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No matter where you stand on the border wall dispute that has captivated the nation, you have to admit that it is an important debate. After all, $5 billion is a lot of money and who knows if the wall will really make a difference. But allowing between 200,000 and 2,000,000 people to easily enter the United States every year via the border with Mexico is probably not a good thing either. You probably just automatically identified yourself with one of those two previous sentences and took it as your position, right? The other sentence may have even made you angry or at least started you thinking about counter-arguments. In other words, like most political discussions, minds are rarely changed by more facts. It's kind of like a jury trial, right? You hear one side. You attach to it emotionally and then proceed to ignore evidence that is contrary to your new belief. In jury consulting-speak, this phenomenon is called confirmation bias. As a jury consulting firm, we've written about confirmation bias many times. See, for example: I’m Right, Right? 5 Ways to Manage Juror Bias Jurors Will Believe Anything (That They Already Believe) When Smart Ain’t So Smart - Cognitive Bias, Experts and Jurors Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? 7 Ways to Overcome Cognitive Bias and Persuade However, A2L is not just a jury consulting firm. We’re also a top-ranked litigation graphics firm (and litigation consulting and trial technology consulting firm). So I'm always baffled by big disputes where the participants fail to use pictures effectively. In this day and age, there is no excuse. The science of visual persuasion is well established. See, What is Visual Persuasion and What Do You Need to Know About It?

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The Top 10 Litigation Articles of 2018

It's my eighth year writing an end-of-year top-10 style article. That feels pretty great because in that time, we have published more than 600 articles and A2L's Litigation Consulting Report blog has been visited one million times. Wow, right?

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A couple of years ago, I was involved in running a genetics conference focused on using genetics as a defense tactic in civil cases, much in the way that DNA evidence is used in criminal cases. I've been working with experts in this field ever since. A few months back, I wrote an article about the clever use by plaintiffs of litigation graphics and genetics in the baby powder (talc) cases (see Some Lessons for Defendants From the Talc Liability Trials), including a $4 billion verdict against a major talc manufacturer. When I write about various types of cases, I often hear from lawyers who handle the types of cases I write about. On my post on the use of genetics evidence in the talc litigation, how many talc defense lawyers do you think I heard from? If you guessed zero, you'd be exactly right. And that's a problem. Not ready to accept that this is a problem for defendants? Then I will ask whether the plaintiffs’ talc bar was similarly unresponsive. As you can probably guess from the way I posed the question, the answer is no. Out of discretion, I won't say exactly who or how many responded, but it was more than zero. Even though there is more to gain for the defense bar from understanding and leveraging these critical tools, it’s the plaintiffs’ lawyers who are most active in the field, striving to improve their approach. From the defense bar — crickets. And that's the problem I'm seeing in the way some of these talc cases are being defended. Defense counsel appear to be playing defense – and completely ignoring the key point that the best defense in litigation is a good offense. These verdicts are having an impact on the companies involved. Last Friday, on December 14, 2018, shares of Johnson & Johnson fell 10 percent and were set to have their largest percentage drop in more than 16 years, after Reuters reported that the company knew for decades that there was some asbestos in its baby powder. Yesterday, December 18, 2018, Johnson and Johnson ran the full page ad seen here in an attempt to manage this growing crisis. For trial lawyers and litigation consulting firms like ours, these asbestos allegations are not new or surprising. It's what plaintiff's have alleged recently and have used to prevail in these cases. The surprising thing in these cases is defense counsel's unnecessarily passive approach. When products are accused of causing harm, defense lawyers often choose one of the following defense strategies: Assert the harm was caused by something else but we don’t know what (the “idiopathic” defense) Assert the harm was caused by something else and we know exactly what. Typically, most defendants have chosen the ‘we don’t know what other thing caused it’ strategy because it avoids giving up the favorable allocation of the burden of proof and assuming the very specific (and often difficult) burden of proving an alternative cause – much as criminal defendants take advantage of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Not surprisingly, this argument generally falls flat. Recently, the plaintiffs’ bar won a multi-billion-dollar verdict by asserting that there is asbestos in talc and that it causes mesothelioma. This is highly improbable for several logical reasons — but jurors tend to follow emotion first and logic second when deliberating. If asbestos is present in baby powder at all, it would be in such small amounts that one could not reasonably connect mesothelioma to it. If defense counsel asserts (as they have been) that the mesothelioma was caused by some other identified source of asbestos, and not by talc, that leaves jurors without the necessary tools to argue for a defense verdict during deliberations. So, what if defense counsel could instead prove that the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was caused by something other than asbestos in baby powder? Something identifiable, measurable, and specific. Using modern genetics, this is now possible. And it is a major sea change.

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There are so many legal industry "best of" surveys that I have a hard time keeping track of them. Just about every month in one of them A2L is voted the top firm in either jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting, litigation consulting, or for our trial tech/hot seat services.    I am grateful for our clients and blog readers who take the time to help and vote for us. It is a very big deal for me to see the company I helped build these past 24 years be recognized. While I know our people are the best at what they do, it is still it's nice to hear other people say it too.   In a sea of surveys, one rises above the rest — The annual Best of the National Law Journal.   A2L has been named #1 in this NLJ survey before. Today, I'm asking a favor of our readers.   Would you help us be voted #1 in the nation again? It takes 2 minutes to help us be (publicly) recognized as the nation's top litigation consulting firm.     We are nominated in four categories. Here's how you vote: Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BestofNLJ2019 before November 1, 2018 Answer at least questions 11, 55, 58 & 59 Click through the next buttons until you click DONE.                        

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This weekend, television news is sure to be dominated by Hurricane Florence. Many of us will watch the all-too-familiar scenes of high waves hitting the coastline and reporters being blown about by powerful winds. It's almost routine from a TV-watching perspective. But one unusually persuasive graphic caught my attention this week. Did you happen to see the Weather Channel’s storm surge simulation? I think it’s brilliant, and it potentially offers some lessons for forward-thinking trial counsel. The simulation begins at the 55-second mark in the video below:

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I’ve been watching the baby powder/talc trials closely for the past several years. They feature some of the world’s best lawyers, and they are pushing the boundaries of scientific evidence. For anyone in the litigation business, the talc trials, as well as the trials involving the alleged cancer-causing properties of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, form a fascinating window into how big-ticket cases are being tried right now. In both lines of cases, plaintiffs are showing early dominance, and I think the defense accordingly needs to adjust both how it handles demonstrative evidence and how it deals with scientific evidence. Interestingly, both of these types of trials can be watched on the Courtroom View Network (CVN). I have long advocated that trial attorneys should be watching other trial attorneys on CVN because there’s almost no other way to see today’s great lawyers in action. In the most recent talc trial, famed plaintiffs lawyer Mark Lanier of Houston took on Johnson & Johnson, which makes talcum powder products. He asserted that his clients, 22 women who used the products, were exposed to asbestos found in talc and that this exposure caused them to contract ovarian cancer. The case is notable for many reasons. The result was certainly remarkable as this past July, plaintiffs were awarded nearly $4.7 billion in damages by a jury in a Missouri state court. The case is also one of the most high-profile cases to utilize genetic evidence. And that aspect was particularly interesting to me as this is an area that A2L and its partners at Innovative Science Solutions have been discussing for the last couple of years. We even held a conference on the topic of the use of genetic evidence in civil litigation. So let me discuss two aspects of this case. First, while I am not an expert in analyzing genetic evidence in civil cases, I do understand how to use it and how to present it. In this case, the defense was clearly reluctant to use genetic evidence, and it only lightly cross-examined plaintiffs’ genetics expert. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll speculate that like other defendants, Johnson & Johnson may have feared that by presenting genetic evidence as a defendant it would position the plaintiffs as a so-called eggshell plaintiffs, making liability easier for plaintiffs to prove. See takeaway #6 in this article where we discuss why this thinking is specious. Whether or not defendants were concerned about the role of genetics in conveying to the jury that these may be eggshell plaintiffs, Lanier appeared to adopt this approach anyway. He utilized genetics to affirmatively allege that the plaintiffs were especially vulnerable to the effects of talc. This highlights an apparent growing trend of the plaintiff utilizing genetics to demonstrate plaintiff susceptibility to alleged toxins and a need for the defense to effectively address and rebut this assertion. I haven’t seen that tactic before. and similarly situated defendants must get ready for this tactic in other cases. A good place to start would be talking to my friend and frequent collaborator Dr. David Schwartz at Innovative Science Solutions who is doing pioneering work with the group ToxicoGenomica. The second element of this trial that I found fascinating was Lanier’s use of demonstrative evidence. In most big-ticket litigation demonstrative evidence is exchanged a day or so before it is used, to allow for objections to be made. Clearly, Lanier has figured out a workaround by drawing (or having his colleague draw) a highly prejudicial demonstrative that for whatever reason the defense did get excluded. It's the featured picture in this article, but let me show you what I mean in this clickable video clip and transcript below from our friends at CVN. Here Mark Lanier perfectly combines the eggshell plaintiff approach with an objectionable piece of demonstrative evidence to powerfully drive a point home. His message is that some people are genetically more susceptible to cancer-causing agents like asbestos and that Johnson and Johnson and their baby powder products pushed plaintiffs over the cliff where cancer happens. Other free A2L Consulting resources related to genetics in civil litigation, litigation graphics, and demonstrative evidence include: With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? 7 Key Takeaways from the Genetics in Civil Law Conference Free slide decks from the Genetics in Civil Law Conference Free E-Book: The Litigator's Guide to Combating Junk Science - 2nd Edition Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 3 - Understanding the Bad Science The Importance of Litigation Graphics in Toxic Tort Litigation 10 Key Expert Witness Areas to Consider in Your Next Toxic Tort Case Free Download: Using Science to Prevail at Trial or As an Advocate 7 Reasons the Consulting Expert is Crucial in Science-Based Litigation Using Trial Graphics & Statistics to Win 12 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Trial Graphics Consultant Repelling the Reptile Trial Strategy as Defense Counsel - Part 1 Teaching Science to a Jury: A Trial Consulting Challenge 5 Valuable (and Free) Complex or Science-Focused Litigation Resources Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers

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Trial teams frequently wrestle with questions surrounding how simple a trial presentation should be. It’s a good thing to worry about. They worry about coming off as condescending. They worry about the story being impossible to simplify. They worry about what order to tell the story in. These are all understandable questions to wrestle with. Unfortunately, on the question of how simple a case should be made, I think most trial teams end up talking themselves out of the right answer. So here’s the answer in five parts.  A trial presentation should be so simple that: 

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You don’t have to take it from me. There’s a good reason that Bread – the 70s band that virtually invented California soft rock with unforgettable hits like “Baby I’m-A Want You” and “Make it With You” – hit #4 on the Billboard Chart in the spring of 1971 with “If.” (“If a picture paints a thousand words . . . “) Pictures do, in fact, paint a thousand words. It is a universal truth. Images are evocative; they engage the viewer and hold her attention; they can convey abstract concepts more efficiently, and often better, than words; they can level disparities in literacy, language, and intellect. For us here at A2L, the adage is not a subject of mere lip service, but an article of faith – a conviction that your presence here signifies that we share. All that being the case, why aren’t you all insisting upon having me, your litigation graphics and persuasion expert – or someone like me – present at your mock trial and focus group exercises? You certainly should. Just as the purpose of a mock trial or focus group exercise is to test-drive the arguments that the lawyers intend to present verbally at trial, it is also a crucial opportunity to assess how well the litigation graphics visually echo and even amplify, those arguments to create winning impressions. To create those impressions, you’ve brought together a team of professionals to produce a compelling factual, legal and visual presentation and to assess the impact of that presentation on your likely jurors. If you believe, among other things, in the power of compelling visuals to sharpen the focus and boost the potency of your arguments and themes, then leaving your litigation graphics consultant home is one big mistake. Just as we coach you to integrate litigation graphics in ways that avoid divided juror attention, we counsel against splitting the attention of your team and diluting the quality of its members’ observations by doubling up their responsibilities at mock exercises. To assure maximum performance, let every member of the team serve his or her highest and best use – think Indy 500 pit crew. This includes a principal member of your litigation graphics team: let him or her focus squarely on the jurors’ engagement with and reaction to the visuals. With their words, gestures, body language, attention or disinterest, mock jurors tell us how well our litigation graphics accomplished their intended purposes – what worked and what didn’t. They can tell us what they understood and what left them confused. However they “tell” us what they think, if the jurors do not exhibit the desired response, it is the time to change the graphics to evoke a better one. Who better to pose carefully tailored questions in real time to gauge the visuals’ punch or to scrutinize and take away for productive use in reworked visuals these crucial real-time impressions than the professional responsible for creating them? Testing the strengths and weakness of your case is a fundamental purpose of mock trial and focus group exercises. So much of what the format unlocks is intimately tied to being present in real time. In that respect, nothing beats watching real people grapple with the real issues and actually engage with, study, and even poke holes in the real mock trial graphics. It makes the most of the exercise and is the best way to ensure continuity as the team takes the litigation graphics to the next level for trial.  Hearing about it secondhand is no substitute. Not even financially. Since the recordings of the exercises can be stopped, rewound and restarted when studied after-the-fact, any significant cost savings intended by leaving the litigation consultant behind are seldom realized. Since a picture paints a thousand words, let’s practice what we preach: insist that your litigation graphics consultants watch your mock trial and focus-group exercises, rather than simply read about them. Other free A2L Consulting resources related to mock trials, focus groups, and litigation graphics consultants: Why You Should Pressure-Test Your Trial Graphics Well Before Trial 5 Ways to Win Your Trial by Losing Your Mock Trial 9 Things That Define the Best Litigation Graphics 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics Free Webinar: PowerPoint Litigation Graphics - Winning by Design™ 13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck Trending: Mock Trial Testing of Litigation Graphics AND Arguments 3 Observations by a Graphic Artist Turned Litigation Graphics Artist 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant 6 Triggers That Prompt a Call to Your Litigation Consultant 11 Small Projects You Probably Don't Think Litigation Consultants Do 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest 11 Ways to Start Right With Your Litigation Graphics Team 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint Presentation Graphics: Why The President Is Better Than You Using Litigation Graphics in Bench Trials: How Different Is It From Jury Trials? 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations 8 Videos and 7 Articles About the Science of Persuasion Please Pretty Up These Litigation Graphics How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?

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