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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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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting Lately, I’ve been reading journalist Thomas Friedman’s current book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in an Age of Accelerations, and I’ve been reflecting on some of the book’s messages. The book focuses on the new, fast-moving world that technology has created for all of us and how we should adapt to living in it. It’s not explicitly about lawyers or trial preparation. But I think there are three lessons that lawyers and trial consultants can learn from Friedman’s book. It’s important to set aside time to think and reflect, to look at the bigger picture. That’s what Friedman meant by “being late” and its virtues. For the trial lawyer and consultant, the message is straightforward: Get off the constantly turning hamster wheel of time. Don’t focus endlessly on the myriad documents, motions and combative correspondence with opposing counsel in the case. Think of what the broad narrative should be. Ask yourself what the case is really about, not what you were doing in the last 15 minutes.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Trial teams routinely spend tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, developing litigation graphics for a big case. They do this because litigation graphics are among the top five things that can affect the outcome of a trial. Over three decades and after thousands of conversations with trial teams about litigation graphics, I've watched some cases start off on the right foot and some on the wrong foot. That turns out to be critical. Frequently, the way an engagement starts between a litigation graphics team and a trial team will define the success of the engagement. So, here are 11 best practices designed to help your trial team get the first meeting (we call these meetings intake meetings) with your litigation graphics team just right.  Know your litigation graphics provider. There are two kinds. The first type is a true consulting or trusted adviser firm populated by litigators, jury consultants, and information artists. The second is really a group of order takers or trial technicians. How you behave toward each type of firm matters enormously. The latter type shouldn’t be considered for big-ticket litigation, so I won't further address how to handle them. Send the litigation graphics team the pleadings in advance. Great litigation graphics consultants can digest and synthesize enormous amounts of information. The sooner you send that information, the better. Time matters enormously. I don't think you can conduct a proper intake meeting in less than an hour. I've had some run eight hours. I think the right amount of time is probably about two hours. Advocate! This is a good chance for you to convince a group of people who don't know much about your case that you are right and you deserve to win. It's easy practice. 

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Law360 is a top legal industry publisher owned by Lexis-Nexis. Its daily newsletters are a must-read for trial lawyers involved in big-ticket litigation. This interview, Trial Consultants Q&A: A2L Consulting's Ken Lopez, was originally published on April 28, 2017, and is reprinted here with permission. Links to A2L articles and resources have been added by A2L in this reprint. Q: What aspect of trial consulting do you and your firm specialize in? What is unique about your firm, compared to other trial consulting firms? A: Founded in 1995, our firm is a leading national litigation consulting firm that helps trial lawyers and other advocates more reliably win complex and high-dollar disputes. We are typically in trial year-round and deliver world-class client-pleasing results in three key service areas: jury research and consulting, litigation graphics consulting, and trial technology consulting. We have recently been voted #1 in each of these categories by major legal publications. The composition of our leadership distinguishes it from other trial consulting and litigation consultant firms. Unlike firms whose origins are rooted in the trial technology business, the engineering business or the marketing/public relations fields, our team is composed of experts in the persuasion sciences. These include former litigators from top law firms, attorney-artists and social science Ph.Ds with decades of experience working with judges and juries. We primarily serve AmLaw 100 law firms and their clients. However, the firm regularly works with boutique law firms and in-house departments. It counts amongst its clients nearly all top law firms and a large portion of the Fortune 500. Most people find A2L through its litigation and persuasion-focused blog, The Litigation Consulting Report. It has nearly 10,000 subscribers and was named one of the top ten blogs in litigation by the American Bar Association. Q: What was the most interesting or memorable case that you worked on? A: The average case at A2L Consulting is a business dispute between global companies with $100 million at stake where we provide jury consulting, a mock trial, litigation graphics, and courtroom hot-seat trial technology support. One of our most memorable cases was entirely — not average. Through a top trial lawyer, we were hired to work on behalf of a surviving family member of the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in the Everglades. This was not a plane that exploded or quickly crashed. Instead, oxygen containers in the cargo area helped fuel a fire that caused smoke to fill the plane. Then, the oxygen-fueled fire burned through the passenger cabin floor from below. After some time, controls on the plane were destroyed by the fire. Then, the plane flipped and dove into the Everglades below. No one survived. It took a long time for the tragedy to unfold and the passengers had awareness of what was happened. We know this because the plane was equipped with recording devices in both the cockpit and the passenger cabin. The recording is confidential, but none of us who worked on this case will ever forget what we heard on that recording. To help the jury visualize the experience the passengers had, we could have created a 3-D animation to show what the experience inside of the cabin was like. Instead, we synced that chilling audio with an animation we created that helped tell the tragic story. Once the animation was admitted into evidence, the case quickly settled. Q: Which stage of the trial process is the most challenging, and why? A: While we support all phases of litigation from prefiling to appeal, our firm most often focuses its consulting efforts on the opening statement. Indeed, we speak and write about opening statements often. Perhaps second only to jury selection, the opening statement can make or break an entire case. It provides the framework and narrative upon which the judge or jury will hear the evidence. For many, consciously or subconsciously, the decision about the outcome of the case will be made during opening statement. Because the opening statement is so critical, the best trial lawyers expend enormous amounts of effort preparing for openings. I’ve seen some trial lawyers practice their opening more than 100 times over the course of a year. Not surprisingly, these trial lawyers tend to win their cases. In every type of litigation consulting we provide, the opening statement is a central focus. When we conduct a mock trial, the attorneys present their openings to mock jurors or mock judges. When our senior litigation consultants work with top trial lawyers to refine their trial presentation, we ask them to present their openings as part of that process. When we design a PowerPoint presentation for opening, we ask our clients to do run-throughs of openings. When we introduce one of our trial technicians/hot-seat operators to a trial team, we ask the first chair to practice opening statements so they develop a rapport with the trial tech. Indeed, sometimes, we are asked to draft an opening statement as part of our litigation consulting effort. Opening statements are the most challenging part of the trial process because they should be. Cases are regularly won and lost because of them. Q: How has trial consulting evolved over time? What major differences are there between the industry when you started and the industry now? A: Our firm, now a national litigation consulting firm with jury consulting, litigation graphics consulting and trial technology consulting practices all voted #1 by the legal industry, was started as Animators at Law, an animation and litigation graphics firm for trial lawyers focused on persuasion. Back in the mid-1990s when we started our firm, the idea of using demonstrative evidence/litigation graphics during a trial was new. Today, no serious trial lawyer would go to trial in big-ticket litigation without litigation graphics and nearly all would hire a litigation graphics consulting firm like ours. When we started our firm, PowerPoint did not exist. Most litigation graphics were printed trial boards. Today, trial boards are used as unique emphasis tools that supplement a PowerPoint trial presentation. The practice of jury research has changed too. It has evolved from a guru-dominated practice where gut instinct drove many decisions. Today, there is more scientific rigor among top jury research firms. They let the data speak for itself and supplement that data with advice based on experience. Of course, the trial technology practice has radically changed. In the 1990s, it barely existed. Now, the complexity of cases demands that an experienced trial technician/hot-seat operator run the technology, show the trial presentation and be ready to pull up evidence on a moment’s notice. Q: What are some of the biggest challenges when working with attorneys and their clients? A: One of my colleagues likes to say, “they call it the practice of law, but nobody is practicing.” I agree wholeheartedly. If I could change one thing about the way trial lawyers prepare for trial, it would be the way they practice. The correlation between open practice in front of peers and winning cases is unmistakable. Half of the time, trial lawyers practice extensively and seek feedback from litigation consultants and colleagues. These lawyers tend to win their cases. When we see a trial lawyer who wants to privately prepare their trial presentation on the eve of trial, we worry. It’s not that this approach can’t work. It often does. Instead, we simply recognize that the more a trial team openly practices, the more often that trial team wins.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Our clients at A2L tend to be the best of the best trial lawyers. It's a privilege to work with the people that we work with. We learn from them, and they learn from us. It's that last point, though, that can be a sticking point for trial lawyers who are not used to working with litigation consultants. They wonder . . . Why would I need a litigation consultant or coach if I'm already recognized as one of the best at what I do? I know I'm one of the best, and I know this litigation consultant is not better than me, so how are they helpful?  What if I'm perceived to not be as good as my reputation? All these responses are very normal reactions to someone accepting coaching for the first time or for the first time in a long time. However, they can all be answered with some combination of the following three answers: Most of us have had a coach at some time in our lives. If we were very young, they were probably better than us, and they could show us the right things to do to be better at our craft. If we were adolescent or older, our coaches were often not better than us at the thing being coached. Instead, in adulthood, our coaches are usually not there to model the behavior that makes us better. Rather, they are there to help us be our best. Whether it is observing our golf swing and using cameras and computers to compare it with the ideal golf swing; whether it is telling us whether our piano concerto is being played with emotion and passion as opposed to being too mechanical; or whether it is suggesting a rearrangement of the order of an opening statement; the idea is the same. The goal of a great coach is to bring out the best. See, The Real Value of Jury Consulting, Litigation Graphics & Trial Tech. At the risk of quoting a litigator colleague too often in my writings, I will note again that they call it the practice of law but nobody is practicing! It’s only a minority of trial lawyers who routinely practice their trial presentations. I think they are doing themselves a tremendous disservice when they don't practice, and I don't believe the clients should tolerate this. A litigation consultant will make sure they practice and will help them practice. See, 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do Even Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Katy Perry, and Joel Osteen have had coaches. All of these people were better than their coaches. You may be the best at what you do, but ask yourself, why do people who are the best at what they do still use coaches? To make it really hit home, ask yourself why many of your colleagues from other firms use litigation consultants to improve their results at trial? The answers will help you become a better trial lawyer. See, Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators Other FREE A2L Consulting resources about practicing for trial, using litigation consultants, the value of a litigation coach, and how to best practice your trial presentation: 7 Things In-House Misses When Litigation Consultants are Underutilized Lawyers: It’s Time to Make Time for Trial Preparation 12 Reasons Using Trial Consultants (Like Us) Is Possibly Not Fair The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio [Free Download] Trial Lawyer’s Guide to Jury Consulting & Mock Trials The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement With So Few Trials, Where Do You Find Trial Experience Now? Litigator & Litigation Consultant Value Added: A "Simple" Final Product Litigation Consultant: Embrace a Two-Track Strategy & Win the War 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial FREE E-BOOK: Making Great Speeches and Connecting with Your Audience Accepting Litigation Consulting is the New Hurdle for Litigators 16 Trial Presentation Tips You Can Learn from Hollywood Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle Mock trial services lead by a jury consultant with 400+ mock trials 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams Free Guidebook: Why Should I Work with A2L Consulting?

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by Tony Klapper Managing Director, Litigation Consulting A2L Consulting For the purpose of telling a story or presenting data, experts have, over the years, suggested two different approaches. I will call them the “static” approach and the “build” approach. The static approach, in the hands of outstanding practitioners of data presentation, can have memorable results. Essentially, it conveys a great many types of information simultaneously, using graphic elements to show the relationship among the different varieties of data. Long before the advent of computers, French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard, a pioneer in the presentation of data, created brilliant drawings depicting Napoleon’s Russian military campaign of 1812. These are a classic example of the static approach. The drawings, published in 1869, show the size of Napoleon’s army at each point of the campaign, the distance traveled, the latitude and longitude, and other key pieces of information. The acclaimed contemporary information scientist Edward Tufte says Minard’s work is “probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn,” high praise indeed. Trial lawyers also need to tell stories and present complex data sets to juries. That, in fact, is a good summary of what trial lawyers do. Lawyers and clients sometimes ask us at A2L to use this “static” approach and create a demonstrative that “says it all” in one large graph or chart. However, despite Tufte’s praise for Minard’s classic design, we think that judges and juries often learn better from a “build” approach, which starts with the basics of a story and builds it up incrementally. In our view, there is great benefit to not overwhelming a jury but in reaching a result in baby steps, especially when using a PowerPoint presentation for a jury trial. If a jury went into deliberations using a Minard-type document, we are not sure that all the jurors would fully see the ramifications of all the data, no matter how skillfully it was presented. In fact, the presentation itself during trial may take too much time and may be ineffective—as the lawyer (or the witness) is trying to orient the jury as to what to focus on and not focus on at any particular moment in the narrative. People tend to learn incrementally, not all at once. When many variables need to be presented – say, corporate earnings and profits, the number of market competitors, and prices over time – we often prefer to start with a PowerPoint with just one of those variables and build it up slowly. Trials are one area of endeavor in which we think the “build” approach may work better than the “static” approach. Other free and popular A2L Consulting articles related to legal infographics, PowerPoint litigation graphics, PowerPoint presentation for a jury trial, and demonstrative evidence generally: 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint 15 Fascinating Legal and Litigation Infographics Information Design and Litigation Graphics Litigators, Portray Your Client As a Hero In 17 Easy Storytelling Steps Litigation Graphics, Psychology and Color Meaning 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations How Much Text on a PowerPoint Slide is Too Much? 9 Things I’ve Noticed About Effective Litigation Graphics After 20 Years as a Litigator 16 Litigation Graphics Lessons for Mid-Sized Law Firms 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms Why Trial Tech ≠ Litigation Graphics Good-Looking Graphic Design ≠ Good-Working Visual Persuasion 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting The best defense lawyers come to A2L with their toughest cases. This means that some of the cases that arrive on our doorstep are essentially unwinnable. Although the trial team won't often directly say so, they will say, “The client considers a plaintiff's verdict for anything between zero dollars and XYZ dollars a win." In these cases, typically, there is no good settlement position. Our company is highly focused on winning cases. We just love doing it, and it is central to our culture. So it can be a tough adjustment for our team and our clients when we have to accept that we're going to lose. Surprisingly, there is a real art to this. Here are the trial strategies we recommend when taking a case to trial and your goal is not to win, but to lose an acceptable amount of money. Test the case with a mock jury (to be sure you lose). All cases with sufficient dollars or issues at stake benefit from research in a mock trial process. This is true whether it’s a bench trial or a jury trial. Often, when you are listening to your mock panel deliberate, you hear a line of reasoning that may take your argument in a new and positive direction. See 7 Reasons In-House Counsel Should Want a Mock Trial and 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials and 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement.   Test the case with a mock jury (to know why you lose). It's often surprising to me how independent panels of mock jurors will reason through a case the same way. There are patterns common to almost all juries. However, it is actually helpful to hear multiple panels from a mock jury separately reason through a case and pick the same good guys and bad guys and apply the same set of values to decide the outcome. See 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said and Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said.

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