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I speak and write often about the kind of mistakes that lawyers often make at trial in presenting graphics. Some of these critical errors include reading your PowerPoint slides, presenting overly dense and complex information, coupling low-contrast demonstratives with a low-quality projector, and even using fonts that are too small. All of these mistakes can radically reduce your persuasiveness. A2L articles like, The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make, The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes, and 24 Mistakes That Make For a DeMONSTERative Evidence Nightmare are valuable for any trial lawyer and will help you overcome many a pitfall. Most of our litigation graphics clients who hire A2L to help develop their opening, closing, and expert presentations, say during the creative process that “I'll know it when I see it.” Indeed, just as choosing from a number of demonstrative options is a helpful time and energy saver for most trial attorneys, there’s also no substitute for seeing a mistake to appreciate why it is bad. That's the spirit of this article. I recently found a small corner of the Internet that highlights terrible infographics, and there are many useful lessons here for trial lawyers. Let's review a few and hope they don't remind you of anything done by your team or litigation graphics provider.   Use the Right Type of Chart Great design is not form over function. Instead, it is function first with beautiful form (see, Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest). While this chart above is interesting to look at, it's annoying from the perspective of quickly conveying information. As I wrote in a recent post, litigation graphics should be very clear AND very quickly understood. See, One Demonstrative Exhibit, One Concept. I think litigation graphics should generally be able to stand on their own without explanation and be understood in less than 30 seconds. This chart would be much clearer if presented as a column chart with the dates running chronologically from left to right along the bottom. One could emphasize the differences in ages by having the left side of the chart run from 50 - 75 instead of something like 0-100. We've discussed this chart “cheat” before in 5 Demonstrative Evidence Tricks and Cheats to Watch Out For.

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7 Times When Litigation Graphics Hurt You

We don't have a Hippocratic oath (i.e. do no harm) in the legal field, but when it comes to using litigation graphics at trial, maybe we should. You see there are some times when using litigation graphics does real damage to your overall persuasiveness. It is incorrect to assume that when using visual aids such as demonstrative evidence, scale models, trial boards, computer animation, or the ever-present PowerPoint presentation you are always doing good and helping your audience. Here are seven times when you would be better off changing your approach or not using litigation graphics at all: You are reading from your slides:  If you populate your trial presentation with bullet point filled slides and you read them, you are reducing the amount of information your audience will remember and understand. This is due to the redundancy effect or split-attention effect. See Should You Read Documents Out Loud at Trial? You are going to get caught cheating:  Creating a chart that is persuasive is great. Creating one that is misleading can cost you your credibility. As one of our customers rightly says in the video below, "Finding ways to illustrate ideas but also to visually display the evidence in a way that's understandable to the jury is critical in order to earn their trust -- which is the most important asset you have." See 5 Demonstrative Evidence Tricks and Cheats to Watch Out For. You are not using storytelling in combination with your litigation graphics:  All too often trial counsel moves chronologically through a case without considering whether there was a better approach to storytelling. I think timelines can lock us into this approach. Sometimes chronological is best but sometimes using more sophisticated storytelling techniques to persuade work best. In any case, if you fail to tell a story, a jury will make one up to fill the void. Therefore, be sure to combine your visuals with storytelling to win your case. See Storytelling at Trial - Will Your Story Be Used? and Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer and 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting We spend a lot of time in this blog describing the best practices to use in persuading a jury or judge, explaining why they work, and encouraging lawyers to use them. But what if your best-laid plans go astray? Even the most exhaustive set of trial preparations can go unexpectedly wrong. Hardware can fail, judges can issue unpredictable rulings, courtroom technology can prove incompatible. Our advice is to always double check everything and always have a backup plan. Do you have a PowerPoint that you need to use at trial? Make sure that the video screen you’re going to use is sized correctly for your presentation. Did you bring the right cables? We once had a client who brought the wrong cables and, as the trial began, found that she couldn’t use her PowerPoint. Thankfully, she had a hard copy of her slides and the presentation went just fine. Is there enough RAM in the computer you’ll be using in court to show your exhibits? This may not be the same computer that you have used to prepare the exhibits. At the very least, have those exhibits printed out in case of disaster. And always keep the finalized slides on a flash drive with you. Also, make sure the PowerPoint version is the same or newer on the machine you are going to show it on, since conflicting versions of PowerPoint can sometimes cause issues with your slides.

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by 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.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO 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: demonstrative evidence being excluded for using inappropriate tactics; demonstrative evidence being used for outright misconduct; opportunities being missed to use persuasion tricks of the trade; lawyers getting stuck in a chronological recitation of the facts; an overall lack of anything memorable or creative being presented; the use of out-of-date techniques like bullet points that damage credibility; and many other things that, as I said a few Halloween's ago, can lead to a deMONSTERative evidence nightmare. 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.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO 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.

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

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

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