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The Litigation Consulting Report

Lawyers: It’s Time to Make Time for Trial Preparation

Posted by Tony Klapper on Wed, Mar 8, 2017 @ 09:43 AM

make-time-for-trial-preparation.jpgby Tony Klapper
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

At A2L, we tend to work with the top litigators at some of the nation’s best-known firms. These men and women are obviously excellent lawyers, very good at what they do. They are also very busy. They always have another complaint to respond to, another discovery dispute to resolve, another brief to write or edit, another partners meeting to attend, another associate to evaluate, and another set of bills to review before a client sees them.

So when it comes time to thinking about what trial presentation works best, some of these lawyers procrastinate and delay developing the story. This is a strategic error. As early as possible, you should be crafting your narrative and deciding what kind of jury research exercise you might want to do or what kind of graphics to show. These things can be the difference between winning and losing the case – and they deserve high priority. It’s not a matter of self-promotion for A2L; rather, it’s an understanding, which we hope all our team members share, that these aspects of trial are crucial and should not be deferred without a very good reason.

That email to a client is important, and so is that meet and confer letter – but the essence of a trial presentation is even more important. And it has a time element that many lawyers may not be aware of. If they allow for a mock jury exercise months before the real trial, they can easily take what they have learned and apply it to their case. The sooner it is done, the better, because the lessons learned in a mock can help guide not only your ultimate trial narrative but also the evidence needed to support that narrative. If you wait too long, the admissible evidence may already be locked in because the discovery doors have closed.

But working backwards to get the timing right requires careful planning and strategic thought — something that the over-stretched, busy partner might not make time for. But making time for the building blocks of your narrative is one of the most critical things you can do as a litigator—particularly when there is a very real risk of (or opportunity for) going to trial.

If you are too busy, try to divide your team into those who handle the day-to-day “litigation” tasks and those who can allocate sufficient time to the big-picture trial thoughts. These, of course, cannot be completely placed in separate buckets, but if you start structuring your trial and litigation teams along these lines (with open and frequent communication between the two), you will end up making the time necessary to both properly litigate and properly try your case.

One way of handling this that worked very well in matters that I was involved in during my 20 years of practice was to have the trial lead do the things that only he or she could (or should) do, and have his or her top lieutenant make sure that the day-to-day things get done. The lead trial attorney can review this work but need not be hands-on. That frees time to accomplish the essential task of trial preparation, well in advance. After all, a law firm is about client service, and that is certainly what the client in a high-stakes case would want.

Other A2L Consulting articles discussing trial preparation, the timing of trial preparation, and best practices of leading trial teams include:

in-house counsel litigation toolkit e-book free download

Tags: Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation

7 Habits of Great Trial Teams

Posted by Tony Klapper on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 @ 02:17 PM

great-trial-teams-good-to-great-collins.jpgby Tony Klapper
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

Ken Lopez, the CEO of A2L Consulting, and I were talking the other day about some good books to read for the holiday season.  I suggested a current best-seller, Thomas Friedman's Thank You for Being Late - strongly recommended to me by my dear friend and mentor, Jim Hostetler. But Ken guided me to another book, a best-seller written 15 years ago by Jim Collins, called Good to Great.  It was a great read.

Although the book is principally a heavily researched analysis on what differentiates a great company from just a good company, I believe that many of the same lessons that apply to the Fortune 500 apply with equal force to law firms, litigation consulting companies, and even trial teams.  Borrowing heavily from Collins' conclusions, I offer the following New Year’s thoughts on how good trial teams can be great trial teams:

  1. Great trial teams have leaders who have the confidence to make important decisions but also the humility to call attention to the team, not themselves.
  1. Great trial teams are composed of the best and the brightest who, like their leader, put the team first.  They are not necessarily subject matter experts (though subject matter expertise certainly doesn’t hurt), but they are innovative thinkers who roll up their sleeves and get to work.
  1. Great trial teams don’t simply follow the direction of their leader; instead, they participate in the development of the trial strategy from the beginning -- through open, sometimes animated, discussion and debate.  
  1. Great trial teams realize that presenting an effective narrative at trial is not something that happens overnight, but rather requires repeated reassessment and development.  The process is iterative and not necessarily linear.
  1. Great trial teams aren’t afraid of technology and think carefully about how they can use it in the courtroom.
  1. Great trial teams understand what makes them great as a team and as individuals.  They don’t try to become something they are not.  
  1. Great trial teams think hard about the core of their case and develop themes, theories and narratives that make the most sense of the law and the facts, fitting round pegs only into round holes.

Are these statements true of your trial team?

Other tools and resources for A2L to help your trial team improve and benchmark your trial team against other teams:

persuasive storytelling for litigators trial webinar free

Tags: Litigation Technology, Trial Technology, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Management, Leadership

5 Key Lessons You Can Learn From Mock Juries

Posted by Katie Bagwill on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 @ 01:32 PM

mock-jury-focus-group-mock-trial-jury-consultants.jpgby Katie Bagwill
A2L Consulting

Watching a mock jury deliberate is a lot like watching Dr. Phil; there is a lot of arguing, and most of the “facts” end up skewed. Nevertheless, a mock jury’s conclusions and how they reach them are essential to any lawyer who wants to understand the weaknesses of his or her case. Here are some of my takeaways from observing this fascinating exercise recently.

  1. Be clear. If a point or idea you want to instill in the jury isn’t clarified enough, you will see it warped and interpreted wildly during the deliberations. During each mock presentation that I saw, the amount of attention paid and the volume of notes taken varied, but one constant seemed to be apparent: jurors want to feel as if they have all the information. Even if they don’t, once they have a firm opinion, they will use any of the “facts” they have to defend it. Naturally you want these facts to be in your favor, but for the sake of this exercise it is actually more beneficial to you for the stacks to be weighted against you. In order to improve, you need to know how you could lose.
  1. Be passionate but humble. It is important for the jury to feel empathetic toward your client, and for that to happen they need to connect with you. While presenting your case, you want to appear confident and informed without coming off as arrogant. Persuasion is all about presentation. One of the most important notes that our mock jurors made about one of our presenters was that he seemed “smug,” which made him seem sneaky, and it spiraled from there.
  1. Honesty is the best policy for your mock juries – by far. An important factor for an experiment, the mock trial, to be generalizable to the greater population, the entire jury pool, is that participants be honest in their answers. In our exercise, we had remote devices that each participant used to answer our questions, and we received feedback in real time. To set the stage of how they should answer the questions, a test question was asked, “Have you ever driven over the speed limit?” The expected answer would be “yes” across the board, assuming that all participants drive. However, in our group we had one “no” and one “not applicable.” The former had been unsure of “how serious it was” and apologized for not answering completely honestly, while the latter seemed to just be completely in denial. The idea that, “it doesn’t count because everyone else was doing it, but I was the only one caught,” is a dangerous mindset in a child and even scarier in an adult. With this experience in mind, you should remember not to put too much weight on any individual’s answer to one question, but rather look at the patterns of decision-making in the group.
  1. Ignorance is not bliss. The people who paid the least amount of attention during the presentations seemed to be the biggest talkers in the deliberation room. This would confirm the idea of the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which less competent people believe they are more competent, and more competent people doubt themselves. This is a scary idea in theory, and even scarier in practice. Imagine you are being tried by a jury full of people who don’t really understand any of the facts of the case, but their “instincts” tell them you’re guilty. Unfortunately, these people don’t wear a sign around their necks professing their ignorance, and you’re just going to have to gather as much other information about their decision-making during voir dire as you can. In the exercise I observed, it was sad to see that there were a handful of participants whose bloated confidence in their opinions kept all opposing mock jurors silent for fear of being yelled into submission.
  1. Be prepared in advance. Once you’re selecting your jury or presenting your case in court, it is too late to start thinking about how you will keep the jury on your side. Using a mock jury will separate the “good” evidence in your presentation from the “bad” while you still have time to reshape your narrative.
      

Other A2L Consulting articles about mock juries, mock trials and jury consulting:

Jury Consulting Mock Trial

Tags: Trial Consultants, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Psychology, Persuasion

5 Ways Change Can Be Good for Trial Lawyers

Posted by Tony Klapper on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 @ 12:31 PM

superlawyer-trial-lawyer-litigator-change-narrative-storytelling.jpg
by Tony Klapper

Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

Everyone, regardless of political persuasion, can agree that a significant portion of the U.S. electorate voted for change in this week’s presidential election. And the way the whole 18-month campaign went certainly represented a change from the way most campaigns have gone in our history.

But while we as a country – at least every four or eight years – seem to like change, lawyers not so much. Maybe that reflects what we learned in law school. Law is governed by precedent, and if there are changes to precedent, they are incremental at best. Or, maybe it reflects the role we assume as advisers and the tendency for many in our profession to be cautious and risk-averse.

Regardless of your attitude toward changes in the law, in your political leaders, or in what your clients do, we believe that in the arena of trial advocacy change is very often a good thing. Here are five examples.

  1. Literally, change the font you are using for exhibits and displays. Mix it up occasionally. Pick a less common font, but not one that calls too much attention to itself. Jurors will notice the unusual font, although they may not know just what they’re noticing, and they will stay awake and attentive. See, Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? 
  1. Change your narrative. Don’t be wedded to telling your story a certain way, but be open to other people’s thoughts and perspectives. Aunt Sally’s apple pie wasn’t perfect the first time; it took years to fine tune that recipe. It could take many run-throughs to get an opening statement just right. See, 10 Types of Value Added by Litigation Graphics Consultants
  1. Change the perspective. Within a trial, tell the story from more than one viewpoint. If your opening statement is told from the perspective of your client, you might want to mix things up so that your closing argument features the thoughts of a particularly convincing witness. The opening and the closing don’t have to match. They can be different, based on a preconceived plan. This will also keep the jurors awake and interested, and it will provide depth to your narrative. See, Are You Smarter Than a Soap Opera Writer?
  1. Change your approach to working with your team. Ask yourself if there have been miscommunications or tensions. To get the most out of everyone on the team (lawyers, paralegals, vendors, and so on) think about the best way to motivate them. Be prepared to adjust. See, 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams
  1. Change yourself. Billy Joel said, “Don’t go changing to try and please me,” it’s true – but lawyers are in the business of trying to please jurors and others. Don’t resist the process of making yourself a more effective lawyer. Most lawyers who do trial advocacy think they are already at the top of their profession – and many are. But even the best can learn and grow. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators

litigation leadership 4th edition

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Litigation Consulting, Trial Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Leadership

The Top 5 Litigation & Persuasion Focused Articles of Q2 & Q3 2016

Posted by Ken Lopez on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 @ 03:25 PM

iStock_79502561_SMALL.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

In the first quarter of 2016, A2L Consulting reported record amounts of business and web traffic. Well, those numbers have only continued to climb throughout the second and third quarters of this year. High stakes litigation is booming across the industry, although it's not heavily concentrated in any one law firm or in any one business sector. 

Every year, more than a quarter million visits are paid to A2L's blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Each year we publish more than 100 articles focused on highly specialized areas of persuasion science, jury consulting, high-stakes litigation, and the use of litigation graphics at trial.

To help our readership find the very best articles, we publish "best of" articles like this one throughout the year. Today, I'm highlighting the five articles that you, our readers, voted the very best of the past two quarters. I think each is a fascinating read.


How top trial teams and top trial lawyers behave5. 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams: Our top trial experts at A2L seek to distill the essence of trial preparation and develop a numerical way to measure its quality and predict success.








top trial team trial lawyer traits4. 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams: We tell our readers what the unique characteristics of the top trial teams are. Some of them are quite surprising.







Better storytelling for lawyers3.  6 Ways to Become a Better Storyteller: At A2L, we share the results of our best thinking on storytelling at trial. What are the best time-tested techniques?






SPICE persuasion tricks2.  SPICE Is the Key to Persuasion: An expert on the art of persuasion identifies the key aspects of persuading juries or anyone else, summed up in the acronym SPICE.




 

 

 

 


PowerPoint tips and tricks1. 12 Things About PowerPoint You Probably Never Knew: A litigation graphics expert shows how little-known aspects of PowerPoint, far from being dull, can help persuade when creating PowerPoint trial graphics.

 

 



 

opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l

Tags: Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Litigation Support, Jury Consultants, Articles, Trial Preparation, Jury Selection, Opening

[Free Download] Trial Lawyer’s Guide to Jury Consulting & Mock Trials

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 @ 03:19 PM

A2L-MOCK-TRIAL-JURY-CONSULTANTS-TALL.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

Today, we are publishing our latest free book -- A Trial Lawyer's Guide to Jury Consulting and Mock Trials.

This free 328-page book is based on the idea that even after some decades in which jury consulting has grown and established itself as a business, many lawyers still don’t necessarily understand what jury consultants do and how valuable they can be. Many lawyers probably still harbor the old idea that a jury consultant is just someone who sits next to a lawyer and uses a “gut feeling” based on a potential juror’s occupation, body language or appearance to ask the lawyer to exclude the juror or keep the juror. If that stereotype were ever true, it’s certainly not true today. We’re about as far now from the O.J. Simpson days 20 years ago as we are from the Perry Mason days.

This book is dedicated to bridging whatever conceptual gap may remain between trial lawyers and jury consultants. It pulls together many of the lessons that jury consultants have learned, so that any lawyer who reads the book can get up to speed quickly and save herself a good deal of money and time. We have been dismayed at times at the disconnection between long-held myths held even by seasoned litigators and what the data show.  Excellent trial strategies are the product of balancing art and science, data and wisdom, confidence and humility. 

Among the topics in this book are: 14 Places Your Colleagues Are Using Persuasive Graphics That Maybe You’re Not, Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It?, Why Do I Need a Mock Trial If There Is No Real Voir Dire, 21 Ingenious Ways to Research Your Judge, 7 Videos About Body Language Our Litigation Consultants Recommend, 15 Things Everyone Should Know About Jury Selection and 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial.

A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the jury and how it works. Read this book and reflect on its contents to know more than most trial lawyers do. This book is based on hundreds of trials and years of data, not mere theory or presumption. We hope you enjoy it and share it. Please send us your feedback and let us know if you have any questions or comments, any time. If you have any questions about a case, a witness, a jury pool, a venue, strategic options or dilemmas, or think your case is unwinnable, we’re only a phone call/email away and would love to hear from you. 

Jury Consulting Mock Trial

Tags: Jury Questionnaire, Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Litigation Support, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Jury Selection, Psychology, Body Language, Damages, Persuasion, Cognitive Bias

[Free E-Book] The Value of Litigation Consulting 2nd Edition

Posted by Ken Lopez on Tue, Aug 16, 2016 @ 03:17 PM

value-litigation-consulting-400-tall.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

As trials become more and more complex – just think of the intellectual property cases worth billions of dollars that have rooted the attention of Silicon Valley and the world – litigation consulting has become more and more important. There may be fewer jury trials now than there used to be, but many of the cases that go to trial can shake up an industry.

“Litigation consulting” is a broad term that describes a broad variety of services that help lawyers try and win cases. They include jury and bench trial consulting, litigation graphics consulting, on-site courtroom technology support and similar services. In a given case, a trial team may need all the services that A2L provides, or just a subset of those services.

In order to show how far the litigation consulting industry has come in a relatively short time, we are issuing a free --- page book, The Value of Litigation Consulting. The book explains why even the best trial lawyers can benefit from the services of top-notch litigation consultants. It’s a handbook that shows where the industry has been and where it’s heading.

The book is full of useful, hard-hitting articles on these topics, including 11 Things Your Colleagues Pay Litigation Consultants to Do, 6 Secrets of the Jury Consulting Business You Should Know, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics Are More Complicated Than You Think, How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?, 11 Traits of Great Courtroom Trial Technicians.

You can download the book here - completely free - no strings attached.

value of litigation consulting consultants

Tags: Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Litigation Consulting, Trial Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Trial Technology, Litigation Support, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation

10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Jul 21, 2016 @ 01:27 PM

top-trial-teams-assessment-tool-win-cases.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

Several months ago, I wrote about the 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams. Based on those 50 characteristics, we have created a trial team assessment tool. Although we've only just begun to collect the data, my hypothesis is that the quality of trial preparation, which this tool attempts to measure, is highly correlated with success at trial.

In my experience, only a small minority of trial teams rigorously prepare for trial in a way that would earn them a high score on this tool. In most cases, budgets and/or firm culture simply don’t permit the level of preparation that I see in the highest performing trial teams.

In our first effort to quantify what makes a good trial team, our beta version trial team assessment tool offers 10 criteria to measure performance. We selected these 10 points from among the 50 criteria, based on the collective experience of A2L's top litigation graphics consultant, our top jury consultant and on my experience. That's more than 75 years of accumulated litigation experience from work in thousands of cases.

We assign a maximum of 10 points to each criterion, and so far, we have observed trial teams ranging from a low of 33 to a high of 76. Losses tend to occur more often with low scoring teams, but the data are still quite fragmentary.

Here are the 10 criteria that we use to define great trial teams:

  1. Communication: They communicate in an orderly, consistent manner so that everyone knows at all times what is going on. They’re systematic in how they work and communicate with their outside consultants.

  2. Timely Preparation: They’re not frantic. They don't wait until the last minute to prepare fact and expert witnesses. They construct their key trial narratives early.

  3. Rigorous Preparation: They don't dismiss the level of intensive prep needed “just for deposition.” They work through dozens of drafts of their demonstratives. They don't relegate preparation of important witnesses to junior lawyers who lack experience. They require their experts to work with communications and visual design consultants.

  4. Storytelling/Theme Development: They understand the difference between a narrative and a theme. They don’t simply respond to themes introduced by the other side; they build their own affirmative narrative. They develop their thematic story right from the start and incorporate that into discovery.

  5. Organization/Management: The team leaders realize that there are too many aspects of a big-ticket litigation for the first chair to handle all of them alone. The leaders spend their time where they add the most value. They get some sleep. If they aren’t good organizers, they task someone who is a good organizer in order to assure continuity and avoid panic.

  6. Humility: They exhibit a distinct lack of arrogance. They don’t answer challenges by simply stating how long they’ve done this or where they went to school. They don’t answer their own questions, but let other people do that. They conduct post-hearing, post-conference, and post-trial debriefings.

  7. Openness and Curiosity: Great litigation teams want their answers questioned. They tell you their strengths and weaknesses. They don't sugarcoat the possible effectiveness of the other side's narrative and thematic points or fall too quickly in love with their own narrative and themes. Finally, they ask their litigation consultants what can they do better.

  8. Leadership and Teamwork: They don't lose it; they keep their cool. They understand that their success is a team effort and approach it that way. They give credit where credit is due, sincerely (not by patronizing). They pressure-test throughout the course of their pre-trial development and during the course of trial itself by continuously empowering the entire litigation and trial teams to provide their own input.

  9. Technology Comfort and Courtroom Presence: They’re not afraid of technology in the courtroom or elsewhere. They think about details like the color of their outfits and their body language. They constantly work to improve their delivery. They just look comfortable in front of a jury.

  10. Practice: They don’t assume anything and seek to verify everything with facts, including mock testing that shows which themes are winners and which juror types are worst. Effective litigation teams spend as much time preparing their witnesses for robust cross-examinations as they do for direct examinations. Witness preparation includes careful development of an effective visual presentation that is rehearsed but doesn't sound rehearsed.

How would your trial team rate on these criteria? Hopefully, your team is on the 50 or higher scale. I have never seen a team with an under-50 score win a case.

Other A2L Consulting articles related to trial preparation, success at trial and the relationship between in-house and outside litigation counsel include:

in-house counsel litigation toolkit e-book free download

Tags: Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Management, Leadership

7 Reasons a Fresh Pair of Eyes Are Beneficial Before Trial

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Jun 29, 2016 @ 02:53 PM

iStock_38166022_SMALL.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

When it comes to making a decision about hiring a litigation consulting firm like A2L to support a trial team, I notice that many factors are intuitively persuasive to the consumer of such services.

With litigation graphics, most trial lawyers understand they benefit from outside help since jurors are mostly visual learners, and visual persuasion experts help bridge the communications gap between the trial lawyer and the typical American.

With jury consulting, most trial teams respond to the notion that an experienced jury consultant has watched thousands of jurors deliberate and can thus offer insights based on that unique experience. Further, it just makes sense to most people that a jury consultant is in the best position, given her training, to create a proper forum for scientifically valid and actionable jury research.

However, more important than these considerations, there is one factor that seems to occur to almost everyone who is evaluating the use of a litigation consultant. It is the idea that a fresh pair of eyes is almost always helpful when preparing for trial.

By a fresh pair of eyes, I'm referring to a litigation consultant who has been engaged to support the trial team sometime in the year before trial. At this point, early theories have often been developed, perhaps a draft narrative is in place, and the evidence has largely been evaluated. However, all too often, scant attention gets paid to the presentation of the case until the final few months before trial.

It is in this period that people seem to recognize the value of the “extra pair of eyes” in giving the trial strategies and tactics their final form. Here are some specific reasons why these new eyes can help. 

  1. Trial lawyers are likely to be too close to their case. After their long hours wrapped up with the case, they have subconsciously developed a theory or theories about the case that will be hard to shake. If these theories can be improved, it will take an outsider to convince the trial lawyer of that. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators and 5 Surprises in Going from IP Litigator to Litigation Consultant.

  2. Trial lawyers identify with the client. That is a natural and understandable thing to do, since trial lawyers are supposed to zealously represent their client and think the client’s views are correct. However, sometimes the client’s ideas, though they reflect its perspective and industry realities, may be too hard to sell to a jury. Enter the new pair of eyes. See, 7 Reasons Litigation Graphics Consultants are Essential Even When Clients Have In-House Expertise and 5 Ways Litigation Consultants Add Pizzazz to a Tedious Case

  3. It’s hard to imagine “simple” when you are very smart. Trial lawyers are accustomed to being the smartest man or woman in the room. Sometimes, though, they will adopt a theory that lacks the common touch and is hard to explain to the everyday, common-sense thinker in the jury box. The outsider can help with this as well. See,
    21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant,  When Smart Ain’t So Smart - Cognitive Bias, Experts and Jurors and 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations.
  1. Don't Eat Your Own Fundraiser Doughnuts. When a trial team becomes too insular or if the 1st chair litigator becomes dictatorial, a closed feedback loop can develop. In this situation, all ideas are simply confirmed as good ideas by the internal team. Never is a fresh pair of eyes more valuable. See, 7 Bad Habits of Law Firm Litigators.

  2. Simple is hard to get to. Often, the most straightforward way of presenting the facts is the best. A trial lawyer can sometimes become taken with, even obsessed with, a more comprehensive yet more complicated approach to the facts. An outsider can give him or her a new perspective on this. See, Litigator & Litigation Consultant Value Added: A "Simple" Final Product and Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy

  3. Collaboration can be creative. From the clash of ideas, a trial lawyer and a litigation consultant can develop new approaches to a case. They need to treat each other as equals and not be afraid to be wrong, nor be afraid to criticize the other person’s approach. See, How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team and 9 Things I’ve Noticed About Effective Litigation Graphics After 20 Years as a Litigator

  4. Trials are rare, but not for litigation consultants. The “extra pair of eyes” will be someone who has been there and seen it all in the courtroom. Many trial lawyers, however skillful, go to trial once a year at most. See, With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? and 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel

Other A2L Consulting articles related to the support top-end litigation consultants provide to top-tier trial lawyers include:

litigation consulting graphics jury trial technology

Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Visual Persuasion, Persuasion

50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams

Posted by Ken Lopez on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 @ 02:22 PM


trial team win litigation traits characteristicsby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

After the more than 20 years that we have spent in the litigation consulting business, we don't hear very many questions that we’ve never heard before. However, this week I did hear one, and the story is worth sharing because it goes to the heart of how a truly great litigator performs. The question I heard was, “What can we do better as a trial team on the next engagement?”

Consider how remarkable this is. Here was a litigator from a large law firm sincerely trying to improve the performance of his team and himself. I was deeply impressed, as this was the first time I've had someone ask that question after an engagement.

It's a very sensible question, of course. A2L's team has worked with thousands of litigation teams from the very best law firms in the world. I have watched many litigators perform near-magic in the courtroom, and I have seen teams fail miserably. There are patterns that lead to success and patterns that lead to failure.

In the spirit of the question that this litigator asked me, I started thinking about the traits of the world’s most effective trial teams. Here are 50 of them culled from my experience and that of my colleagues Dr. Laurie Kuslansky and Tony Klapper.

  1. Practice is by far the single most obvious indicator of a trial team's success. The great litigators draft their openings months or years in advance of trial and practice them dozens or hundreds of times. See, Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well

  2. Preparation. Great trial teams start preparing long before trial, and they don't ask the client’s permission to do so. Their attitude is, “If you work with a team like ours, it means you want to win and we know how to win and we're going to get that done, whatever it takes.” I think they are right. There are only a handful of law firms that I have observed that have this sense of preparation embedded in their litigation culture. See, The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation

  3. Great litigation teams want their answers questioned. Great litigators are confident. They are so confident that they open themselves up to rigorous scrutiny in their approach to trial. Through a whole host of methods, they invite criticism, suggestions, fresh pairs of eyes, lay people’s opinions, experts’ opinions, and they use all of these voices to perform at their best. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators

  4. They lead, but they can be led too. Great litigators avoid dominating all discussions. They intentionally let others lead them and be seen as leaders. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook

  5. They just look comfortable in front of a jury. Confidence equals persuasiviness and humans are born with an expert ability to detect it.  See, A Harvard Psychologist Writes About Presenting to Win

  6. They build narratives early. They know how important a narrative is to winning a case. They have also learned from experience that the earlier this is done, the better. A well-constructed narrative can inform everything from briefing to discovery to witness preparation. Download The Opening Statement Toolkit

  7. They understand the difference between a narrative and a theme. See, 14 Differences Between a Theme and a Story in Litigation

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  8. They spend their time where they are most valuable and add the most value. How Valuable is Your Time vs. Litigation Support's Time?

  9. They begin developing their visual presentation months or years before trial. See, How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?

  10. They’re not afraid of technology in the courtroom or elsewhere. Skipping technology means losing credibility in most cases now. Jurors have come to expect it and no longer take kindly to simply being lectured to. See, Trial Presentation Too Slick? Here's Why You Can Stop Worrying

  11. They’re systematic in how they meet with their outside consultants. Great trial teams usually hold weekly calls or meetings and schedule the next event at the end of each meeting.

  12. They’re not frantic. There are so many reasons why one should not be frantic, and even when the facts are terrible, great lawyers work at a measured and even pace and don't go negative. See, 10 Signs the Pressure is Getting to You and What to Do About It

  13. They don't jockey for position with other lawyers and law firms. The worst and least effective trial teams that I have ever seen play politics to the detriment of the client in the run up to trial. See, 5 Tips for Working Well As a Joint Defense Team

  14. They exhibit a distinct lack of arrogance. I think some people confuse arrogance with ability. The best trial teams I have observed display tons of confidence, show mastery of the subject matter, demonstrate massive respect for one another and never allow arrogance to enter the picture. See, In-House Counsel's Role In Keeping Litigator Ego In Check

  15. They probably subscribe to our blog. Alright, not everyone subscribes to this blog, but 8,000 people do. Litigators who demonstrate that they hope to grow their own skill set are typical subscribers. See, 10 Surprising Facts About Litigation Consulting Report Blog Readers



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  16. They realize there are too many parts in big-ticket litigation for the first chair to handle all of them alone. They know how to divide the work among attorneys, paralegals, experts, and others. The only way to build a simple case is to start with a complicated one and break it down. Truly complex cases require lots of team effort to achieve this result. See, Litigator & Litigation Consultant Value Added: A "Simple" Final Product

  17. They require their experts to work with communications and visual design consultants. Perhaps 1 in 500 experts is an expert in presenting information in a jury-friendly way, but most believe that they are. 7 Smart Ways for Expert Witnesses to Give Better Testimony

  18. They don't lose it; they keep their cool. There are plenty of stressors in the pre-trial environment. People not used to doing this kind of work would find it hard to maintain a positive attitude, but it is so critical to do so. See, 5 Signs of a Dysfunctional Trial Team (and What to Do About It)

  19. They conduct post-hearing, post-conference, and post-trial debriefings. Truly great trial teams do this, and all bad trial teams simply blame a bad judge, bad facts, and/or a bad jury. See, 9 Questions to Ask in Your Litigation Postmortem or Debrief

  20. They contemplate their thematic story right from the start and incorporate that into discovery. We're working with a number of clients now who are making sure a narrative is developed early in a case, not just on the ease of trial. This is a best-practice for highly effective trial teams. See, Planning For Courtroom Persuasion? Use a Two-Track Trial Strategy

  21. They tell you their strengths and weaknesses. When we meet with a trial team for the first time, they usually present to us as if we were potential jurors. That is, they advocate. Good trial teams do that, but then great trial teams say, "here's what our opponents will say and here's where we are vulnerable."

  22. They don’t answer their own questions, but let other people do that. Often, these answers are found in a mock trial setting. As we frequently advocate, let the data speak, don't guess or just use your gut instinct. See, 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said

  23. Before dismissing new ideas, they consider how to apply them, no matter how new. See, How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team

  24. They repeat back recommendations to make sure they understand them. This mirroring technique is used by many highly effective litigators and great listeners in all fields.

  25. They send drafts of their work with enough lead time for others to provide comments. Time management in litigation is a skill that must be developed and is a given with great trial teams. See, The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation

  26. They communicate in an orderly, consistent manner so that the left and right hands know what the other is doing. 

  27. If they aren’t good organizers, they task someone who is to assure continuity and avoid panic. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook

  28. They don’t assume anything and seek to verify with facts, including mock testing that shows which themes are winners and which juror types are worst. See, 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them

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  29. They don’t answer challenges by simply stating how long they’ve done this or where they went to school. See, 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations

  30. They lead, but don’t micromanage. We recently wrote about how some trial teams will agonize over fonts, colors, and PowerPoint templates while ignoring bad facts in their case during trial preparation. See, 3 Trial Preparation Red Flags That Suggest a Loss is Imminent

  31. They are respectful to junior staff and outside consultants. See, 13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck

  32. They understand that their success is a team effort and approach it that way. See, When a Good Trial Team Goes Bad: The Psychology of Team Anxiety

  33. They give credit where credit is due, sincerely (not by patronizing).

  34. They lead by example. Download the Leadership for Lawyers eBook

  35. They pay their bills on time or early. I'm pretty sure most litigators don't understand how important timely payment is and how it contributes to winning cases. See, 10 Ways Timely Payment Helps You Save Money On Litigation Consulting

  36. They don't sugarcoat the possible effectiveness of the other side's narrative and thematic points and fall too quickly in love with their own narrative and themes. See, 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials

  37. Notwithstanding a keen awareness of what the other side will say, they don't simply respond to the other side; they build their own affirmative narrative. See, $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation opening statements toolkit ebook download a2l
  38. They pressure test throughout the course of their pre-trial development and during the course of trial itself by continuously empowering the entire litigation and trial teams to provide their own input. They eschew groupthink. See, How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team

  39. All attorneys on the team have meaningful roles that sync with their individual strengths.

  40. They don't wait until the last minute to prepare fact and expert witnesses and instead dedicate sufficient resources to ensure those witnesses are prepared. See, Witness Preparation: Hit or Myth?

  41. Witness preparation includes, of course, careful development of an effective visual presentation that is rehearsed but doesn't sound rehearsed. See, The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses

  42. Effective litigation teams spend as much time preparing their witnesses for robust cross-examinations as they do for direct examinations. See, 
    Witness Preparation: The Most Important Part

  43. They look for opportunities to score significant points on redirect, a redirect that is thought through well in advance of trial and not simply reactive to cross.

  44. They seek candid feedback, not false praise, during trial.

  45. They get some sleep. One of my favorite, now retired, trial lawyers used to say that he never slept better than when we was at trial. He always knew he was fully prepared.

  46. They don't relegate preparation of important witnesses to junior lawyers who lack actual experience. See, Witness Preparation: Hit or Myth?

  47. They don't dismiss the level of intensive prep needed “just for deposition,” waiting for trial.  Most cases settle, and discovery can make or break a case. My favorite lawyers are just as "on" at a depo as they are at trial. See, 6 Tips for Effectively Using Video Depositions at Trial

  48. They think about details like tie color, suit color, and body language, and they work to improve their delivery at every event they participate in. See, Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning

  49. They are grateful that they get to do the kind of work that they do. I watched a top trial lawyer and friend be interviewed recently. His attitude was one of sincere gratitude about being a litigator. That sincerity comes through in everything that he does, and it is part of the reason he is so successful in front of juries. It's something that is almost impossible to fake.

  50. Finally, they ask their litigation consultants what can they do better. So far, as mentioned in the introduction to this article, it has happened just this once. However, I have a feeling we'll get asked this question more and more. I hope this article provides a useful framework for these types of discussions.

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Tags: Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Courtroom Presentations, Mock Trial, Trial Consulting, Demonstrative Evidence, Litigation Management, Litigation Support, Juries, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation, Storytelling, Management, Practice, Expert Witness, Leadership, Judges, Opening, Depositions, Witness Preparation, Persuasion

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Authors

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-headshot-500x500.jpg 

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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