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Roughly half of our business involves the creation of PowerPoint presentations for opening statements, closing arguments and expert witnesses. To create these presentations, our litigation consultants, typically seasoned trial lawyers and communications experts, work with our creative staff to turn the trial strategy into presentations that will motivate decisionmakers to make the “right” decisions. In a trial with millions or billions at stake, our final draft for an opening is typically version 30 or higher — and I've seen version 80 in a very large trial. Why so many versions? This is the result of what great trial lawyers do: They work with our team and iterate until perfection is achieved. However, every presentation starts with a first draft, and after three decades in this industry, I can say that a first draft sets the tone for the entire engagement. Handle it well, and trust is formed and there is a nice creative arc free from anxiety. Handle the rollout of the first draft wrong, and trust never kicks in, micromanagement dominates, and the deck becomes a “horse designed by committee.” So what’s the magic to the rollout of a first draft?

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I’m far from alone in asserting that Steve Jobs was an inspiration to many entrepreneurs and CEOs of all ages. For many of us, his contrarian thought process, rigorous attention to detail, and spectacular showmanship formed a model for how to innovate, run a business, and find new customers.  I tracked Jobs’ career during my college and law school days and went so far as to email him a couple of times to thank him for the inspiration that he provided to me. Over the years, his 2007 speech introducing the iPhone served as a model for me. It showed me how to make a presentation that is both informative and inviting. I’ve written about that here. Later, when I was preparing to deliver a commencement speech, I used his 2005 Stanford commencement talk as an example. Steve Jobs’ presentations were admired by many. But not as many people have looked behind his presentations to understand that level of preparation that was involved in each presentation. An article earlier this year from Inc. magazine said it very well: Every product launch was brilliantly performed. Every move, demo, image and slide was in sync and beautifully choreographed. If I sound like I'm describing a Broadway show, you're right. A Steve Jobs presentation had more in common with an award-winning theatrical performance than a typical product launch. Apple still uses the time-tested formula including the final secret ingredient: Jobs rehearsed relentlessly. Carmine Gallo, the author of this article, pointed out that Jobs’ presentations looked effortless precisely because he put so much effort into them. These ideas are totally in keeping with the conclusions that I have reached in three decades of observing trial lawyers. I’ve heard far too many first-chair trial lawyers claim that the reason they didn’t practice their opening statement relentlessly was because it wouldn’t appear spontaneous if they did. Quite the contrary; the openings that I have heard that appeared the most spontaneous were precisely the ones that were the most thoroughly rehearsed. Apparently, Steve Jobs shared that approach. His grueling hours of practice became legendary in the tech industry. The Inc. article, in analyzing the desirable amount of practice time, concluded that the ideal is the 20-20 rule, which means that for a 20-minute presentation, one should go through the whole thing at least 20 times. This is consistent with the conclusions that I’ve reached about trial practice. We like to use a rule that a 60-minute opening should be practiced for at least 30 hours. We all want to look relaxed, confident and conversational in making our presentations. That is a good instinct because that style is in fact persuasive, but the way to get there is not with last-minute cramming, an opening statement practiced privately in a hotel room with no one listening, or an off-the-cuff talk relying on a few bullet points. The best openings I’ve ever seen are the result of countless hours of practice — often done in one-to-one sessions with an A2L litigation consultant. As is the case with any presenter, practice is what separates good trial lawyers from great trial lawyers. You might say, great trial lawyers just “think different” when it comes to practice. Other free A2L articles about trial preparations, delivering great presentations, practice, and developing opening statements include: $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation Dan Pink, Pixar, and Storytelling for the Courtroom Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation Storytelling at Trial Works - But Whom Should the Story Be About? Free 144 page A2L E-book download: Storytelling for Litigators Free A2L webinar - Storytelling as a Persuasion tool The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations 7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement In Trial Presentation - A Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)

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Trial Lawyers and the Power of Silence

One of my professional mentors had a saying: Let silence do the heavy lifting.  This is good advice in many business and personal contexts. When you want to hear what another person really thinks, stop talking and wait for him to speak. Let him finish his statement, and don’t “rescue” him by interrupting him. Two thousand years ago, a rabbi in the Talmud said, “All my days have I grown up among the wise, and I have not found anything better for a man than silence.” This principle is still valid, and it applies well in the context of communications during trial between attorneys, juries and judges. I’ve noticed that many trial lawyers all too often believe they have too much to say in too little time and are obsessed with pressing a great deal of information into the hands of the fact-finder. But endless words are not always your friend if you want to be a successful persuader. Recently I observed an opening statement in which a trial lawyer applied these principles perfectly. Her client needed to make a point about the existence of ongoing communications between two parties over the course of a decade. This point was so important that it warranted special attention during the preparation of the opening statement. So we designed a litigation graphic that focused on these communications. We made sure that these timeline events rolled out slowly to the jury, slowly enough that the brief periods of silence between them caused some discomfort. This tactic noticeably changed the pace of the opening statement. It set a tone that forced the jurors to pay attention. And it wouldn’t have worked as well if the lawyer hadn’t presented her statement quietly and at a slow pace. As this masterful trial lawyer went on with her statement, the room audibly went silent and the jury paid attention. This was an emotional moment that focused the jurors’ minds on the fact of the regular ongoing communications – an essential part of the case for this lawyer’s client. This lawyer let silence do the heavy lifting. We have done this before, in other contexts. In an airline merger case, we scrolled a list of past airline bankruptcies before the jury in a way that was slower than usual – and noticeable. The message was that the airline industry had long been suffering through a dire financial situation and that the merger should be allowed to go through to reduce further bleeding. In all of these cases, the key element is that a skillful trial lawyer can plan her exhibits slowly and carefully and let silence speak loudly.   Other A2L free resources about litigation graphics, timelines, and connecting with judge and jury include: 3 minute video: Three top trial lawyers discuss persuasion using litigation graphics A Must-Have Complimentary 50-page Guidebook for Those Who Use Timelines to Inform or Persuade 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint Connecting With Jurors by Turning Off Your Screen 3 Excellent Ways to Use “Top-Bottom” Timelines in Trial 5 Trial Graphics That Work Every Time 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion How to Make PowerPoint Trial Timelines Feel More Like a Long Document 4 Types of Animation Used in the Courtroom Why a Graphically Immersive Trial Presentation Style Works Best Stop Using Bullet Points Why the former President is a Master PowerPointer The Redundancy Effect Search our site for just what you need 12 Ways to Eliminate "But I Need Everything On That PowerPoint Slide" 6 Trial Presentation Errors Lawyers Can Easily Avoid Trial Timelines and the Psychology of Demonstrative Evidence Don't Be Just Another Timeline Trial Lawyer The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make

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I've always been a creative type. In fact, it was my creativity 25 years ago that caused me to learn 3-D animation during law school and ultimately go on to launch A2L Consulting. In the 25 years since then, I've worked on thousands of cases advising trial teams and leading a team of people who advise top trial lawyers on conducting voir dire, running mock trials, managing complex trial technology, and my personal favorite, developing litigation graphics to simplify, explain, and persuade in complex cases. Focusing in on this creative side of the business, litigation graphics development, I have seen two types of trial teams interact with creative teams -- those that have the knack and are successful working with creative people and those that are not. The impact of these interactions turns out to be very significant. Cases have been won and lost because of a trial team's ability to interact well with a creative team. Like anything, it is a skill that can (and should) be learned. Over the past several decades, I've received feedback from hundreds of trial teams and I've seen feedback delivered to others by thousands more. Below are fourteen things to know about delivering feedback to the creative team.  When creative people create, they offer a piece of themselves up for criticism. Deliver your feedback with this in mind, and you'll be ahead of your peers. If you're a shouter, find someone else to work with the creative team. Say what you mean. It's incredibly important that you be honest about what you like and what you do not. Holding in your criticism in an effort to be kind is not the goal. The goal is to deliver feedback in a productive way.  Find the good and talk about it first. This one is a classic and is what is taught in art school. Simply, find something positive to say and then talk about what you do not like. Early feedback is the most important. If something feels “off” or wrong for the situation, don’t hesitate to give your feedback speedily. If you find yourself reading this list muttering something about sensitive snowflakes, you're not the best person to be working with creative people. Ask a colleague to be the messenger.

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Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently

I’ve written often about trial preparation -- and yet it seems like it’s never enough. I have a unique view of the litigation industry since I work with the absolute top-performing trial lawyers and with many other attorneys who aspire to be like them. What distinguishes the high performers from the mere aspirants is primarily their rigorous and intense preparation. Long-time readers of this blog might remember some of the articles we’ve written to try to help good trial attorneys become great trial lawyers. Here are some of them: 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do Sample One-Year Trial Prep Calendar for High Stakes Cases How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics? How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer and my absolute favorite in this trial preparation best-practices genre:  10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams If I had to summarize these articles, it would be simply that great trial attorneys prepare much earlier and much harder and with much more openness, communication and curiosity than merely good trial lawyers. They are comfortable with technology. They understand how to develop a courtroom presence. They practice relentlessly. I see it all the time.

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The Top 21 Litigation Articles of 2017

Every year going back to the start of this blog in 2011, I have paused to look back over the past 12 months of articles and see which were deemed best by our readers. Some articles have been read 90,000 times while others, often surprisingly, are only viewed a few dozen times. In this method of article ranking, every reader view is a vote. This year's top 21 list is consistent with recent years. Articles about storytelling and voir dire are the most read. The #1 ranked article, in particular, was very popular because it was not only about storytelling but features three top trial lawyers (all clients of A2L) talking on video about how they incorporate storytelling techniques into their advocacy. Enjoy these articles and please do encourage a friend to subscribe (for free) to this blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. Soon, we will have more than 10,000 subscribers. Each of these articles can be tweeted or shared on Linkedin using the buttons below the article. Click the titles to view the articles. 21. What Trial Lawyers Can Learn From Russian Facebook Ads 20. 5 Key Lessons You Can Learn From Mock Juries 19. How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer

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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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Please Pretty Up These Litigation Graphics

Since litigation graphics are so crucial to winning a case, it’s a necessity to put your litigation graphic artist in a position where he or she is most likely to succeed. How should a litigation graphic artist begin his or her work? Here are some possibilities.  The artist can listen to the attorneys and experts describe what kind of demonstrative exhibits they want; The artist can take direction from an intermediary like a litigation consultant or jury consultant; The artist can work from the pleadings; The artist can improve upon a deck that's already been produced in draft form; The artist can work from a trial outline; The artist can listen to the attorneys and experts confer with a litigation consultant and ask questions of his or her own, then agree on a plan based on this conversation. After 22 years of doing litigation graphics consulting, I believe the last method is the one that produces the best results. You might ask why. After all, wouldn't it be faster if the artist is simply told what to do, and wouldn’t it be cheaper of the artist is asked to work from a trial outline?

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