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Almost every day, our trial-lawyer litigation graphics consultants and our jury consultants are working to help a trial team to develop, refine, and practice their opening statements. We do this nationwide, often hundreds of times a year. Every trial team is different. One team, I recently had the pleasure of working with asked me for a model of what the best trial presenters do a week or two before trial. They didn't come out and ask that specific question, but they asked a lot of specific questions like: To practice, do we just print our opening from Word and read it? How do we integrate the slides when practicing? Do we print out the PowerPoint slides, and what about the animations where the text overlaps when we print? Should I read the opening or memorize it? Should we just work from bulleted phrases? Do I use the slides as cues for what to say next? Should I run the presentation as first-chair? These are great questions! Fortunately, there are specific best-practices that answer each of these questions. For our litigation consultants and for our clients who go to trial often (1x/year+), many of these are second nature. For most, however, there will be a tip or two of very high-value below. Here are 10 best practices and tips for the period of time immediately before trial: 1. It should look like this when you are done. Put your politics aside for a second. The impeachment trial presentations were not the very best I've ever seen, but they were certainly good enough. If you use the trial presentation style from the impeachment trials, you are well on your way towards excellence. But, in particular, I want you to watch a minute or so of two videos and consider three elements: 1. How trial presentation notebooks are used; 2. Absolutely no use of a clicker; 3. The presentations complement what is being said and don't feel like a jarring interruption. Here is an example from each side of the impeachment trial. Watch about 60 seconds of each to see the presentation style.   2. The trial presentation notebook. I think a well-prepared trial presenter works toward (at a minimum) presenting in a way that looks like those trial lawyers above. They use PowerPoint and follow many best practices for doing so. See my four-part series on trial presentation lessons from the impeachment trial. In particular, however, note that each trial lawyer presents from a trial presentation notebook. Their arguments are written out, PowerPoint slides are integrated into the language in Word, and this is printed out and placed in a three-ring binder so that the presenter never gets lost. They read their statements for the most part, but they also connect with their audiences. The printed version of your trial presentation notebook should look a bit like this as you head to trial: As you can see, your demonstrative evidence and real evidence is integrated into your written opening. Also, pauses and reminders to the presenter are included in the text. It's great when a trial lawyer memorizes their opening, but I find this only really works AFTER the entire opening has been written word-for-word in full-text form. I would MUCH rather watch a presenter who is organized and polished who reads than one wings it and stumbles about. I find that after one practices their opening from the written version enough, one cannot help but memorize it. 3. First chair really should not run the presentation.  I know you like to be in control. I know you might want to go back and say something. However, if you have practiced enough, none of that will happen, and control doesn’t matter anymore. Hand over the clicker/laptop, and you get to look polished and prepared. Please see Trial Lawyers, Relinquish the Clicker. When you have your trial presentation notebook printed and ready to go, your trial technician (or a colleague) can simply follow along and control the presentation.

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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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The Top 100 Litigation Articles

Today, we are celebrating you - our subscribers -  because we have reached a new milestone - 10,000 subscribers to this blog! To celebrate, we are releasing the list below for the very first time - A2L Consulting's Top 100 Articles of All Time. We started this publication in 2011 against my best instincts, and I delight daily in how wrong I was. Now, almost 700 articles later, being named a top blog by the ABA, and after millions of visits to our site and The Litigation Consulting Report blog (free subscription here), I now understand that we filled a significant void.  It turns out that those seeking to persuade, inside the courtroom or elsewhere, really did not have an excellent place to go and learn about persuasion science. They certainly don't teach storytelling for persuasion in law school, and the intricacies of demonstrative evidence/visual aids are too much for any one lawyer to master (while trying cases). So, I'm proud that so many have enjoyed these articles about storytelling, voir dire, jury consulting, litigation graphics, trial technology, persuasion, and much much more. These articles are ranked by the number of visits to the article. Some have been read hundreds of thousands of times. I hope you will keep reading our old and new articles, and feel free to share a free subscription with a friend. A2L Consulting's Top 100 Articles of All Time 5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always The Top 14 Testimony Tips for Litigators and Expert Witnesses 10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman Lists of Analogies, Metaphors and Idioms for Lawyers 14 Tips for Delivering a Great Board Meeting Presentation 15 Tips for Great Customer Service from the Restaurant Industry The 50 Best Twitter Accounts to Follow for Lawyers and Litigators The Top 10 TED Talks for Lawyers, Litigators and Litigation Support The Top 5 Qualities of a Good Lawyer 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere) 15 Fascinating Legal and Litigation Infographics 4 Ways That Juries Award Damages in Civil Cases 16 PowerPoint Litigation Graphics You Won't Believe Are PowerPoint

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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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Over the past ten years, we have written about persuasive storytelling more than any other subject. There are dozens of A2L storytelling articles, e-books, and webinars on the topic. A2L's most popular CLE/presentation is called Storytelling for Trial Lawyers. I have presented it at dozens of major law firms, PLAC, DRI, and other conferences. The subject matter is always well received. The reason we publish and talk so much about storytelling is that trial lawyers increasingly understand that being a superb storyteller is essential for maximizing persuasion. More and more scientific studies confirm this each year, and I think most of us understand this instinctively. Storytelling is how humans have always shared information in a memorable and persuasive way. While many great trial lawyers are naturally great storytellers, I know from experience that anyone can learn to become a very good storyteller. It's a challenging thing to learn, but it is possible with practice.  In my talk on Storytelling for Trial Lawyers, I provide one framework for telling a great story known as the Pixar method. Every Pixar movie follows this format, and it works fantastically well for building an opening statement. I've written about Dan Pink discussing this topic in the past. However, that method that both Dan Pink and I speak about is actually culled from a list of 22 storytelling tips that a former Pixar employee published almost ten years ago. The original list can be found here, but I have modified that list to be trial lawyer-friendly and focused on the opening statement. In this form, I think it can serve as a useful checklist and guide for any trial lawyer preparing an opening statement. As we help other trial lawyers enhance their opening statements and opening trial presentations/litigation graphics, it is a tool that we use, and it works. I'd recommend coupling this list with some of our other publications about storytelling, especially some of these articles: Storytelling at Trial - Will Your Story Be Used? Portray Your Client As a Hero in 17 Easy Storytelling Steps Poor Litigation Character Development Will Yield Poor Results Are You Smarter Than a Soap Opera Writer? Ten Ways to Maximize Persuasive Courtroom Storytelling (Part One) A2L's 22 Rules for Litigation Storytelling in the Opening Statement - Adapted from Emma Coats' 22 Pixar Storytelling Rules Explain how the client tried and failed over and over. Keep in mind what’s interesting to the judge and jury, not what’s interesting to counsel. They can be very different. If you have a narrative and theme from the beginning great, but if you discover those along the way, go back and rewrite your opening statement with those in mind.

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In recent months we have published lists of A2L Consulting's top articles related to various trial-focused topics. These articles include our very best insider tips plus 30 years of observed best practices pertaining to opening statements, mock trials, litigation graphics, and trial preparation generally. One additional topic that deserves special attention is the use of trial technology and how best to use a trial technician or hot-seater. As experienced trial professionals know (or even long-time readers of this publication), if you fail to use the right trial technology set-up or trial technician/hot-seater, you can inadvertently damage your credibility. In most cases, the benefits of using trial technology far outweigh any (easily mitigated) risks of doing so. Done well, the use of trial technology will create a deeper connection with the factfinder(s), it will speed up a trial, and you will be perceived as more credible and thus more persuasive. Below are 10 of our top articles focused on how to engage the right trial technician for you and how to work with that hot-seater to maximize persuasion at trial: 12 Tips to Hire the Right Trial Technician for Your Trial 11 Traits of Great Courtroom Trial Technicians E-Book: How To Find and Use Trial Technicians and Trial Technology

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At some point in our lives, many of us, perhaps most of us, have assembled a piece of IKEA furniture. Whether it was for that first apartment, your vacation home, or your kid's dorm room, it's something of a right of passage. If you have done this assembly work with your significant other, it's often a test of the relationship too. IKEA furniture is inexpensive, in part, because of the way it is shipped and packaged. It is unassembled, it fits into a small package, and the purchaser must assemble it. The instructions that come with the products are notoriously complicated, although they are quite well designed. In recent years, IKEA has gone a step beyond the printed instructions of old. They now publish videos of how to assemble a product, and they are really quite good. Hearing someone complain recently about having to follow the printed instructions got me thinking about juror communications and best practices when it comes to preparing litigation graphics. Of course, right? Here are three ways IKEA assembly instructions and litigation graphics can be similar: The Worst: Having your significant other tell you what to do and how to assemble the product is a lot like a trial attorney lecturing a jury with no visuals at all. See, 6 Studies That Support Litigation Graphics in Courtroom Presentations. Okay: Following the printed IKEA instructions is a bit like watching PowerPoint slides prepared by a member of the trial team. They are well-intentioned but not nearly as helpful or persuasive as they could be. See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think. Pretty helpful: Watching an IKEA-produced assembly video (see below) is a lot like watching a professionally prepared opening statement, closing statement or expert witness presentation created by a litigation graphics firm. See, Why You Need a Litigation Graphics Consultant.

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Why You Need a Litigation Graphics Consultant

I had a confounding call with a past client and litigator recently. He had worked with A2L nearly ten years ago early in his career on a related matter. He called to engage A2L and work with one of our graphic designers. On its face, it's a sensible ask. After all, in addition to our jury consulting work and our hot-seat/trial technology work, A2L is undoubtedly a, if not the premier litigation graphics consultancy. The reason I found this call surprising is that asking to work with an individual graphic designer on our team misses the entire value proposition of why a firm like ours exists in the first place. If all a trial lawyer had to do was hire a graphic designer to help prepare opening/closing powerpoint presentations and work with testifying experts to help simplify their message, law firms would be teeming with millennial-aged graphic designers ready to spring into action in advance of trial. Lawyers might even do the work themselves. But that's not how serious trial-focused firms work, and many have gone full circle to figure this out - from adding internal graphic designers to eliminating them entirely. Serious trial-focused law firms do not insource litigation graphics work because it simply doesn't work over the long term. Logically, it should, but it just doesn't, and I've spent 25 years in the industry learning why. The articles linked below offer dozens of reasons why this is true.

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