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Top 10 Articles About Opening Statements

The opening statement is, in most trials, the most important part of the case. Here, biases are formed and overcome, attention levels will be at their highest, and up to 80% of jurors will make up their minds about who will win. Over three decades, A2L Consulting has supported the development of thousands of opening statements. It's where our trial-lawyer clients and we invest the most time and energy. Our work has typically included: the creation of persuasive PowerPoint presentations to accompany well-developed opening statements to; practicing and refining an opening statement 100+ times until it is perfectly delivered; testing versions of opening statements in a mock trial setting to help best plan the trial strategy. Our team is made up of trial lawyers, psychologists, litigation graphics artists, and hot-seaters. We see many of the world's best trial lawyers practice their craft on a regular basis. As I have always said and written about, Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently. I often write about how their preparation is altogether different from an average litigator. When I do write about this topic, my goal is to cross-pollinate great techniques and ideas. This article is no different. I want to share some of what A2L has learned along the way both by watching great trial lawyers prepare for trial and by helping them do so. These best practices expressed in these top 10 articles/books/webinars about opening statements are unique. I hope you can put this information to use as you prepare for your next trial. How to Structure Your Next Speech, Opening Statement or Presentation 6 Reasons The Opening Statement is The Most Important Part of a Case 5 Things TED Talks Can Teach Us About Opening Statements

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Trial Lawyers: Only Do What Only You Can Do

"Only do what only you can do." My mentor throughout the 1990s and 2000s used to say this to me, and it was one of the best lessons a CEO with a fast-growing company could hear.  The message was, of course, to stop trying to do too much myself and let other people do their part. Don't micromanage. Don't rescue. Don't interfere. Don't hover. And do let people learn by doing - even if it means making (small) mistakes. The overall message was to delegate responsibly. Based on three decades of observing the world's best trial lawyers, I can confirm that the best trial lawyers are experts in delegation, whether they are first chair or fifth chair. However, many trial lawyers, particularly those with many members on a trial team, would benefit from better following the lead of the greats. The problems I've seen (and I bet you have too) are numerous. Because a trial lawyer can use PowerPoint, some insist on doing some or all of the litigation graphics. See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think. Because they've lived with the case for years, many trial lawyers are anxious about conducting a mock trial or asking for feedback on their planned narrative. See, 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams and The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best.

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10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation

Working at A2L, I have the distinct pleasure of watching many of the world's best trial lawyers prepare for trial. Most start months or years in advance. Those lawyers engage A2L early to do theme testing with a focus group or to organize and run a mock trial. Each of these events requires the creation of litigation graphics and usually assistance in developing an opening statement. Having watched so many great trial lawyers prepare for 25 years, I have been able to observe patterns in how they prepare. Below I share ten chronologically ordered tips (plus accompanying resources) based on these observations. If you're less than one year from trial, I hope these tips are still helpful, and I hope you will get in touch with me. More than one year from trial: There is no better time to do theme testing then when discovery is still open. Read more in How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation and as you start this journey, always remember that Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently. One year before trial: Plan your first of two mock trials. There are dozens of good reasons to conduct a mock trial, but forcing yourself to prepare early may be the very best one. Read my one-year trial planning guide and read A2L's Opening Statement Toolkit. Also, it is a good time to read A2L's Jury Consulting and Mock Trial Handbook. Nine months before trial: Begin or continue development of your litigation graphics. If you conducted a mock trial, you already have a good start. Read How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?, 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important and The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation. Six months before trial: Refine your opening statement story and the visuals that will support it. Make sure your experts have their visuals being worked on by your litigation graphics team - not the in-house people at the expert's firm. Watch Persuasive Storytelling for Trial Lawyers and read Storytelling for Litigators. To help develop your experts, have them read this three-part series on How to Be a Great Expert Witness. Three months before trial: Conduct opening statement practice sessions with your trial team, litigation consultants, and your client. Read The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best, 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation, and Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well.

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I'm very fortunate to have a lot of friends, and I often end up telling the same story more than once in order to catch people up on what’s going on in my business and personal lives. Sometimes it’s just out of friendship. Sometimes I want to hear my friend’s opinion. Sometimes I want to persuade. Since I’m also in the business of professional storytelling -- or at least in the business of helping others tell their stories in the most professional and persuasive way possible -- I pay attention to how I tell a story. I especially notice how the story evolves as I tell it for the third, fifth, or 20th time.  Because it ALWAYS evolves. Sometimes the story changes because I have new insights. Sometimes it changes because of how it seemed to affect the last person I told it to. Sometimes it changes because of direct feedback or insight from my friend or adviser. May 2019 was an unusual month, in which a variety of major things happened personally and professionally. In fact, so many things happened at once that I needed to lean hard on my various advisers for good advice and wisdom. After a month that involved a great many consultations, everything got better, and I noticed something about that process. With each new retelling of events, I noticed how I automatically refined my story to more easily inform my listeners. I automatically changed the order of how I presented facts so that they flowed better. I found that I had injected appropriate humor. My stories seemed to be effective. They even caused some people to take some action in parts of their personal and professional lives just because they heard them (aka persuasion). Hopefully, you see where I am going with this when it comes to our work with trial lawyers. It's NEVER your first story that sings. Refining your story requires constant interaction and dialogue with others. That's why I will never understand the trial lawyer who writes their opening statement the night before trial or the trial lawyer who refuses to do a mock trial. In 25 years of doing this work, I have learned without qualification that the very best trial lawyers want their answers questioned. They do the mock. They conduct practice sessions. They invite critiques. They are the best precisely because they do this. Practice and preparation are what separates the good from the great -- not the law school they went to, not the firm they work for, and not even the innate ability to connect with a jury. Other A2L articles about storytelling, visual storytelling, persuasion, trial prep, mock trials and practice include: Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel 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 The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere What Steve Jobs Can Teach Trial Lawyers About Trial Preparation 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well 7 Things In-House Misses When Litigation Consultants are Underutilized The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial FREE DOWNLOAD: Storytelling for Persuasion - 144-page complimentary book 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation Why Do I Need A Mock Trial If There Is No Real Voir Dire? 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials Trending: Mock Trial Testing of Litigation Graphics AND Arguments 10 Suggestions for Conducting Mock Bench Trial Consulting Exercises Mock Trials: Do They Work? Are They Valuable? 11 Surprising Areas Where We Are Using Mock Exercises and Testing $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L

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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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Litigation Graphics in Arbitrations

In most years at A2L, we are in one or more courtroom-based trials every single day of the year. Increasingly, however, I’m seeing arbitration take the place of more and more trials. One recent article published by Law360 noted that the number of federal trials has dropped by nearly half and pointed to the increased use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as one of the reasons for that. While the lawyers who lead an ADR team are often the same lawyers who run trial teams, I have noticed that there is far less sophistication in the use of litigation graphics during an arbitration as opposed to a trial. In trial, whether a bench trial or a jury trial, most litigators find a way to use litigation graphics. They don’t always do it well and many hurt themselves by making what are obvious mistakes to experts like us -- but at least they are trying. In arbitrations, however, I see a lot of trial lawyers acting gun shy when it comes to the use of litigation graphics. In my experience, lawyers should be using litigation graphics at every single arbitration, and it doesn’t matter whether the arbitrator or the panel of arbitrators are expert on the topic.

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This article is the last in a series of four articles about courtroom storytelling. My goal in this series is to reveal some of the tricks of the persuasive storytelling trade in one place for the busy trial lawyer. I hope that these recommendations can serve as a pretrial checklist for anyone who wants to draft an opening statement. A2L’s litigation consultants have published dozens of articles about storytelling, and we’ve released books and webinars on the subject. These ten tips represent the essence of what we have learned and of what we have taught. If you apply these ten suggestions when developing your story for trial, your story will be more persuasive, and you will radically increase your chances of winning your case. Tip #6. Your audience MUST care about the story. The audience should be emotionally transported. It has been said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Scientific studies show that when people listen to an effective story, their brains react more like participants than spectators. When we say that people experiencing a deep connection are “on the same wavelength,” there is neurological truth to that. Scientists at Princeton University looked at brain scans (fMRI) of storytellers and listeners to the stories. They found that the most active areas of the brains of the speakers and listeners matched up; they were in sync or coupled. However, this synchronized activity was found in the areas of the brain relevant to theory of mind, not in areas that drive memory or the prefrontal cortex associated with cognitive processing. The stronger the reported connection between speakers and listeners, the more neural synchronicity was observed in the test subjects. The extent of brain activity synchronicity predicted the success of the communication – so connecting with your audience more makes you more persuasive. Source: Storytelling Proven to be Scientifically More Persuasive.   Tip #7. Force participation of your audience. Engage the audience in the journey. As Pixar film director Andrew Stanton says, don’t give them 4, give them 2+2 and make them work to find the answer. Nineteenth-century writer William Archer wrote, “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” Make your audience members keenly aware of their uncertainties and holding on to their sense of anticipation. The goal of a presentation is always the same -- to engage the audience, to move them. This holds true regardless of the stage. It’s so in the courtroom, on the floor of the U.S. Congress, in the boardroom, and in the classroom. Litigators engage a jury to win their case for their client; professors engage their students so that they can best teach the subject matter. Engagement leads to better understanding, which then leads to better retention and enhanced persuasiveness. Retention and understanding are the keys to success.

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This article is the third in a series of four articles about courtroom storytelling (links to part 1 and part 2). My goal in this series is to reveal some of the tricks of the persuasive storytelling trade in one place for the busy trial lawyer. I hope that these recommendations can serve as a pretrial checklist for anyone who wants to draft an opening statement. A2L’s litigation consultants have published dozens of articles about storytelling, and we’ve released books and webinars on the subject. These ten tips represent the essence of what we have learned and of what we have taught. If you apply these ten suggestions when developing your story for trial, your story will be more persuasive, and you will radically increase your chances of winning your case. Here is the fifth of these ten tips. 5.  It is crucial to make your audience care about the characters in your story. It’s never just about a company. It’s never just about the CEO, and if Hollywood can make you care about a mute trash robot named WALL-E, you can make your factfinders care about the characters in your story. A major way to lose an audience is to fail to develop characters that a jury will care about. you don’t develop such characters, your jury will either not care about your side or will turn against your client from the start. Unfortunately, about half of all trial teams fail to properly develop the characters in their litigation story, and their cases suffer terribly for it. The excuses are numerous: from ‘We’re a big company, we don’t have individual characters” to “Everyone on our side is perceived as bad.” These are just excuses. I can guarantee that 99.9 percent of the time, there will be characters that can be developed. Here is a step-by-step guide to using Joseph Campbell’s model of the hero’s journey so as to turn your story’s main character into a hero. To make this useful pattern more accessible, I have attempted to use plain language to describe the steps. My plain language description is followed in parentheses by the name that Campbell gave to it. Also, to help bring the process alive, I have matched each step with an example from a hypothetical legal and technical fact pattern, typical of the cases we most often see at A2L. Here, our heroine is a lower-level employee at a stagnant remote-control manufacturing company, and she has an idea for a breakthrough product -- a remote control operated not with a handheld device but by wireless physical hand gestures.  Something Interrupts the Ordinary (Campbell's Call to Adventure): Describe the status quo as it was at the time. Then describe that moment when someone sees an opportunity for change or a new threat emerges. In the hypothetical example, remote controls are functional uninspiring devices that get lost, wear out and have undergone little change for 25 years, in the same era that saw the mass deployment of handheld phones and personal computers. Inspired by watching her nieces play a TV-displayed game that uses hand gestures instead of controllers, our heroine imagines a world where hand gestures alone can manipulate her television and replace standard remote controls. At work the next day, she hears a speech by the firm’s CEO who is looking for new ideas. Obstacles Arise (Campbell's Refusal of the Call): Share how obstacles arose from the very beginning that prevented your client from taking the leap of faith required to pursue the opportunity. Example: After hearing the speech, our heroine brings the idea to the attention of management at the remote-control factory and was laughed out of the executive suite. She figured they were in management for a reason and went back to manufacturing remote controls as before. A Mentor or Helper Appears (Campbell's Supernatural Aid): Explain how your client gets some unexpected assistance that is a sensible next step in bringing the opportunity to reality. Example: Our heroine attends a consumer electronics conference that shows off some new gaming technology that reminds her of her idea. She talks with the reps at the trade show booth about applications they’ve considered for their wireless controllers. They suggest she show them what she has in mind.

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