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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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At A2L, we publish so many articles about litigation and trial preparation that I like to share the best of the best periodically.

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At A2L, we are either conducting or actively planning a mock trial 365 days a year. As you probably know, mock trials are a tool that is very often used by serious trial teams involved in large trials to help uncover the ideal strategy to win a case. In a typical mock trial that we conduct, over 40 jurors will be recruited in the trial venue through a rigorous screening process. We even incorporate expected voir dire questions into the process. Based on individual verdicts and backgrounds, mock jurors are carefully evaluated to create three or four panels of 10 to 12 mock jurors. “Clopenings,” combined argumentative opening/closing statements, are presented for both sides of the case, litigation graphics are used to support these statements, and videotaped witness testimony may be included as part of the presentation. Typically, real-time data collection methods using an Audience Response System (“ARS”) will be used, similar to the approve vs. disapprove line graphs shown on the news during election seasons. Deliberations are conducted. A focus discussion following deliberations is facilitated by our jury consulting and litigation consulting team members. All proceedings are typically observed through one-way mirrors or via closed-circuit TV, as shown in the included image. Watching the deliberations is shocking for most trial lawyers. Without the constraints of the law or internal consistency, jurors’ responses can seem inconsistent, irrational, inexplicable and thus, frightening and random. They are not. Jurors rarely understand the cases as much as hoped, and they follow predictable behavior patterns (see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said). While their rationale may not match the lawyers’, there is a rationale to those willing to understand it from the jurors’ perspective. Finally, data are collected from the jurors, the results from the deliberations are tallied, and an oral and written report is presented to the trial team. This report includes specific tactics, both rhetorical and visual, that should be used at trial. We have written and taught about best practices for mock trials extensively. Some of those articles and webinars include: The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said - Watch Anytime Together, these resources provide an excellent manual for conducting a mock trial for an upcoming case. However, they don’t deeply address a trial team behavior I’ve seen show up in just about every mock trial our firm has conducted: The lawyers try to win – and I don’t mean fairly.

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If you're one of the nearly 10,000 long-time readers of this litigation consulting blog, you know that periodically, we list the recent articles that have proved the most popular. We measure popularity based on the number of times an article has been read, so these really are reader rankings. In today's article, I want to do something a little different. This time I'm listing not only the top three articles of the last quarter but also the current top three articles of all time (since 2011 when we started writing this blog). In a particular quarter, the top article may see a few thousands of individual readers reading it. However, an article on our blog for five or more years may see tens or hundreds of thousands of readers. Consistently, topics related to jury selection rank higher than those related to litigation graphics. I think this is because litigation graphics tend to be used primarily in large civil cases, whereas jury selection occurs in large and small cases and in both criminal and civil cases. These top articles should be interesting to many different types of readers. If you are interested in presenting at trial most effectively, the Netanyahu article should be studied carefully. If you participate in jury selection or hire people who do this kind of work, the voir dire article is a foundational piece. Top 3 Articles of Q2 2018:  Netanyahu Persuades and Presents Better Than Most Trial Lawyers     What Steve Jobs Can Teach Trial Lawyers About Trial Preparation     How Much do Jury Consultants, Litigation Graphics, and Hot-Seaters Cost -- Honestly?     Top 3 Articles Since 2011 (the life of our blog, The Litigation Consulting Report):   5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always   The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses   10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman

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A Surprising Lesson From Voir Dire

I get excited when I am called for jury duty. After all, my entire 25-year professional career has been focused on persuading judges and juries. Serving on a jury is a rare opportunity to get a view from the inside. It allows me to confirm everything I routinely watch in mock trials and have learned. For example, see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said. When I get called, and yesterday was that rare day, I watch everything -- from how potential jurors are organized to the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the pool, and every little choice the lawyers make, from clothing to tactics. Unfortunately, the fact that I am a litigation consultant always comes out during voir dire. The last time I was on jury duty, I made it through voir dire and served as foreman in a small traffic case. My fellow jurors said, “You know more about this than the rest of us, so you be our foreman.” That made sense to me, and I know myself to be a good facilitator of group discussions. It was all less formal and only five jurors were seated. Today was different. Thirty-six potential jurors were called for a 12-member jury. So I knew we were going to be facing a criminal matter. Ultimately, I was dismissed, but not before I had a chance to observe the process once again as a juror and to make some observations. Once voir dire began, I noticed that the prosecutor focused very heavily (probably too much) on potential jurors who had a connection with law enforcement and the legal industry. In the process, she exposed many government-friendly law and order jurors, doing herself a disservice. She also exposed me in a discussion around witnesses who lie – something that I had seen in a recent matter that A2L consulted on. Defense counsel put on an aggressive voir dire. She visibly angered many potential jurors by using deeply complicated hypotheticals and double negatives. Jurors turned against her, she invited many objections, and the judge ultimately turned against her as well. Her techniques exposed many jurors who were likely to be biased. However, her unapologetically brash approach distanced her from every juror. So, for the defendant's sake, I hope that her co-counsel is putting on the opening. This was not just my opinion. After being released, a group of 10 also-released jurors rode down in the elevator with me. They were abuzz with negative comments about defense counsel. I asked, so did she piss you off? The universal answer was hell yes. The lesson is that although there’s no question that it’s a good idea to weed out certain types of jurors, trial lawyers must never forget that they are dealing with human beings, not computers. It’s possible to antagonize the very jurors whose votes you need as early as the voir dire process. Don’t do anything that can stand in the way of building that fragile rapport that a trial lawyer needs to develop with the jury. Other free A2L Consulting articles and resources about voir dire, jury selection, being likeable, and more: 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said A Jury Consultant Is Called for Jury Duty 5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always 5 Voir Dire Questions to Avoid The Voir Dire Handbook | Free Download | A2L Consulting Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 7 Tips to Take “Dire” out of Voir Dire 10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You 10 Signs of a Good Jury Questionnaire 13 Revolutionary Changes in Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It? 12 Insider Tips for Choosing a Jury Consultant Do I Need a Local Jury Consultant? Maybe. Here are 7 Considerations. Who Are The Highest-Rated Jury Consultants? Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said  

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Courtroom Technology and Its Limitations

We write here frequently about the importance of using visual evidence in trials and indeed in all sorts of other legal forums. But technology is not the be-all and end-all of persuasion. It is a very useful tool, but the importance of technology does not lessen the need to tell a convincing story to a jury or another decisionmaker. In fact, if courtroom technology is not deployed correctly, presenting visuals to a judge or jury can detract from one’s message rather than enhance it. In other words, figuring out who will be victorious at trial is not simply a matter of determining who is using litigation graphics and who is not. Any trial is ultimately about how each side can use its graphics to support an effective story. Technology-based graphics, therefore, should not be used to make up for the trial skills a lawyer lacks, but rather to enhance the skills he or she already possesses. The type of technological visual is another variable to consider when presenting an argument. Some research has suggested that depending on the case, different types of technology-based graphics can have different persuasive effects on the jury. For example, researchers compared a computer simulation of an air crash, an audiotape with written transcript of a cockpit voice recorder, and a speaker reading the cockpit voice recorder, and asked people to decide whether they believed there was a pilot error based on the evidence to which they had been exposed. The researchers found that jurors who were shown the computer animation believed the flight crew to be significantly less negligent that the other jurors who did not. Animations are so powerful because they can take us to places human beings cannot go. But even without animations, simple PowerPoint slides can be quite effective in advancing your narrative if done right.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Every month, 1,000-2,000 free e-books and webinars are downloaded and viewed on A2L Consulting's web site. These free resources are likely the single best place on the Internet to learn how the best trial lawyers prepare for and win at trial. It's an exchange of litigation's best practices like no other. Judging by the topics searched for and read during the 100,000+ visits to A2L's website and industry-leading litigation blog so far in 2017, the legal industry is especially eager to learn more about voir dire, storytelling for persuasion (including visual persuasion), and jury consulting generally. Below are the top 10 free litigation best practice resources that have been downloaded and viewed so far in 2017. Choose your favorite(s) now, share this list with friends, and improve your results. Really, everything below is complimentary.    10. The Opening Statement Toolkit: In this 219-page book, you will find 66 articles curated from A2L's massive collection of posts related to litigation and persuasion. Each article relates to opening statements in some way.    9. Why Work with A2L: This free guide details how we think as litigation consultants and the value that litigation consultants provide generally. It's a useful tool to hand to in-house counsel to explain how jury, graphics, and technology consultants can contribute to winning a case.    8. Top 75 Articles of All Time: Our litigation consultants have compiled 75 expert articles on topics related to litigation support and litigation generally. This free book compiled the top 75 articles written in the first five years of our litigation and persuasion blog.    7. The Voir Dire Handbook: This one-of-a-kind and brand-new book will be helpful to junior and veteran courtroom practitioners alike. Because the composition of a jury can dramatically affect the outcome of the case, it is vitally important to get voir dire right and use whatever tools are available for doing so.    6. Using Litigation Graphics at Trial: In our most comprehensive e-book about litigation graphics and courtroom persuasion, A2L's jury and graphics consultants have compiled 74 expert articles in what is a first-of-its-kind book.    5. Tactics for Complex Civil Litigation: Whether you are a veteran trial lawyer or support trial teams, you will find this book valuable. This guidebook includes 74 articles about how to best to prepare and try a complex civil case for bench and jury trials.    4. How to Use Storytelling in Litigation E-Book: In our biggest e-book yet on courtroom storytelling, our litigation consultants have compiled 75 expert articles on topics related to litigation support and litigation generally.    3. How to Design and Use a Great Trial Timeline: This book is a must-have for anyone who prepares informative or persuasive timelines designed to influence and change what people think.    2. Using Storytelling as a Persuasion Tool at Trial Webinar: Whether you are in-house counsel, outside counsel, or litigation support, this 60-minute webinar plus 20-minute Q&A will improve your understanding and use of storytelling techniques during litigation. Led by seasoned litigator, Tony Klapper.   1. The Litigation Consulting Report Blog: Every month, 200 or more people subscribe to our blog. Six years into its existence, there are nearly 10,000 subscribers. You or a friend can subscribe free here, and you can control how often you hear about new articles (published 1x-3x/week) here.

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by Ken Lopez Founder/CEO A2L Consulting Imagine a world in which the best trial lawyers work in small boutique litigation firms and charge clients half of current rates. Many people have imagined such a world for a long time, and even though we're not there yet, we're closer than we used to be. Today, a few of these smaller firms do exist. They are being run by some of the world's best trial lawyers, and these lawyers do in fact charge a lot less than they used to. However, this does not represent a new type of law firm; this type of firm has always existed. After a while, these firms either become large law firms with a refreshed culture of entrepreneurialism (e.g. Boies Schiller) or they get absorbed into a big law firm (e.g. Bancroft LLP into Kirkland & Ellis). Only a small handful of firms have found something of a middle ground and are able to deliver large law firm results without a lawyer headcount in the thousands (e.g. Bartlit Beck and Williams & Connolly). Working closely with boutique law firms as we do, I see that large companies are getting much of what they hoped for. They get exceptional lawyering, better rates, and that big-firm swagger that unmistakably contributes to winning cases. There are some gaps, however, and the best of these firms acknowledge it and fill it with litigation consultants. It turns out that sometimes the resources and scale of a large law firm are precisely what is needed to overwhelm and overrun an opponent. A large enough army can always overrun even the most elite small special forces team. However, this is only true if the elite group does not have a means of bringing in more support on a moment's notice. The best in-house departments see this nimbleness as a strength.  Our litigation consulting firm is often called upon to serve in this role. So here are 12 ways that we can make a litigation boutique as powerful as a very large law firm. We help keep prices down. If you're a big law firm, built into every hour billed is a cost for marketing, all those offices, and all that support staff. That is not true for a small firm. The small firm does not need to keep full-time staff on hand for services that are more efficiently outsourced (e.g. litigation graphics, trial technician services, and other trial consulting services). See 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms. We amplify the skills of the best members of the trial team. Part of our role for many of the top trial lawyers is to help them hone their skill set. See Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere. We amplify the skills of other members of the trial team. In the new litigation boutiques, there are often a handful of superstars, but there are always some lawyers who can benefit from learning the best practices of the best trial lawyers. Firms like A2L are in a unique position to transfer skills from one top trial team to another. See How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer. We free up the busiest trial lawyers to do what they do best. When you're one of the elite, management of your time is essential. Saying "no" and letting go becomes the new "yes." See How Valuable is Your Time vs. Litigation Support's Time?

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