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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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At A2L, we publish so many articles valuable to trial lawyers and litigation professionals that we like to share our very best periodically. Below are the top three articles (based on readership) published in the second quarter of 2019. Each has links that allow you to easily share the article on Twitter or LinkedIn. Top 3 A2L Litigation Articles Published in Q2 2019 1. 5 Valuable Lessons From Some Horrible Infographics 2. 10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation 3. A Useful Directory of Federal Courtroom Technology

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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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One Demonstrative Exhibit, One Concept

I was in New Orleans recently to speak at the DRI Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Seminar, and while I was in the city, I took some time to visit the National WW II Museum in the downtown area. At the museum, I was struck by a graphic exhibit that showed that in 1941, the United States had only 336,000 soldiers in uniform, compared with 850,000 for Japan and 3.1 million for Nazi Germany. There is a quick and easy lesson here for trial lawyers.

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