One of the many questions I often hear is: how far in advance should we engage a trial consulting or trial graphics firm?
Generally, we prefer to work with the trial team sooner rather than later, but it is not uncommon to get a last minute call for a trial that starts in a week or even a few days. However, the longer we have to prepare the better.
One of the benefits of starting earlier is that we can begin to develop the necessary rapport with the trial team and work together to develop case themes and a visual story - all tasks best facilitated by more time. Also, more time allows for additional prep time for presentations and trial graphics as well as other things such as electronic briefs, trial technology, and jury consulting, or even a mock trial/jury research.
Getting an early start can alleviate a lot of stress. Of course there will always be the last minute changes, as you get closer to trial, but at that point the changes are typically minor. However, more time to prepare can sometimes present as many challenges as having a short time to prepare.
One of the challenges we often face when we are given the luxury of engaging with a team earlier rather than later is managing the budget. It is easy for the trial team to get carried away when you have months to think about the demonstrative evidence. I’ve seen many times where teams either get bogged down with “nitty gritty” details and can’t agree on a color, to teams that want to see some of the craziest trial graphics ideas they can come up with, “because we have the time, right?” But time does not always equal budget.
I have laid out a seven tips below on how to keep things in check when getting an early start on preparing trial graphics.
1. Set a schedule and stick to it
After our first meeting with a team, it is always helpful for us to set a schedule for team meetings, first drafts etc. Sticking to this framework will keep everyone in check and alleviate the uncertainty about how to proceed and when to expect content to review.
2. Use this time to collaborate with your trial consultants not just reviewing the trial graphics
What better way to utilize this time than to work closely with your trial consultant? It doesn’t make much sense for our team to spend time developing 40 slides for opening statement when you haven’t even begun to think about it. Take this time to review the case and discuss the story and case themes with your trial consulting team. Telling your story and getting an “outsider's” feedback can help you to start weeding through the details.
3. Avoid the hurry up and wait approach
Once we are engaged, trial teams will sometimes want to see things immediately for review because they are excited to get started, and then they disappear for weeks. My suggestion is if you have the time, take the time. If we are engaged very early on, many of your case themes may not be fully developed so it is probably not in the best interest of your budget to make trial graphics that are likely to be irrelevant later. Instead, work with your consultants to develop the story first and then create the trial graphics.
4. Expect monthly budget updates from your trial consultant
Keeping the team apprised of where things stand with their budget is essential. Doing a regular assessment of costs not only keeps the client and our team aware of the level of effort being put into the project, it also can help head off an uncomfortable post trial discussion about the bill. Additionally, it helps our team assess the level of effort we are putting in. Are we spending too much time at the front end knowing that there will be a time-intensive crunch at the end that will throw everything off budget?
5. Don’t get hung up on the little things
This is key in any project whether we have one year or one week to prepare. Spending time discussing what shade of blue to use and wanting to see the same graphic with these different shades of blue is not a valuable use of time or budget. Unless there is a color that vehemently offends you, trust that your trial consultant and artists know what colors (or shades of blue) will work best.
6. Define the scope and layout a framework of the graphics
This ties directly in with number 2 above. Work with your consulting team, and layout a framework of what trial graphics are needed. Getting started in advance gives our team and yours the luxury of thinking about the case and what key demonstratives are really going to give you the edge you need. One way we have accomplished this successfully is to develop either a MindMap or an all-encompassing list of possible graphics that we see – everything from “A to Z.” Then, meet with the team to discuss how the graphics will look? What information will it convey? Do we really need it? Taking this approach, a lot less graphics end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak.
7. Be mindful of revisions
Revisions are many times the reason budgets get out of control. Having months to look at and think about the trial graphics can lead to too many revisions. One way to avoid this is to not make edits until your draft outlines are closer to final, and provide edits/revisions all at once. Providing edits/revisions piecemeal can really inflate time and budget.
So, when time is not of the essence, use that to your advantage, and remember these quick tips above to alleviate stress and bring your trial graphics needs in right on budget.
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