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Trial Lawyers and the Power of Silence

Ken Lopez
By: Ken Lopez

Trial Preparation, Timelines, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Storytelling, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Trial Graphics, Aviation Litigation, Litigation Support, Persuasion, Visual Persuasion

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:

persuasive storytelling for litigators trial webinar free

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