thumb: The simpler the story, the better. The simpler the language you use, the better. Using metaphors and analogies is essential. You must distill your facts to make the story relatable. You must use sensory language and word pictures.

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Star Wars, The Godfather, Harry Potter are all movies with strong stories and strong themes. Can you represent either side of the controversies in these “cases” and craft an opening line for your opening statement story for each? Here's an example of how you might approach each. Can you tell which side is which?

Star Wars

Good men must meet evil with resistance. 

Against overwhelming odds and a seemingly insurmountable force, our band of rebels has bravely fought for freedom for all the citizens of the galaxy.

We have here a group of terrorists. 

Terrorists that want to see chaos reign across the galaxy and that will stop at nothing, not even the murder of hundreds of thousands of our brave military, to see the fall of our government.

The Godfather

Murder. Robbery. Extortion.

The Corleone crime syndicate has cost the people of this State billions of dollars and has cost countless lives. This is the story of these crimes.

This is the story of a man forced into dire circumstances. He has fought to keep his family together, to protect them against powerful enemies, to protect their lives.

Harry Potter

Orphaned and then mistreated for 11 years, Mr. Potter has risen above his upbringing to fight for the lives and the freedom of his friends and even those who call themselves his enemies.

His offer of friendship rejected, Mr. Malfoy was made to look the fool time and time again by Mr. Potter. In the end, Mr. Potter intentionally destroyed Mr. Malfoy’s entire way of life.

Don’t be a lawyer who chokes the humanity out of a story by reducing it to its legal essentials.4 Don’t turn a story about broken promises into a breach of contract lawsuit. Don’t turn a story about the tragic death of a loving wife into a survivor seeking damages for wrongful death. Don’t turn the defendant’s laying waste to acres of pristine woodlands into an environmental contamination and remediation case. Jurors live in the real world, so relate your case to that world.

Part 1 of this series may be found here.

Other articles and resources related to opening statements, storytelling and persuasion from A2L Consulting:

A2L Consulting's Storytelling for Litigators 3rd Ed E-book

[1] Stephens et al., Speaker-Listener Neural Coupling Underlies Successful Communication, PNAS vol. 107, No. 32 14425-30 (August 10, 2010). 

[2] Gerald R. Powell, Opening Statements: The Art of Storytelling, 31 Stetson L.Rev. 89, at 96-97 (2001).

[3] See, e.g., Gonzalez et al., Reading Cinnamon Activates Olfactory Brain Regions, NeuroImage 32 (2006) 906-12.

[4] Gerald R. Powell, Opening Statements: The Art of Storytelling, 31 Stetson L.Rev. 89, at 92 (2001).

Tags: Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Psychology, Storytelling, Opening, Timelines, Persuasion

How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 @ 01:33 PM


trial-timeline-litigation-slidingby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I love a good trial timeline whether it's a printed large-format trial board or whether it's in PowerPoint form. This goes for my colleagues here at A2L, as well. In fact, we love timelines so much that we've even produced a book with more than 30 types of trial timelines illustrated.

Timelines are used as demonstrative evidence in just about every trial. They serve an obvious purpose of orienting judge and/or jury to the order of events and how those events relate to one another. It's the one exhibit that helps make sense of it all, particularly in a complex case.

As our trial timine book discusses, a timeline does not have to be limited to simple chronologies. In fact by incorporating graphs, photos, color schemes and more, a timeline can transmute from being simply informative to being quite persuasive.

When I first launched A2L back in the mid-1990s, timelines were almost exclusively printed on large trial boards. There were many advantages to this approach. Sometimes we had to use as many as five tiled boards standing next to each other to make a complicated case make sense and show many events over a long period of time.

Click me

Relative to the 1990s, very few printed trial boards get produced these days, although we still prepare a good number each month. One of the best exhibits to use a printed trial board for is the timeline, because you can often leave it up in front of a jury or judge and help them stay oriented to your case. However what happens when you can't or don't want to print a large timeline on a board?

There are a couple of good techniques for designing timelines in PowerPoint, Prezi or Keynote that allow you to create the illusion of a much bigger canvas than you can otherwise show legibly in PowerPoint. I've written about this approach in Prezi before, but I continue to advise against using that program at trial because of issues people have with motion sickness.

The sliding timeline technique is a great method to use when you have many events over a long period of time. By creating a transition between slides that mimics sliding a large piece of paper across the screen you help keep your audience oriented and in touch with the passage of time. Have a look at the simple two-slide example below to see what I mean.


In this PowerPoint trial timeline that compares the role of testifying experts and consulting experts, we move along the litigation lifecyle in a case from complaint to discovery by sliding the timeline across the screen using a push from right transition. I think it does a good job creating a fluid and elegant transition, and it helps the jury clearly appreciate when you're going forwards and backwards in time. It's a simple lesson, but it is one I see frequently underutilized. Dig into the articles, books and webinars below to learn more.

Other articles and resources from A2L Consulting discussing trial timelines, printed trial boards, PowerPoint and litigation graphics generally:

trial timeline trial graphics litigation courtroom timelines


Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Presentation Graphics, Advocacy Graphics, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion, Timelines, Prezi

12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide"

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Aug 8, 2014 @ 12:00 PM


busy powerpoint slide make it fitby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Have you ever heard any of the following during a PowerPoint presentation?

  • "It may be hard to make out the details of this slide."
  • "I'm not sure if you can read this in the back of the room."
  • "In case you can't read this, let me read it for you."
  • "I know there is a lot on this slide, but bear with me."
  • "Let me try to zoom in on this part of the slide [proceeds to fumble with remote]"
Of course you have heard these apologetic statements. If you are in the business world, you have probably heard them all. However, there is never an excuse to say these things whether in a boardroom or in a courtroom. As much as you may want everything you have to say about a key message on a single PowerPoint slide, as hard as it may be to imagine another way of doing things, I promise, you most definitely do not need everything (or even a lot) on one slide. And, you can still get your point across.

The number one video in my recent article The Top 14 TED Talks for Lawyers and Litigators 2014 as well as other articles I have written like 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad and 7 Ways to Avoid Making Your PowerPoint Slides Your Handout describe methods for limiting the amount you put on your slide.
With all this said, it is important to remember that sometimes you just need everything on a slide. Sometimes it is an advantage. So, in this article, I want to offer twelve easy methods for eliminating PowerPoint slide clutter and focusing your audeince's attention on what matters - you and your message. Sometimes, albeit rarely, this means getting everything onto a single slide. More often than not, however, it means taking a single slide's complicated content and spreading it across many slides without your audience knowing you've even changed slides.
  1. 28 point font: My recommendation is to use no less than 28 point text, and if you do so, you will be forced to take care of most slide-clutter issues before they become problems. Most of the points below will explain how one might do this.
  2. One idea per slide: Another technique for eliminating slide-clutter, and a best practice generally, is to only include one idea, one takeaway, and one message per slide. Try not to focus on your total slide count as this is mostly irrelevant to the length of a presentation. Focus instead on one idea per slide or one idea per click on your remote.

    Tell the ABA you love this Litigation Blog so it appears in the ABA Blawg 100 for 2014

  3. Zoom with remote: Some projectors have a nice high quality zoom feature that allows you focus in on one area of a slide. IF you are very adept with this feature, IF you are in control of the projector and the technology in the room and IF you have a high-enough-resolution image, then this may be a good option, but I don't recommend it for 99% of all presenters. The resolution of your image must be high enough so that it does not pixelate when you zoom.
  4. Zoom box: Say you want to present something like an organizational chart with 25 elements on it. You might show the whole thing to start with, but no one can be expected to read it since the font size will be far too small. Consider starting with the whole image and then placing a zoomed-in version of portions of the chart on subsequent slides. To keep your audience oriented, use a small icon of the full image in the corner with a red box to indicate the portion you are showing.
  5. Sliding timelines: Very often people want to put a timeline onto a PowerPoint slide. If it has more than five items on it, it gets hard to read. One technique that we use, described in example 25 in A2L's free book, The Litigation Guide to Trial Timelines, is to create a sliding transition between time spans in the timeline. If you break your timeline up onto multiple slides it is easier to read. If you use the sliding transition, you give the impression of a larger timeline and keep your audience oriented.
  6. Prezi: Prezi is an alternative presentation tool to PowerPoint. It allows the presenter to create a large canvas of materials (i.e. videos, text and images) and allows the presenter to zoom into portions of the canvas. I think it is a neat program, we use it at A2L, but in the hands of an untrained user, Prezi presentations give people motion sickness. You can learn more about it and see an example in my article Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) Explained for a Jury.
  7. Custom animation: Zoom effects in PowerPoint are not for beginners. PowerPoint actually makes it quite hard to zoom in on an element in a slide without it becoming pixelated. However, if you have learned how to do this, you can take something like an org chart and create animated zooms into key elements of it to make your points. Done well, the audience never loses sight of the big picture.
  8. Layer elements in: When it is advantageous to show many elements together on a slide, the best way to do this is to build them in over time. Showing an audience too much at once causes them to shut down. Allowing comfort with the materials to build over time is a best practice. Example #4 in The Litigation Guide to Trial Timelines illustrates this nicely.
  9. Zoomed-pop-in elements: Similarly, if you need to show many things on a single image, you can make them legible by introducing one element at time, zoomed in, nearly full screen. Once introduced they can reduce in size and be placed where important. For example, in an org charge, each box could start full-screen sized and then shrink while moving into place on the chart.
  10. Hyperlinked elements: When you are not sure what order you have to show materials in, you can use PowerPoint's hyperlinking function to pop-up an object so that it is legible. For example, if you are showing an org chart, you could create a hotspot on each position that when clicked would zoom open a larger version of the box. Example #7 in How To Use and Design Trial Timelines shows how this is achieved.
  11. Printed materials: Very often, it just makes no sense to show something in PowerPoint. Printed documents have better resolution than a screen and offer a range of other advantages when handed out. See also 7 Ways to Avoid Making Your PowerPoint Slides Your Handout.
  12. Exception: Sometimes you want to show how hopelessly confusing something is to gain an advantage. This is the only exception to the rules articulated above. For example, if you want to show that a process was nearly impossible to follow, PowerPoint may be ideal since you can build elements of the process over time until it becomes impossible to follow.
In subsequent posts, I am going to take these topics and show how to handle each of them. In the meantime, here are some articles and resources that discuss eliminating slide clutter, best practices for using PowerPoint and how to present well in general:

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Demonstrative Evidence, Presentation Graphics, PowerPoint, Timelines, Prezi

Free E-Book Download: Using Trial Timelines to Help Win Your Case

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Dec 11, 2013 @ 07:15 AM


trial timelines graphics consultants litigatorsby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Research shows that visuals are a key to presenting information clearly and persuasively. If they are designed properly, trial timelines are one of the most important demonstrative aids you can use in any legal setting to persuade a fact finder.

Timelines are key exhibits in most trials. They help orient the jury or judge, and serve as a memory stimulator for the trial lawyer and expert witness. They can also be an effective persuasion device if they are set up as a permanent exhibit at trial.

In fact, the timeline is often the single most critical demonstrative exhibit used at trial. Among other things, the timeline:

  • Orients the viewer;
  • Provides a framework around which facts can be organized;
  • Allows for easy comparison of events occurring in sequence or simultaneously;
  • Builds trust and credibility by sharing a believable story;
  • and even persuades when created correctly.

Here are some quick and interesting points about timelines.

Any timeline is meant for the jurors or the judge to understand. It’s a device that makes the case clearer to them. The timeline is not primarily intended to jog your memory. You should know your case perfectly or nearly perfectly without the timeline.

In general, the timeline should focus on the relative position of the events in the story that it tells, not on the date bar. If you are going to highlight a portion of the timeline, highlight the events themselves, and don't make the date bar the focal point. 

Although a lot of people think a timeline needs a complicated legend or key, the truth is that it should be fairly self-explanatory. Rather than a legend, use logos, icons, company symbols, or other design elements to explain what the timeline represents. 

Jurors’ attention won’t remain on a timeline that is too long and complicated. Revise your timeline so that it focuses on the most important events, not on all events that are conceivably relevant. 

Don’t make the timeline too small. Otherwise, jurors will lose interest. The timeline should use no smaller than 20-point type.

All these points are discussed at length in our latest e-book – the revised version of The Litigation Guide to Timelines.

The book is taken from our experience at A2L Consulting, building thousands of different types of trial timelines since our founding in the 1990s. It is drawn from our decades of experience with all major law firms.

Inside this valuable e-book, you will find:

  • 30+ reference trial timelines to help you overcome common trial timeline dilemmas;
  • A2L's Top 5 Trial Timeline Tips;
  • and much more in this complimentary e-book.

  trial timeline trial graphics litigation courtroom timelines

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, E-Book, Presentation Graphics, Timelines

Trial Timelines and the Psychology of Demonstrative Evidence

Posted by Ryan Flax on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

by Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

Research shows that visuals are a key to presenting information clearly and persuasively, be that presentation in a courtroom, an ITC hearing, the USPTO Trial and Appeal Board, a DOJ office, or in a pitch to a potential client. Because of what you can do with them and how your audience will psychologically react, if designed properly, trial timelines are one of the most important demonstrative aids you can use to be more persuasive.

trial timelines litigation courtroom examples

Studies show that the vast majority of the public (what I’ll call “normal” people – not us lawyers) learns visually – about 61% - which means that they prefer to learn by seeing. The majority of juries learn by seeing lawyers courtroomattorneys, on the other hand, do not prefer to learn this way, but are auditory and kinesthetic learners – about 53% - which means we typically learn by hearing and/or experiencing something – we are different than most people.  This makes sense, when you think about it – we all learned this way in law school by sitting through class lectures and we continue to learn this way as practicing attorneys by having to learn litigation by experiencing it. However, most people do most of their “learning” watching television or surfing the internet.

No matter how smart you are, you typically teach the same way you prefer to learn, unless you carefully plan to do otherwise.  Visual learners teach by illustrating. Auditory learners teach by explaining. Kinesthetic learners teach by performing. So, left to our own devices, we attorneys will usually teach by giving a lecture (consider your last opening statement, for example). 

But, when you do this in an effort to persuade most “normal” people, you’re not playing the game to win. It is not sufficient to just relay information because that’s not how your typical audience wants to learn.  You must bridge the gap between how you prefer to teach and how your audience prefers to learn, and demonstrative evidence, including graphics, models, boards, animations, and trial timelines are the way to bridge this gap, make your audience feel better prepared on the subject matter, feel it’s more important, pay more attention, comprehend better, and retain more information.

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

Besides simplifying the complex, providing an opportunity to strategically use familiar, well-understood pop culture templates, and satisfying your audience’s expectations of a multimedia presentation, trial timelines are a key component of your persuasion because they enable you to emulate generic fictions to produce a truth to be accepted by your audience. These are the four rules of thumb to effective visual information design.

Social psychology studies show that different sources of information are not neatly separated in juror’s minds. Trial timelines are one of the most effective ways to exploit this reality to be more persuasive at trial.

Visual meaning is malleable, so design your timelines to show a generic fiction you want the facts to fit: e.g., there was a reasonable cause for your client’s behavior or the opposing party’s actions directly led to the injuries we’re here about.  The essential generic fiction for litigation (and all other circumstances, really) is that of cause and effect – people are intensely hungry for a cause and effect relationship to provide a basis, or perceived basis, in logic and reason for their emotional beliefs.

A trial timeline is the key visual aid for establishing a perception of causation relating to any set of facts. Once you induce such a perception of causation in jurors and they can adopt this perception as truth.  This is the result you want in litigation.  If you can set the factual stage for why your view of things makes more sense than your opposition’s version, you’ve won (unless the facts are devastating, in which case you should have settled).

So, what perception of causation is being established by the first timeline (above) in this article?  This timeline relates to a trade dress case where the design at issue was a yellow casing for an electrical device.  What you’re seeing is how long our client used this yellow casing design (since 1969 and through the trial) at top, when the defendant changed its product to have a yellow casing (1999), and how similar their accused design is to our client’s product line.

You get all this information visually from a single trial timeline – it doesn’t just relay information, it tells a story.  Imagine having the timeline at the top of this article on a large board and available to show the jury over and over again.

Here’s an alternative way of showing the very same information that is far less effective:

trial timelines litigation use tell a story

The same information is there, but there’s no self-evident story.  There’s no cause and effect established.  This is just no good as a persuasion tool, but this is what most attorneys think of when they consider developing a timeline (unless they envision the flags-on-a-stick conveying a series of events).

Here is a pretty standard, if attractive, trial timeline.  It shows two series of related events.  The series on top, as you might guess, relates to stuff our client did and the stuff in the shadows there on the bottom is what the opposing party did over the same period.

trial timeline court jury trial

This rather simply, but clearly shows important interrelated events and very clearly establishes the key facts to induce the perception of cause and effect in the jurors. What do you learn from the timeline above?  You learn that while the plaintiff claims that he was fired as retaliation for his claim of discrimination against his employer (and if you only knew that he made the claim and was then fired just days later you might believe him), the timeline shows that he had a terrible and well-documented history of unexcused absences from work and even a violent confrontation with a co-worker. This history is the real cause of the effect (his termination) and it’s all conveyed in this graphic.

You must feed a jury what it needs to find for you. The more a jury feels they understand where you’re coming from, the more you emulate generic fictions to establish a truth, and the better you induce the perception of cause and effect in your audience using the facts you know matter, the better your chances of winning.

Other A2L articles related to trial timelines and trial presentation:

trial timeline trial graphics litigation courtroom timelines

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Courtroom Presentations, Demonstrative Evidence, Storytelling, Timelines, Labor and Employment, Trial Boards

Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Nov 15, 2013 @ 07:10 AM


trial timeline lawyersby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

In my 18 years in the litigation consulting business, I've noticed that there are two types of trial lawyers. The first one is what I call a timeline lawyer. Usually, his or her opening statement always starts at the beginning, in terms of time, and ends at the end.

The second type, and by far the more successful type of trial lawyer, is the storyteller. Storytellers don't start at the beginning unless it serves them, and normally it does not.

Instead, the storyteller will begin where the story ought to begin. Usually it takes a form similar to this: Things used to be this way, then something happened, and now they have changed. Sometimes the storytelling trial lawyer will also follow Joseph Campbell’s paradigm of the hero’s journey. We have prepared an infographic that places the hero’s journey in context for trial.

We have written often about storytelling. We've shared how storytelling is being used increasingly as a persuasion device in the courtroom.  We have offered five tips for effective storytelling in court. We have even produced an entire book, which is a free download, called Storytelling for Litigators.

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

That's not to say that timelines are a bad thing. Timelines are, in fact, key exhibits in most trials. They help orient the fact finder and serve as a memory stimulator for the trial lawyer and expert witness alike. They can also serve as a persuasion device if they are set up as a permanent exhibit at trial. Given the importance of timelines, you will not find it surprising that we've written an entire book about trial timelines too! And yes it's a free download.

I still advise you to rethink your strategy if your plan is to start at the beginning and end at the end. It's not a very effective strategy at all. You want your fact finders to care. You have to provide meaning and context for a judge or jury. As our senior jury consultant said in a related article, "[jurors] start at the end and work backward, forming a general theory into which they fit specific evidence from the top down. Once a juror’s theory is formed, new information is filtered through that theory and tested for how well it fits with the theory. Information confirming the theory is selectively attended to; ill-fitting information is missed, ignored, forgotten, or distorted to fit the theory, through cognitive dissonance."

We see this play out all the time. In a recent mock trial exercise, we watched as mock plaintiffs' counsel developed a story with meaning and emotional connection. Then we watched as our client, who was using the mock trial properly to figure out the best strategy for trial, stood up and told a chronological story that was so logical and syllogistic that a computer would certainly have found for the defendant.

However computers don't decide cases. In fact, here, all the mock jury panels came back vigorously against our client. When asked if they could articulate the story of each side during deliberations, the mock jury was able to spit out an elevator speech of the plaintiffs’ case in seconds complete with emotional meaning and impact. However not a single juror was able to articulate the defense story with any clarity.

Unless we tell stories and ask judges and juries what we want from them and give them an easy roadmap for giving us what we ask for, we're doing our clients a horrible disservice. Use your timelines in every case, but don't use them to organize your openings and closings, and you'll be a more successful trial lawyer for it.

Other related A2L consulting articles related to storytelling and timelines:

  storytelling for lawyers litigators and litigation support courtroom narrative

Tags: Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Trial Consulting, Jury Consultants, Storytelling, Persuasive Graphics, Timelines, Charity, Nancy Duarte

CLE Instruction from A2L's Litigation Consultants

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Aug 3, 2012 @ 11:40 AM

cle a2l litigation consultants webinarForty-five states may have mandatory continuing legal education (CLE) requirements for attorneys – but all litigators and litigation support staff, wherever they are located, have a duty to stay informed and maintain their skills. Whether you are a first chair litigator or a litigation paralegal, given the pace of change in trial technology and trial strategy, it can be a challenge just to keep up with the latest trends.

One of the benefits that we enjoy as litigation consultants is that we are in trial more or less every day of the year. In contrast, even a major litigation law firm will find itself in trial perhaps a dozen times a year, and that is across the entire firm. These days, an attorney can make partner at a litigation law firm without ever participating in a jury trial.

Given the amount of trial experience that we have and our exposure to a variety of litigators, corporate counsel and litigation support staff, our litigation consultants are among the first to learn new styles and new techniques in the courtroom.

With this in mind, A2L Consulting has offered free CLE courses both live and in person over the last 17 years. Our litigation consultants take great pleasure in the work they do, and they are happy to teach others what works and what doesn’t work in today’s courtroom.

We have state bar accredited CLE programs already available in a number of states.  If one does not exist for your state, we are normally able to obtain approval in a short amount of time. 

We are happy to provide these CLE seminars free of charge and will teach them either in person, online or via a combination of the two techniques.  The topics of our programs include:

If there is a need to cover another topic, whether graphics or trial technology related or not, please let us know.

We have presented our CLE programs at top law firms throughout the country. Over the last several years, these have included such firms as Williams & Connolly; Greenberg Traurig;  Williams Mullen; Dickstein Shapiro; Wilmer Hale; McGuire Woods; Arent Fox; Holland & Knight; Becker Poliakoff; White & Case; Seyfarth Shaw; Baker Botts; Finnegan Henderson; Foley & Lardner; Bean, Kinney & Korman; Stein Sperling; and Middleton Reutlinger.

We have also presented programs for the U.S. Department of Justice and for the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG).

Click Here to Learn More About Our FREE CLE Programs

Tags: e-Briefs, Trial Presentation, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Trial Technology, Articles, Opening, Trial Director, Timelines, CLE

The Best Ways to Use Calendars in Legal Graphics

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 @ 09:28 AM

medical treatment calendar legal graphicsWe have previously discussed how valuable timelines used as legal graphics can be in the presentation of facts at trial. As we have noted, most cases involve the placing of events along some sort of time sequence, and timelines, if they are well designed, can give jurors a straightforward introduction to the facts of a case. In fact, we recently released an e-book describing best practices for the use of timelines and legal graphics at trial.

Like timelines, calendars are also an intuitive way to organize facts and events that occur in a time sequence. In fact, they are even more intuitive because everyone is familiar with them and because they help everyone organize information on a day-to-day basis. Calendars can be especially helpful at trial when there is a lot of data that must be conveyed quickly and understandably, and when that data must be understood as a time sequence. This could involve conversations, meetings, appointments, dates of official events (such as the signing of a will or a contract), and the like.

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 In What You Didn’t Learn In Law School About Trial Practice (2008), longtime Indiana trial lawyer Charles Bruess wrote: “In an employment discrimination case in which the defendant company maintained plaintiff was discharged for excessive absenteeism, an issue was what days plaintiff worked or did not work. Counsel brought large monthly calendars, placed them on an easel, and, as the witness testified as to the days worked or not worked, the dates were marked accordingly on the calendars. The calendars were marked as exhibits and were introduced into evidence.”

Below, to cite another legal graphics example, we used a calendar to illustrate key dates in the RFP process for a government contract, starting with the date on which the compressed RFP was issued by the Department of Defense.

In this series of legal graphics we show, in a partnership dispute, the dates on which the defendant was in the office and the dates on which he received calls or faxes from the plaintiff.


In an employment case, we used this ordinary calendar legal graphic to illustrate the dates on which a plaintiff took days off from work for various reasons. A simple color-coding technique made it easy for the jury to understand the sequence. 

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Next, in a medical treatment calendar legal graphic, we showed the dates of key surgeries, office visits, and hospital stays, again accompanied by a simple color-coding technique.


legal graphics medical treatment timeline

Finally, we used a calendar legal graphic to show key dates in the development of an invention that was at issue in a patent trial.

legal graphics patent invention calendar


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Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Demonstrative Evidence, Timelines, Calendars

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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 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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