The choice of a trial graphics firm is one of the most important decisions that a trial lawyer can make. Since experts widely agree that about two-thirds of jurors and many judges prefer to learn visually, it can literally make the difference between winning and losing your case. However, many lawyers still use the wrong approach to the selection of a trial graphics consultant.
For example, they may choose a provider based on familiarity (“I know someone who does graphics . . .”), price (“the client has a tight budget . . . “), or proximity (“they’re right around the corner . . . “).
There are better ways to choose a consultant. Think of hiring a trial graphics provider as similar to the hiring of an expert witness. If you are hiring an expert witness, you are delegating a portion of the case to someone who has specialized knowledge and experience that you may not.
You would hire an electrical engineering expert witness to discuss the workings of a patented device. Similarly, you should hire a trial graphics provider, who is an expert in the field of information design, to create effective trial graphics for your case.
Here are 12 questions that you should ask any trial graphics provider that you are considering. The answers to these questions will, in all probability, lead you to the right decision.
- What kind of experience does the trial graphics consultant have in providing trial graphics consulting for cases like yours? (i.e. Can you show me examples? Cite case names? Provide litigator references?)
- Since the attorneys will be working with the provider on a daily or hourly basis, how easy will the trial graphics provider’s employees be to work with? (i.e. How do you feel about working weekends? How do I get in touch with you after hours? Does the provider's team have their mobile phone number on their business card?)
- How responsive will the trial graphics provider be to unexpected developments in the case that may require quick turn-around time? (i.e. How have they rapidly scaled a project team? Can you provide specific examples?)
- Is the trial graphics provider ready to work long hours at night or on weekends to help the attorneys? (i.e. Tell me of three instances where you have had to do this? Who can I call to verify these events?)
- How familiar are the trial graphics provider’s employees with the concepts behind your case and with the basics of courtroom procedure and evidence? (i.e. Some firms are run by lawyers and Ph.Ds while others are run by high school grads or computer scientists. Choose the right provider for your case.)
- Is the trial graphics provider able to suggest creative visual approaches to your case rather than merely accepting your initial thoughts and putting those into practice? (i.e. Will the provider be a true partner in your trial effort or merely an “order-taker”? Can you provide references who can speak to this?)
- Who will lead the project on the trial graphics consultant's team? (i.e. Will I have more than one point of contact to deal with? How many projects has the project lead managed previously? How will the provider update our team on critical path requirements, key deadlines and issues that could put timing in jeopardy?)
- Will the trial graphics provider be honest enough to be able to step back and provide an outside perspective on your case and its strengths and weaknesses? (i.e. What is the provider's value-add? How might the provider identify potential additional case themes? Are attorneys involved in the creative process throughout the project lifecycle?)
- Is the trial graphics provider able to discuss the cost of a project from the outset as well as the factors that may increase or decrease that cost as time goes on? (i.e. Will the firm consider a fixed price arrangement? If not, why not? Remember, [if] they provide these services all the time, they should be experienced enough to accurately estimate average costs).
- Will the trial graphics consultant keep you up to date on changes in the scope of the project that may affect the budget? (i.e. Can they talk comfortably about money? Do they know how to keep you out of hot-water with your client?)
- How long has the firm provided trial graphics services? (i.e. Are they an overseas e-discovery provider masquerading as a trial graphics consulting firm? Will your client's confidential information be sent to India?)
- Are the references the trial graphics consultant provides - like you? (i.e. If the case involves billions of dollars of toxic torts, is the trial graphics consultant providing references to high-profile but low-dollar disputes or vice versa?)