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The Litigation Consulting Report

The Effective Use of PowerPoint Presentation During Opening Statement

Posted by Lorraine Kestle on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 @ 10:15 AM

powerpoint-opening-statements-litigation-graphics-trialby Lorraine Kestle
Graphic Designer
A2L Consulting

The age-old adage that there are two sides (at least) to every story is clearly evident in litigation. Both parties believe that the applicable law, when applied to the facts, supports their position, or they likely would not be going to court. The parties and the lawyers are familiar with the facts and the law. Everyone fully understands the nuances of their position.

Everyone, that is, but the judge and jury who are hearing the case for the first time. It is these “novices to the case” who will ultimately decide which version of the facts or story is most persuasive.

For one day, I was a “novice to the case” in the courtroom as I helped our trial technician set up for a PowerPoint presentation in court. I observed both sides’ opening statements as well as the direct and cross-examinations.

Although I have been in the courtroom on numerous occasions, I had no prior knowledge of the substance of this matter and did not work on this presentation. Our client, the plaintiff in this case, delivered an opening statement that was enhanced with a PowerPoint presentation, while opposing counsel relied on typed or handwritten notes and an easel with a large paper tablet. After observing both approaches, I came away with what I think are interesting conclusions about the effect that the PowerPoint presentation had on my understanding of the case, the attorney’s arguments, and my initial impression of liability.

1. An Increased Perception Of Preparation, Competence And Persuasion

As a former paralegal, I know that preparation is one of the keys to success in litigation. And while I believe both sides were equally prepared, this was not the impression created in the courtroom by defendant’s counsel. What set the opening statements apart was the PowerPoint presentation used by our client. It served as a baseline of comparison for what followed.

The PowerPoint presentation not only emphasized key components of the opening statement, but it also added an air of competency and depth to the arguments being made. There was a clear, logical, and concise flow of information that was easy to follow. The visual presentation and callouts of relevant portions of emails and the employment contract clearly substantiated the verbal argument. This ultimately increased the impact of and the persuasive value of the opening statement. I have a clear visual picture of those emails and the contract that were the cornerstone evidence in the plaintiff’s case, even if I cannot recall the exact wording.

When defendant’s counsel did not use any visual or graphic presentations to support the opening statement, my first thought was, “Why is that?” My focus was not where it should have been; it was not on what he was saying. In fact, I was distracted by the numerous sheets of paper defense counsel brought to the podium and the yellow Post-it notes that were on it. It gave me the impression that they were less prepared than the plaintiff, which may or may not be the case. Nonetheless, this was my initial impression and I think ultimately influenced my view of their argument.

2. Increased Retention of Evidence Presented

For me, the evidence presented had greater weight when I could actually see the email communications that were made and the contract that was signed by the defendant. The document exhibit callouts, in particular, which supported the plaintiff’s arguments, became visually imprinted on my mind. And I received no other visual images from the defendant to compare or contrast them with. When I look back on that day, it is the callouts that I recall. This is what I remember, more than three days later.

3. Increased Attention to Arguments

When you are sitting behind the bar in the courtroom, you have a limited view of the exhibits and evidence being presented. However, when the PowerPoint slides were tied into the court’s monitors, it was much easier to see the evidence being offered. I found that I paid closer attention to the arguments being made; I was actively engaged in “looking” at the evidence to see if I agreed with what the lawyer was saying.   I could see that everyone, including the judge, was looking at the courtroom monitors.

On the other hand, when the defendant’s counsel was creating a live, hand-drawn organizational chart during cross-examination, not only could I not see it due to its orientation in the courtroom, I felt that it was too far away from the individual who was testifying and the judge. It was more difficult to follow the argument being made.

In conclusion, when I left court that day, I felt that the opening statement set the tone for everything that followed. The effective use of a PowerPoint presentation during the trial enhanced the arguments being made and, at the end of the day, our client prevailed. I can’t say I’m surprised at the outcome. They had me during opening statements.

Other A2L Consulting articles and resources related to persuading with graphics, opening statements and using words and pictures in a complimentary way:

opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l  

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, PowerPoint, Opening, Document Call-Outs, Trial Boards

Do Professionally Designed PowerPoint Slides Get Better Results?

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Nov 3, 2015 @ 09:50 AM

powerpoint professional graphic designer amatuer lawyer litigatorby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

In my last post, 7 Bad Habits of Law Firm Litigators, I wrote about the problems caused by litigators who, even when they have an adequate budget, design their own PowerPoint slides for trial. I've seen this result in:

Well, there's new problem to add to this list of challenges faced by litigators who design their own slides, and it was just revealed by a brand new study conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism and the Washington Post.

This study found that good visual design in online articles has been conclusively shown to promote reader interest, enjoyment, emotional engagement, ease of understanding, learning, and curiosity. Using brain, skin, and other biometric studies to analyze the effect on readers, the study's author found that clean and professional looking designs caused readers to be more engaged in almost every respect. The more streamlined the design, the better the results.

In this study (and in general), good design means breaking text into small manageable snippets, highlighting key points, and removing distracting elements from the screen. As the author noted, "If a story is presented well, readers will enjoy it more and engage with it more deeply." Isn't this precisely what litigators want from the PowerPoint presentations that support their expert witnesses and their own opening and closing presentations?

However, how many litigators are actually comfortable producing PowerPoint slides with a clean and uncluttered page design? In my experience (see How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much?), not many. Yet the benefits of clean visual design have rarely been so clearly articulated. Thus, it would seem that reliance on professional litigation graphic designers is more important than ever before. It's just not enough to use a PowerPoint template, some bullet points, and a goldfish photo and think you are producing good design.

At first glance, these new findings might seem to run counter to some things I've said before in articles like Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest or Good-Looking Graphic Design ≠ Good-Working Visual Persuasion, but I think it would wrong to draw that conclusion. Actually, I think these new findings are entirely consistent with our experience and these and other articles we've published like Why Expensive-Looking Litigation Graphics Are Better. The challenges for anyone designing litigation graphics in PowerPoint are many and include:

  • varying visual styles throughout a presentation intentionally to maintain interest;
  • mixing mediums with other tools like trial boards to maintain interest;
  • knowing when to show a blank screen;
  • knowing how and when to use fonts for emphasis and obfuscation;
  • knowing how and when to use fonts to overcome confirmation bias;
  • knowing how to use surprise to overcome confirmation bias;
  • avoiding the triggering of the split-attention effect;
  • knowing how switching between versions of PowerPoint will affect slides;
  • knowing how to properly embed video in PowerPoint slides;
  • understanding and using color theory;
  • matching the graphic style to the jury and judge;
  • avoiding bullet points like the plague;
  • keeping Rule 403 in mind with every slide;
  • just keeping text large enough on screen;
  • considering color choice and contrast for the display medium;
  • building incredibly complicated PowerPoint animations for a fraction of the cost of 3D animation;
  • avoiding black hat techniques;
  • decluttering slides;
  • building in a story;
  • knowing best practices for document call-outs of all types;
  • understanding how to use highlighting correctly to maintain image quality;
  • knowing how to manage PowerPoint presentation file size by managing images correctly;
  • understanding version control and enforcing it in the run-up to trial;
  • blending video and still images to maintain interest;
  • limiting text to small digestible chunks;
  • creating an emotional journey with your slides;
  • creating points of emphasis so that the critical can be easily separated from the superfluous;
  • trying to keep slide content limited to one key takeaway per slide;
  • and there's a lot more too.

It's a long list, right? And it's why I've said, litigation graphics are much more complicated than you think, and just because you can use PowerPoint (of course you can), don't assume you should design your own litigation graphics. You literally won't know what you are missing until it is too late.

More A2L articles, free downloadable e-books, and free webinars about good design, PowerPoint for lawyers and visual persuasion:

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, Storytelling, PowerPoint, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Trial Boards, Information Design

A Surprising New Reason to Repeat Yourself at Trial

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Oct 12, 2015 @ 03:16 PM

reptetiion repeat yourself lawyer attorney courtroom trialby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I want to share the results of an interesting study that I recently read. I believe that it has implications for how we present information in the courtroom. It appears in the October 2015 Journal of Experimental Psychology, and is entitled Knowledge Does Not Protect Against Illusory Truth.

As experts in the persuasion business, we have long known about the power of repetition. We use it as a specific rhetorical technique during opening statements. We incorporate repetition when creating demonstrative evidence. We even choose to repeat the same message in many different formats (trial boards, PowerPoint, scale models) to reach different types of learners. We do this because repetition helps people remember things, it signals that something is important, and it helps presenters be more persuasive.

Studies have long shown that the more we hear something, the more likely we are to believe it. This is why some people believe that Vitamin C helps stave off a cold or that you should drink eight glasses of water per day to maintain good health. Both of these statements lack any scientific basis. We've just heard them so often that many have come to believe them.

Think about the assertions we are already hearing over and over in this election season. Hillary Clinton hid something in her email. Donald Trump declared bankruptcy four times. Carly Fiorina was a bad CEO. Planned Parenthood sells aborted baby parts.

I don't know how much truth there is in any of these statements, but I do know that the more I hear them, the more I tend to believe them. That’s the power of repetition. Psychologists call this the illusory truth effect, and it's why we counsel our clients to use repetition throughout a case. When people don't know anything about a particular topic, the illusory truth effect tells us that the more they hear an assertion, the more they will believe it.In general, the easier the information is to process, the more likely it is to be believed. That's why we counsel litigators to articulate very clearly why they should win their case and to avoid a hyper-nuanced approach. As an in-house counsel friend once said to me, in instances like this the law is background noise. A clear story that is easy to process and that emotionally resonates with a jury will normally prevail. This ease of understanding is called “fluency.”

The current study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology extends the power of repetition to an entirely new level. Its authors were able to prove that not only does repetition cause people to believe things more when they are unsure of the facts, but also that repetition can make people believe things to be true that they already know are probably not true. In the words of the authors, “The present research demonstrates that fluency can influence people’s judgments, even in contexts that allow them to draw upon their stored knowledge. The results of two experiments suggest that people sometimes fail to bring their knowledge to bear and instead rely on fluency as a proximal cue.”

I think that's an amazing finding, and I think it has important implications for the courtroom. It would seem that we can’t repeat our message too much and that we can’t make a case too easy to understand.

Other articles about persuasion techniques, jury psychology and various tricks of the persuasion trade by A2L Consulting:

opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l


Tags: Demonstrative Evidence, Psychology, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion, Scale Models, Trial Boards, Persuasion

Why Expensive-Looking Litigation Graphics Are Better

Posted by Ryan Flax on Fri, Mar 13, 2015 @ 10:37 AM

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

placebo-effect-juries-litigation-graphics-expensive-price-costI am not advocating that you spend more to develop top-notch demonstrative evidence. What I want you to do is make sure that the litigation graphics that you do use look like you paid a million bucks for them. Make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. Let me explain why.

Recently published and widely reported research out of the University of Cincinnati relating to treating Parkinson’s disease shows that the placebo effect is a real thing and a powerful psychological phenomenon. Interestingly, what the study also shows is that it matters greatly to those experiencing a strong placebo effect how much they believed the pseudo-pharmaceutical cost. Amazingly, seemingly-more-expensive drugs turned out to be much better “drugs” in effect (even though they were not drugs at all). The more a patient believed a drug cost (here the artificial difference was $100 vs $1,500 per dose), the more effective it was at treating their symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Perception of cost was capable of influencing physical and psychological behavior and responses on a subconscious level. Wow.

Knowing this new and interesting bit of science, how can we use it to be more persuasive in litigation, ADR, or similar situations? An easy step is making it appear that your demonstrative evidence, e.g., trial graphics, were very expensive. This is easy – just make your graphics, boards, scale models, etc., look fantastic: creative, well designed, well composed, simple, beautiful, and well-targeted to their specific purpose.

cost-perception-persuasion-placebo-effect-juries-litigation-graphics-expensive-priceI became aware of the above-identified research while driving to the office and listening to NPR’s Morning Edition. The show very briefly discussed the research and it really struck a chord with me because just the day before I’d been in a client’s patent claim construction (Markman) hearing at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and had the opportunity to compare our supporting graphics to those of opposing counsel. I know ours satisfied the requirements for looking very expensive (see above). The opposition’s, on the other hand, while arguably supportive of their argument, and were rudimentary and just plain ugly.

cost-perception-persuasion-placebo-effect-juries-litigation-graphics-expensive-price-uglyWhat makes litigation graphics ugly? Not paying attention to style, lack of client and/or case branding (must be subtle though), inconsistency in color/font size/font type, lack of composition, use of improper font for electronic display, poor slide aspect ratio choice, too much text, too small text, use of bullet-point lists, use of PowerPoint effects for no good reason, and many other things. Basically, if slides look like anyone could make them, they’re not worth the effort or cost. Litigation graphics must look intentional, beautiful, and purposeful. They should look like they cost a lot (but they don’t, really).

I am confident that there was no significant difference in how much either set of Markman hearing PowerPoint slides cost, ours versus theirs. But I witnessed a huge difference in the way the Court received each side’s counsel at oral argument and the general momentum throughout the hearing. It all went our way. The arguments on our side were better, no doubt, but I believe the “high-priced-placebo” effect also played an important role. Our more appealing, more professional-looking, higher-design, more focused graphics enhanced the entire experience for the judge and resulted in better rapport and a lot more nodding at and softball questions for our attorney.

Don’t pay more. But, make sure you get more.

Other articles from A2L Consulting related to litigation graphics, pricing of litigation support services and getting good value from your litigation graphics provider:

Maximize Persuasion During Opening Statements

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Animation, Pricing, Psychology, PowerPoint, Visual Persuasion, Trial Boards, Information Design

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:

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

15 Tips for Great Customer Service from the Restaurant Industry

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 @ 05:25 PM

customer service lessons from waitress waiters servers for litigation supportby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I have a CEO friend who says she won't hire someone who’s never had experience working in a restaurant. And she’s not in the restaurant business. She just thinks that one of the best places one can get trained in customer service is waiting tables in some form.

And whoever you are – outside counsel, litigation support staff, consultant, or in-house counsel – client service is an essential. How do you develop that skill?

I've always felt that you can learn as much going to great restaurants about customer service as you can in the Ritz Carlton's hospitality training. Great waitstaff know how to make the experience work.

Here are fifteen tips for providing great service that I learned from the restaurant business.

  1. Set expectations. Most disputes arise from differences in expectations. This is especially true in customer service. Helping people understand what to expect and when to expect it is critical. If you're going to share the draft brief, the client needs to know that it is a draft. If you're going to share trial exhibits in draft form with the client they need to understand the difference between the draft and final from your perspective.
  2. Anticipate needs. Just as you would want your server to bring you a cup with a lid for a toddler, offer your client things you know they are going to need. If they are presenting at trial, make sure they have a remote clicker. If they are using printed trial boards, make sure they have an easel.
  3. Don’t be clingy. I recently had a waiter who would not leave our table but just kept asking questions while I was engaged in an important business discussion. Knowing when to back off is just as important as knowing when to lean in.
  4. Check in from time to time. Asking how things are going is one of the simplest things waitstaff can do. We do the same in our engagements. Asking how things are going from the client perspective is one of the easiest things any of us can do.
  5. At the end, ask how things went. Many restaurants use comment cards to collect evaluations from diners. Most restaurants also ask how things went. You should do the in your business. Perhaps it is not a comment card and is instead a follow up lunch.

    Click here to Download a Free Litigation E-Book

  6. Tell me about the specials. In litigation there may not be special offers, but you may have some tricks up your sleeve that you can share. We often share ways to save money or get the work done most efficiently.
  7. Stay in touch. We work hard to stay in touch with clients and reach out to new potential clients. There are many ways of doing this, but every client is unique.  Find the way that your client likes to maintain contact if at all, and try to customize that experience for your client.
  8. Dress well and look good. We like it when our server is put together and clients like it when you are too. Look the part.
  9. Ensure that all your systems are working, whether client-facing or not. Most people in our industry are impatient. Few of us have tolerance for technology letdowns. Make sure your technology functions and everything works when you're near the client.
  10. Be up front with the client. If there's a delay in the kitchen, the waitstaff should tell the customer. The best thing to do is to explain the problem in detail and ask if there’s anything you can do to make things right for the client. In the restaurant world it might be a free drink or appetizer. Find the equivalent in your business and offer it generously. If you don't have an equivalent offer, create one or simply provide free professional time as your fall back.
  11. Make sure other customers are not getting in the way of great customer service. It actually bothers me when a lawyer tells me they're busy or can’t get to something because they're servicing another client. You wouldn't want to hear that from your waitstaff anymore than you want to hear from your lawyer. Insulate your clients from knowledge of other clients. Make them feel like they're the only one.
  12. Please take notes. I'm impressed when waitstaff try to remember an order of more than a person or two, but I am also completely stressed out that they are going to forget. So, it's just not fun for me. Writing things down in our business is just polite even if you can remember what someone is telling you.
  13. Status me. I like to know how things are going, and I find our clients like to know the same. If my order is coming right up, please tell me.
  14. Do I have the right utencils? If you serve me pie without at least a fork, I'm not going to be happy. If we send a draft PowerPoint trial presentation to our client in a version they don't have, they rightly get annoyed too. We ask first or we develop for an older version of PowerPoint.
  15. Say "thank you." It it such an easy thing to do, and it goes a long way. Write notes. Buy lunch. No matter what, always find a way to say it.
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Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Technology, Pricing, Customer Service, Trial Boards

5 Problems with Trial Graphics

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 @ 06:05 AM


trial graphics problems bad reviews powerpoint a2lby Ken Lopez
Founder & CEO
A2L Consulting

Just because you use trial graphics at trial does not mean you increase your chances of winning at trial. In fact, when you choose to use trial graphics, many risks are introduced. Used the wrong way, trial graphics, litigation graphics and demonstrative evidence can do more harm than good.

Accordingly, I think it is critical for a lawyer to carefully manage these risks. The good news is that all of these risks can be easily mitigated. And, used properly, the benefits of using trial graphics far outweigh potential risks.

Here are five problems that commonly arise when trial graphics are used and some strategies for reducing your risk to near zero.


Click here to Download a Free Litigation E-Book


  1. Technology failures: Quite a bit can go wrong with technology in the courtroom.  This includes not getting permission to use it in the first place, projector bulbs dying with no replacement, projectors that barely work, videos that are difficult for counsel to run, printed trial boards that are not sized properly for the room and much more. To manage these we certainly recommend the use of the highly experienced trial technician. Here are some resources that will help you manage the risk of a technology failure.
    1. Free guidebook for hiring the best trial technician
    2. Overview of our courtroom technology services
    3. Using TrialDirector in the courtroom
  2. Reading bullet points: We have written about this topic before. For a variety of valid scientific reasons, if you read your slides or read your bullet points, you are doing more harm than good. It’s one of the most common mistakes presenters make. Here are some articles that explain this in more detail.
    1. 6 trial presentation errors litigators can easily avoid
    2. 12 reasons bullet points are very bad
  3. You decide to make your own slides: You're smart. You own the latest copy of Powerpoint. You know enough to not use spinning entrance animations and the applause sound effect. So, why can't you just start making slides? Well you can – but – when you do this you’re not efficiently using your client’s money (our billable rate is much lower than yours) and as we described in a previous article, you’re probably not going to come up with the best graphic for the task time after time. Remember we do this everyday of the year, sometimes consulting on hundreds of cases in single year.
  4. You build your trial story and outline in Powerpoint. Quite a few litigators write their outlines in Powerpoint, and I don't think it is an ideal approach. Often, they will start writing out slide after slide of the points they want to make, then they hand that to us and say, make these look good. This is not a good approach.  First, your billable hour is higher than ours, and you should be working in Word for efficiency. Second, handing us a series of slides deprives us both of the chance to improve the story together. Third, there are other more beneficial methods to developing your outline. Here are some helpful articles that touch on these points:
    1. 5 keys to telling a compelling story in the courtroom
    2. Working together means a better and simpler output
    3. 7 ways to draft a better opening statement
  5. The wrong points are emphasized: I like to say that the documents at trial are the words in a sentence, the electronic trial graphics are the periods and the printed trial graphics or highly thematic electronic exhibits are the exclamation points. For this last category, the key is to make sure you are not emphasizing the wrong thing. The best way to do that is to test the case with mock jurors or a mock judge panel. If that cannot happen because of budget (time is rarely a good excuse), then at least work with your litigation consultant to get some commonsense responses to the material. Here are some related articles:
    1. An overview of the mock trial process
    2. Test both arguments and graphics to be effective
    3. 6 good reasons to conduct a mock trial

Most litigators use Powerpoint to display trial graphics at trial. However, in the wrong hands, Powerpoint can be a dangerous tool. Sometimes, it gives the illusion of adding value when it is actually doing damage.

Powerpoint doesn’t ruin a presentation’s impact, people do.

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Trial Technology, PowerPoint, Trial Boards

3 Styles of Document Call-outs Used at Trial

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Apr 13, 2012 @ 11:35 AM

document callout call-out legal graphicsWhenever a litigation team presents a document in a graphic way to the jury or other fact-finder at trial, there is an occasion for a document call-out. A “document call-out” is a term of art that means taking a document that is in evidence at trial and highlighting some key portion of it for easy reading and to draw the viewer's attention to the key language.

There are three usual ways to perform a document call-out: With trial presentation software such as TrialDirector, with a static exhibit with something highlighted, and with a PowerPoint presentation.

Each of these techniques has its pluses and minuses, and within each of these options there are various styles. Here is a summary of the pros and cons.

Click me  

1.  Within Trial Director,
there are a variety of tools for creating document call-outs, either in advance or live, on the fly.  In this video, you can see the screen of one of our hot seat trial technicians as he makes document call-outs on the fly during a televised arbitration.  Here, certain key accounting figures are highlighted through the use of color, the use of a moving cursor, and the use of a zooming-in technique to make certain numbers more prominent.


2.  In a static exhibit,
when used as the old-fashioned printed foam core trial exhibit board or on a slide, the document call-out becomes quite powerful.  In today's cases, where most exhibits are presented on screen, a printed board of the key document in a case can be a great tool.

Further, sometimes the document call-out can provide something more.  In the below document,  the message we wanted to convey to the jury was that the failure to follow procedures on the ground (to STOP traffic) was what led to the accident, not air traffic control.  The octagonal red area functions both as a document call-out, to highlight the established policy on the ground when there is an incoming helicopter, and also as a strong visual reminder that it was necessary to stop traffic and that this was not done.

stop sign document callout legal graphic 

The call-out below emphasizes the crucial language of an insurance policy defining the important term “accident.”

policy language pull quote document call-out legal graphic

3.  In PowerPoint slides,
there are various techniques for calling out document text culled from various courtroom presentations.  In this series of slides captured from a variety of PowerPoint presentations, we illustrate a number of common document call-out techniques.


document callout demonstrative evidence

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Litigation Technology, Demonstrative Evidence, PowerPoint, Document Call-Outs, Trial Boards

Demonstrative Evidence: Using Maps as Courtroom Exhibits

Posted by Ken Lopez on Mon, Mar 12, 2012 @ 08:02 AM

demonstrative evidence mapsBecause maps are used by jurors constantly in their daily life and because they are so frequently used to represent common locations and processes, they are one of the most frequently used and most effective types of demonstrative evidence. Whenever something can be conveyed geographically, through the use of space, it is worth considering the use of a map. Even though maps don’t always represent the highest and newest technology, their importance cannot be underestimated.

In the words of Ray Moses of the Center for Criminal Justice Advocacy, which was formed in Texas as a grass-roots training resource to help new lawyers in becoming competent criminal trial practitioners: “Visuals (graphics) such as time lines, charts, illustrations, maps, etc. are sufficiently important to communicating your message that you owe it to your client and yourself to learn how to incorporate visuals into your presentation.”

  Click me

We have used maps in any number of ways as demonstrative evidence to help make our clients’ cases understandable to juries and judges. Here are a few of them.

The demonstrative exhibit below is a screen capture of a PowerPoint interactive trial presentation developed to show that an area was not actually a wetland. Specific spots on the map are pegged to portions of a video that show that there is no water channel in the affected area.


The below animated demonstrative map is a screen capture of a PowerPoint interactive demonstration developed to show how New York City gets its water supply.  The demonstrative graphic successfully combines the known geography of the New York State region with the actual flow of water from the reservoirs. 

The next demonstrative exhibit, below, is a screen capture of a PowerPoint trial presentation developed to show how a conflict of interest was vetted in a government contracting False Claims Act dispute. This map is an excellent example of demonstrative evidence. It shows the entire United States and the locations in which vetting officers were located. 


The final piece of demonstrative evidence is a map of the United States showing where various air taxi helicopter accidents occurred, to show that they are a very small percentage of all general aviation accidents.

helicopter safety map


 demonstrative evidence

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Presentation, Demonstrative Evidence, Animation, Environmental Litigation, Trial Boards, Aviation Litigation

5 Ways Litigation Consultants Add Pizzazz to a Tedious Case

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 @ 05:30 PM

Very often, trial lawyers face what feels like an impossible dilemma. The case that they want to present is extremely complex, intensely tedious or worse yet, both.

However their audience, the very people who need to understand the facts of the case and render a verdict in the client’s favor, are jurors – everyday people with full-time jobs and often without any relevant technical background.  Enter the litigation consultants.

Whether a case involves a patent dispute over electronic circuits, or an environmental issue involving leaking storage tanks, or an antitrust prosecution where complicated business strategies are being tested, it’s pretty certain that the jurors who are the ultimate decision-makers will have little or no previous knowledge of the topic. Let's hope they can muster an interest - most jurors can - for a reasonable period of time. With this pretext in mind, the good news is that there are proven strategies employed by litigation consultants to solve these very problems, and these same strategies can be used by trial counsel in any case.

So, how does one prevent jurors from being bored and tuning out the trial presentation? After all, a great case on the law and the facts is useless if the jurors aren’t listening.

The answer is: Use any one (or a combination) of these 5 proven trial presentation techniques used by litigation consultants to provide entertainment value while you, as trial counsel, educate and persuade.

  1. Create a Compelling Visual Experience:  When people watch the news, they now typically receive it in 30-second sound bites, YouTube presentations, and color photographs, diagrams, and graphics.  Like it or not, the days of families gathering to watch Walter Cronkite each weekday evening are gone.

    Decades ago, many daily newspapers, prodded by the success of USA Today, started putting data about everything from baseball averages to political poll standings to vaccination rates into color-coded charts and graphs. The Internet, where most people receive the majority of their news today, only magnifies that trend.

    Good litigation consultants use the same visual communication methods to help trial counsel create a compelling experience for the jury -- one that communicates with them on a variety of different levels. So, instead of using PowerPoint exhibits only, also use printed trial boards in combination to mix the mediums and enhance the viewer’s experience. Instead of showing documentary evidence only, consider including some appropriate animation. Rather than showing your presentation entirely on a screen, show some photos on an iPad as well.

    Create a complete experience using information design tactics that touches all senses and all three learning styles. It’s all about the total trial presentation – not just the answers that the witnesses give on the stand and the summations to the jury.

  2. Create a Memorable Experience:  Lawyers need to provide the jurors with a memorable experience if they expect the jurors to pay attention. Trial lawyers can mimic the memory techniques used by experienced litigation consultants. Even with a “boring” or “technical” subject, if you use the right tools, jurors will remember.

    Consider the use of scale models or physical models in the courtroom to make a case more memorable for a juror, especially those with a kinesthetic learning style. Remember also that color coding and the use of alliteration can further imprint the memory of the listeners and keep their attention, so do not discount these simple devices to help jurors track information and key facts.

    Also consider using an image that sticks with a jury. In the example below, in order to convey the notion that an expert gives different business valuations to different audiences, we use a memorable image of the two-sided man.  Obviously the goal here is to undermine credibility of the opposition’s expert.

    litigation consultants 

  3. Use Interesting Analogies:  A good analogy can be delivered orally or by video, diagrams, animations, three-dimensional models, or anything that will keep jurors’ interest.  A lawyer can use this strategy regardless of how large or small the client’s pocketbook is.

    For example, if the case is about software and whether the modifications constituted an invention, use a familiar analogy to tell that story instead of continuing to show line after line of code. Putting an abstract concept into everyday terms can help eliminate confusion and can sometimes create the added value of a more emotional connection to the facts.

    litigation consulting 

  4. Animation in Some Form Works: A top-rated litigation consulting and animation company knows how to build exhibits (whether the budget is severely limited or not) that convey information graphically and in a manner that piques the viewer’s interest.  Keep in mind that animation can be as simple as movement of information on a screen, ghosting (dulling) images or text to spotlight specific content at the pace desired by the presenter, or highlighting a key statement from a document.  Animation takes many forms and can allow the litigator to take control of even the most mundane information and present it in a far more interesting way.

    Litigation consulting companies, from their years of practical experience in managing trial exhibits, know what will work and what will not. A well-prepared animation will always capture a jury's attention. Some forms of animation can be produced in-house, and others require the help of litigation consultants. Learn about 4 courtroom animation styles in this article.
  5. Tell Great Stories:  The job of any trial lawyer is to advocate for his or her client’s interests as zealously as possible within ethical limits. Today, that responsibility includes making sure that the jurors remain awake, interested, and entertained. Litigation consultants use information design techniques in litigation to help tell great stories.

    For example, if the case turns on the credibility of a key witness. Tell a memorable and emotional story about them. In a corporate fraud and bankruptcy case, we successfully undermined the credibility of the plaintiff by pointing out his mixed motives in the case and his pattern of "wearing many hats" to suit that which benefited him most financially.

    litigation consultants 

Consider any or all of these top 5 winning litigation consulting techniques whenever you prepare to present and you can be certain that your presentations will be the better for it.

    Other related A2L Consulting Resources by our Litigation Consultants:

    Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Courtroom Presentations, Trial Consulting, Juries, Animation, Articles, Scale Models, Trial Boards, Information Design

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    KenLopez resized 152

    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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