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Finally. High-quality litigation graphics made an appearance at the impeachment trial. If you are a trial lawyer or you help trial lawyers, this article is a must-read, because it will help you see the future and help you persuade better. I've published three recent articles about the impeachment hearings/trial and the litigation graphics and technology used: 5 Litigation Graphics Lessons from the Impeachment Hearings Who Won the Impeachment Trial Initial Opening Statements? Impeachment Hearings Provide Trial Technology Lessons I thought those three articles would be my last on the subject, and then something impressive happened. Objectively effective litigation graphics were (finally) used on Day 6, and they offer a look into the future for all trial lawyers. The first five days of the impeachment trial left me feeling sad for those rare few of us who are experts in the art and science of litigation graphics. For the most part, the PowerPoints used were better than nothing but fell far short of maximizing persuasion (based on current persuasion science). They looked like what lawyers can create on their own, what you see at most trials, and what you see in most corporate conference rooms. They were ugly and flawed. Again, though, they were better than nothing. When defense counsel presented opening statements on Day 1 of the trial and used no visuals, I was confused. I know the background of some of these lawyers and have worked with some of them. I know they know better. It was disheartening.  And then came the opening defense arguments on Day 6, and finally, excellent litigation graphics made an appearance.  As I've said before, none of my articles are political in any way. I am only commenting on the quality of the litigation graphics presentations and technology used. I'm leaving the content entirely alone. Nevertheless, I know it's hard to separate the litigation graphics from the messenger if you feel strongly about one side or the other. But, if you are a trial lawyer, you really should be able to separate the two. The litigation graphics used on Day 6 were very good - both from a persuasion science standpoint and from an artistic standpoint. I appreciate the sophistication of them as they now can help me explain what good PowerPoint looks like (without getting into our presentations which are often sensitive or confidential). Let's discuss five key points and briefly discuss what you can learn from them. 1. These litigation graphics were more like a news graphic than a trial graphic. The national news industry is years ahead of most of the legal industry in creating memorable and persuasive graphics. I've written about this in articles like 10 Things Litigators Can Learn From Newscasters and Watch The Weather Channel Use Animation to Persuade.

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I've written two articles recently about the impeachment proceedings, and after publishing each, someone has written to me and accused me of bias. With thousands of people reading these articles, this is to be expected, I suppose. Well, in these two bias accusations, I was accused once by the left and then next by the right. I'm proud of this fact, as this suggests I'm not actually demonstrating bias. In fact, I believe my political beliefs are not relevant in my role as CEO of A2L. We're not a political entity. So, I have to warn you, this article is not political, it is not about the content of the statements the presenters made, and it is also not really about the weight of the evidence on either side of the impeachment trial. It is, however, about who won the first day of trial presentations during the Senate impeachment trial — from a trial presentation best-practices standpoint. On this question, I thought the answer was clear.

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Last month I wrote about trial technology lessons trial lawyers could learn from the impeachment hearings. In that article, I highlighted a (common) technology mistake one congressman made using PowerPoint as part of their effort to question a witness. As the impeachment hearings moved into the next phase in front of the Judiciary Committee,even more PowerPoint presentations were being used to help question witnesses. Unfortunately, since most of the members of congress are not routinely presenting and persuading with PowerPoint, they made many of the same litigation graphics mistakes that a novice trial lawyer might. PowerPoint is a funny thing. Anyone can use it (even trial lawyers, paralegals, and associates), but almost no one can use it well when persuasion is the goal. Since anyone can make a slide that looks pretty good, they often don't know they are damaging their persuasiveness in the process of creating a slide. In many trial presentations I see, lawyers who do their own work would have been far better off not using trial graphics at all. If you are an expert in the field (like the team at A2L), you know there are simply too many rules of psychology, technical challenges, and skill sets to keep track of it all -- unless you do this kind of work every day. We have written about this many times in articles like: 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think 17 Reasons Why Litigation Consultants Are Better at Graphics Than Law Firms Trial Lawyers: Only Do What Only You Can Do In the judiciary phase of the impeachment hearings, I noticed the same kinds of mistakes were made over and over. Many relate to the most common type of litigation graphic -- the call-out. A call-out litigation graphic is one where a portion of a document is highlighted or magnified in someway to draw attention to some aspect of the document, often just some key phrases. We’ve written about best practices involving call-outs many times before: Should You Read Documents Out Loud at Trial? Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias 3 Styles of Document Call-outs Used at Trial During a single day of hearings, I noticed at least five key problems that were repeated over and over. 1. Font size.  The font size used throughout most of the hearings was generally not large enough. I try to encourage people not to let their font size dip below 28 points in PowerPoint. It’s a common rule that gets broken, but when you see your witnesses or jurors squinting, you know you’ve got an issue (as seen in the photo below).   2. Font Clarity. I think many call-outs are better when they are re-typed. Re-typing just makes the text more clear in most cases. I understand that many trial lawyers want a jury to feel that they are seeing the real document, but I believe this is best achieved by showing an image of the complete document and coupling that with a re-typed call-out in a font that matches the document. No one can read the tiny, fuzzy, and low-contrast text in the document call-out below when it is projected onto a screen. The designer would have been much better off showing the slide below, then highlighting, then doing a re-typed version of the text in a call-out that filled the screen.

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I’ve been in the litigation graphics consulting business for 30 years. In that time, I’ve witnessed technology transitions from printed trial boards to laser disks to PowerPoint and much more. However, the most important transition I’ve seen involves a shift in belief. Top-tier trial lawyers who once viewed litigation graphics as optional now understand they are essential. Note that I say “understand” rather than “belief.” That’s because the need for high-quality and well-designed litigation graphics is rooted in science, not in a belief system. Study after study in the last 50 years authoritatively prove that litigation graphics are a requirement -- not a luxury -- for effective persuasion. Even after 30 years and thousands of cases, I genuinely love trying to figure out how to make a complex or boring case interesting and understandable while using the latest in persuasion science to convince the factfinder(s) that our position is correct. I’m passionate about this work, and I enjoy writing about it. Below are the fifteen articles that I think are a must-read for every trial lawyer (and the trial team members who support them) who is serious about persuading judges and juries. I’ve added a few bonus webinars and books after the list. Read these and the articles linked to from these articles, and you’ll be a near-expert in litigation graphics theory and visual persuasion. 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations

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I speak and write often about the kind of mistakes that lawyers often make at trial in presenting graphics. Some of these critical errors include reading your PowerPoint slides, presenting overly dense and complex information, coupling low-contrast demonstratives with a low-quality projector, and even using fonts that are too small. All of these mistakes can radically reduce your persuasiveness. A2L articles like, The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make, The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes, and 24 Mistakes That Make For a DeMONSTERative Evidence Nightmare are valuable for any trial lawyer and will help you overcome many a pitfall. Most of our litigation graphics clients who hire A2L to help develop their opening, closing, and expert presentations, say during the creative process that “I'll know it when I see it.” Indeed, just as choosing from a number of demonstrative options is a helpful time and energy saver for most trial attorneys, there’s also no substitute for seeing a mistake to appreciate why it is bad. That's the spirit of this article. I recently found a small corner of the Internet that highlights terrible infographics, and there are many useful lessons here for trial lawyers. Let's review a few and hope they don't remind you of anything done by your team or litigation graphics provider.   Use the Right Type of Chart Great design is not form over function. Instead, it is function first with beautiful form (see, Litigation Graphics: It's Not a Beauty Contest). While this chart above is interesting to look at, it's annoying from the perspective of quickly conveying information. As I wrote in a recent post, litigation graphics should be very clear AND very quickly understood. See, One Demonstrative Exhibit, One Concept. I think litigation graphics should generally be able to stand on their own without explanation and be understood in less than 30 seconds. This chart would be much clearer if presented as a column chart with the dates running chronologically from left to right along the bottom. One could emphasize the differences in ages by having the left side of the chart run from 50 - 75 instead of something like 0-100. We've discussed this chart “cheat” before in 5 Demonstrative Evidence Tricks and Cheats to Watch Out For.

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This article is the second in a series of four articles about courtroom storytelling (here is a link to part 1). My goal in this series is to reveal some of the tricks of the persuasive storytelling trade in one place for the busy trial lawyer. I hope that these recommendations can serve as a pretrial checklist for anyone who wants to draft an opening statement. A2L’s litigation consultants have published dozens of articles about storytelling, and we’ve released books and webinars on the subject. These ten tips represent the essence of what we have learned and of what we have taught. If you apply these ten suggestions when developing your story for trial, your story will be more persuasive, and you will radically increase your chances of winning your case. Tip #2. Charisma and likability matter. The best set of facts may not save a trial lawyer who is unattractive and poorly dressed. This isn’t fair or right, but it is a reality that science proves out. For these reasons and more, it is imperative to put your best foot forward. "Your job as a persuasive litigator is to understand the factors that can be used properly and ethically to be more likable and thus more persuasive. As your case becomes more complicated, jurors are more likely to seek shortcuts and give more weight to easier factors to understand, such as which attorney they like and which they don’t.  The less personally involved jurors are with evidence, such as information that is too dry or difficult, the more they tend to rely on peripheral cues rather than on an argument’s actual strength. Being liked is an important ingredient in the cocktail of peripheral cues jurors use to decide whom to believe." See, Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom

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No matter where you stand on the border wall dispute that has captivated the nation, you have to admit that it is an important debate. After all, $5 billion is a lot of money and who knows if the wall will really make a difference. But allowing between 200,000 and 2,000,000 people to easily enter the United States every year via the border with Mexico is probably not a good thing either. You probably just automatically identified yourself with one of those two previous sentences and took it as your position, right? The other sentence may have even made you angry or at least started you thinking about counter-arguments. In other words, like most political discussions, minds are rarely changed by more facts. It's kind of like a jury trial, right? You hear one side. You attach to it emotionally and then proceed to ignore evidence that is contrary to your new belief. In jury consulting-speak, this phenomenon is called confirmation bias. As a jury consulting firm, we've written about confirmation bias many times. See, for example: I’m Right, Right? 5 Ways to Manage Juror Bias Jurors Will Believe Anything (That They Already Believe) When Smart Ain’t So Smart - Cognitive Bias, Experts and Jurors Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? 7 Ways to Overcome Cognitive Bias and Persuade However, A2L is not just a jury consulting firm. We’re also a top-ranked litigation graphics firm (and litigation consulting and trial technology consulting firm). So I'm always baffled by big disputes where the participants fail to use pictures effectively. In this day and age, there is no excuse. The science of visual persuasion is well established. See, What is Visual Persuasion and What Do You Need to Know About It?

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Roughly half of our business involves the creation of PowerPoint presentations for opening statements, closing arguments and expert witnesses. To create these presentations, our litigation consultants, typically seasoned trial lawyers and communications experts, work with our creative staff to turn the trial strategy into presentations that will motivate decisionmakers to make the “right” decisions. In a trial with millions or billions at stake, our final draft for an opening is typically version 30 or higher — and I've seen version 80 in a very large trial. Why so many versions? This is the result of what great trial lawyers do: They work with our team and iterate until perfection is achieved. However, every presentation starts with a first draft, and after three decades in this industry, I can say that a first draft sets the tone for the entire engagement. Handle it well, and trust is formed and there is a nice creative arc free from anxiety. Handle the rollout of the first draft wrong, and trust never kicks in, micromanagement dominates, and the deck becomes a “horse designed by committee.” So what’s the magic to the rollout of a first draft?

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