There are many situations outside of trial where lawyers find themselves in a courtroom or courtroom-like environment. Some examples include a mock trial, a pretrial hearing, an arbitration, a mediation, or an administrative hearing. Some of these situations are a lot like trial, yet I find many litigators don’t treat them like a trial. I think they should.
One such example whose lesson applies broadly to almost any trial attorney is a relatively new type of administrative hearing that occurs every day at the Patent & Trademark Office. It’s called an inter partes review hearing (IPR). And if you think this article applies only to patent litigators, you’re wrong. This type of hearing has lessons for all trial attorneys.
The work that patent litigators do is almost always complex. Over the past 24 years at A2L, roughly 40 percent of our work has involved patent litigation.
That makes sense because the work of A2L is perfectly suited to patent litigation. We have three primary services: conducting mock trials and jury research, simplifying complex information with litigation graphics and expert storytelling, and using trial technology to quickly convey information to the factfinder. Patent litigators, after all, need to convey complicated information in a jury-friendly way. It needs to be understandable and persuasive and needs to tell a story that people will care about, a story that must be delivered in a winning manner. That’s why as far back as the 1990s, it has been patent litigators whom A2L worked with most often.
In 2009, the America Invents Act (AIA) fundamentally changed the way in which patent cases are tried. The act allows for, among other things, something of a shortcut method to challenge the validity of a patent via a hearing at the Patent and Trademark office. There are judges and there is vigorous opposition from opposing counsel. But what’s missing here compared with most patent trials -- professionally prepared litigation graphics, a clear and compelling story, and an effort to highlight only the important information in the oral presentation. See 5 Tips For Inter Partes Review Hearing Presentations at the PTO. I heard a quote from Judge Learned Hand recently that underscores this last point:
With the courage which only comes of justified self-confidence, he dared to rest his case upon its strongest point, and so avoided that appearance of weakness and uncertainty which comes of a clutter of arguments. Few lawyers are willing to do this; it is the mark of the most distinguished talent.
If you want to see 100+ bullet point-ridden slides with trial counsel reading from them (see How Many PowerPoint Slides Should You Use in a Typical Trial? and 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations), this venue is all too often the place to find them. Considering the material and what is at stake, this is pure self-sabotage on behalf of a legal team. Patent lawyers generally do well at trial working with A2L, but for some reason, many have reverted to the behaviors of the 1980s and 1990s in this venue.
Of course, I notice this in all sorts of venues, unfortunately, and I want to raise awareness for both trial counsel and clients in all areas. The science is well settled on why litigation graphics are necessary - even in a bench trial environment. See 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations. The same is true for telling a compelling story and doing that efficiently.
I have heard this sentiment from judges and practitioners alike. One veteran patent litigator, Rob Mattson of the Oblon law firm, spoke to me about IPRs, “These cases are similar to a summary judgment hearing, and the judges want to understand the technology and what is in dispute as efficiently as possible. Getting the litigation graphics right here is just as important as in trial, although there may only be 20 key slides instead of 80.”
I believe that this is a broad lesson that goes well beyond the inter partes review hearing. Consider some of these articles on each of these areas and how they might apply to what you present to your fact-finder.