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Happy Super Tuesday in a presidential election year. Conventional wisdom tells us that America is more divided than ever. I think that is overstating things, but people certainly do seem dug into their belief systems these days. No amount of facts, data, or education will cause some people to change their minds about certain topics. And this is a great thing -- IF you're involved in jury selection. The entirety of human knowledge acquired over the last 100,000 years can be accessed in seconds using a device you always have with you. But if you  believe something about carrying handguns, nuclear power, vaccines, or climate change, the chances are that no amount of data, study, or expert opinion will change your mind about that topic. If you're a potential juror and that bias happens to be in favor of the client we support, this is fantastic news. Such a juror will (subconsciously) selectively choose evidence that favors our client using confirmation bias or motivated reasoning. This is where being polarized into one camp or another gets interesting. When it comes to A2L's jury consulting work involving voir dire and jury selection, one of our primary goals is to discover a potential juror's bias. We also want to understand how a particular bias might affect our client. We want to, of course, deselect those jurors who would be biased against our client, and, just as importantly, not do anything to expose those jurors biased in our favor. In this era of polarization and in an election year, there is a useful shortcut -- one's political beliefs. So, ask about them, at least indirectly. For the most part, if I know you mostly watch MSNBC or Fox News or whether you love or loathe Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity, I can make some reasonably reliable inferences about your biases. We have discussed these and other approaches to voir dire and handling bias in the free A2L Consulting articles and publications like those listed below.  5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always 5 Voir Dire Questions to Avoid Jury Research and Mock Trials During Presidential Elections Font Matters - A Trial Graphics Consultant's Trick to Overcome Bias 7 Tips to Take “Dire” out of Voir Dire 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said A Surprising Lesson From Voir Dire 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said A Jury Consultant Is Called for Jury Duty One Voir Dire Must Do and One Voir Dire Must Never Do The Voir Dire Handbook | Free Download | A2L Consulting Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 15 Things Everyone Should Know About Jury Selection Why Do I Need A Mock Trial If There Is No Real Voir Dire? Jury Questionnaire by the Numbers 10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You Jury Selection & Jury Consultants: Three Strikes, You're Out! 10 Signs of a Good Jury Questionnaire 13 Revolutionary Changes in Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It? 12 Insider Tips for Choosing a Jury Consultant Do I Need a Local Jury Consultant? Maybe. Here are 7 Considerations. I’m Right, Right? 5 Ways to Manage Juror Bias Jury Selection Experts . . . True or False? Who Are The Highest-Rated Jury Consultants? Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said

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A very close friend just asked me what we do at A2L Consulting. Last week, a 30-year colleague and client remarked that he didn’t realize that half of our business involved jury consulting. Last night, a high-profile trial lawyer kindly complimented our firm while speaking to a group -- but called the company by its former name of 10 years ago. It’s my job to explain to people who we are and what we do, and some of the people closest to me don’t understand what we do as litigation consultants at A2L Consulting. Clearly, I am doing something wrong. The purpose of this article is to provide a detailed overview of the work we do as litigation consultants. Still, it will also educate anyone involved in trying cases about best practices in specific areas of trial preparation and trial practice. The Big Picture Our firm was one of the first (if not the very first) to call itself a Litigation Consulting firm back in the mid-1990s. At a 30,000 foot level, litigation consultants like A2L are hired by top trial lawyers and large corporate legal departments to help increase the odds of winning a particular case. We help increase the odds of winning a particular case by: testing and refining cases during a mock trial and jury consulting process by soliciting and measuring feedback from mock jurors and mock judges; helping to refine the narrative and key arguments to be delivered at trial through our peer-to-peer litigation consulting process. This litigation consulting process often includes multiple rounds of practice, particularly of the opening statement; designing litigation graphics presentations rooted in persuasion psychology that help judges and jurors both understand our cases and help to persuade those same fact-finders to take our side in the case; and using highly trained hot-seat operators (trial technicians) to display electronic evidence on the fly and leave the trial attorney in a position to connect with judge and jury; I call these four areas, jury consulting, litigation consulting, litigation graphics consulting, and trial technology consulting. Collectively, I call them all litigation consulting. Within each category, there are MANY sub-services. Below is an overview with linked articles that explain each of these four areas in more detail and offer best practices. If you are in the business of trying cases, there is a lot of value here for you in the materials below.

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Top 10 Articles About Mock Trials

Our team has planned and conducted more than 500 mock trials over the past thirty years. In that time, we have noticed striking similarities in the way jurors behave. We have noticed that a trial team can radically increase the amount of valuable information they mine from a mock trial just by following a few best practices. We have seen over and over that a well-executed mock trial is the most valuable form of pre-trial preparation a trial team can do. In these ten articles listed below (our top ten all-time articles on the subject), we reveal many of A2L's best practices and insider observations. Whether you are planning a mock trial or just preparing for trial, the lessons from these articles are valuable and actionable. A mock trial is designed to mimic many aspects of an upcoming trial. The overall goal is to learn what motivates jurors, especially those similar to the likely jury, to view our side of the case in the best possible light. Many people mistakenly believe that a mock trial is designed to simulate an upcoming trial in order to predict the outcome. While there is certainly a predictive element, one cannot reliably simulate a two-month or even a two-week trial in two days. Instead, the highest value takeaways from a mock trial come from watching jurors deliberate, looking at the data behind the their decision making revealed by polling, preparing one's trial presentation earlier than one might naturally do so, getting into the mind of opposing counsel by arguing their case, and just getting some excellent practice in the run-up to trial. In a typical mock trial, 100 or more jurors may be recruited. Often a voir dire-like exercise is built into the mock and 36-48 jurors may be selected and broken into three or four juries who will deliberate separately. When a mock trial is deemed premature or the costs of conducting one do not match the dollars at stake in a case, we are often asked to conduct a smaller-scale exercise called a focus group (see How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation) where a fewer jurors are used, and the format is more dialog oriented. I hope you enjoy these articles. Taken together, they offer an excellent primer on how and why to conduct a mock trial for the best possible result. 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said  12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials

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10 Timely Tips For Trial Preparation

Working at A2L, I have the distinct pleasure of watching many of the world's best trial lawyers prepare for trial. Most start months or years in advance. Those lawyers engage A2L early to do theme testing with a focus group or to organize and run a mock trial. Each of these events requires the creation of litigation graphics and usually assistance in developing an opening statement. Having watched so many great trial lawyers prepare for 25 years, I have been able to observe patterns in how they prepare. Below I share ten chronologically ordered tips (plus accompanying resources) based on these observations. If you're less than one year from trial, I hope these tips are still helpful, and I hope you will get in touch with me. More than one year from trial: There is no better time to do theme testing then when discovery is still open. Read more in How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation and as you start this journey, always remember that Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently. One year before trial: Plan your first of two mock trials. There are dozens of good reasons to conduct a mock trial, but forcing yourself to prepare early may be the very best one. Read my one-year trial planning guide and read A2L's Opening Statement Toolkit. Also, it is a good time to read A2L's Jury Consulting and Mock Trial Handbook. Nine months before trial: Begin or continue development of your litigation graphics. If you conducted a mock trial, you already have a good start. Read How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?, 10 Reasons The Litigation Graphics You DO NOT Use Are Important and The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation. Six months before trial: Refine your opening statement story and the visuals that will support it. Make sure your experts have their visuals being worked on by your litigation graphics team - not the in-house people at the expert's firm. Watch Persuasive Storytelling for Trial Lawyers and read Storytelling for Litigators. To help develop your experts, have them read this three-part series on How to Be a Great Expert Witness. Three months before trial: Conduct opening statement practice sessions with your trial team, litigation consultants, and your client. Read The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best, 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation, and Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well.

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At A2L, we publish so many articles about litigation and trial preparation that I like to share the best of the best periodically.

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At A2L, we are either conducting or actively planning a mock trial 365 days a year. As you probably know, mock trials are a tool that is very often used by serious trial teams involved in large trials to help uncover the ideal strategy to win a case. In a typical mock trial that we conduct, over 40 jurors will be recruited in the trial venue through a rigorous screening process. We even incorporate expected voir dire questions into the process. Based on individual verdicts and backgrounds, mock jurors are carefully evaluated to create three or four panels of 10 to 12 mock jurors. “Clopenings,” combined argumentative opening/closing statements, are presented for both sides of the case, litigation graphics are used to support these statements, and videotaped witness testimony may be included as part of the presentation. Typically, real-time data collection methods using an Audience Response System (“ARS”) will be used, similar to the approve vs. disapprove line graphs shown on the news during election seasons. Deliberations are conducted. A focus discussion following deliberations is facilitated by our jury consulting and litigation consulting team members. All proceedings are typically observed through one-way mirrors or via closed-circuit TV, as shown in the included image. Watching the deliberations is shocking for most trial lawyers. Without the constraints of the law or internal consistency, jurors’ responses can seem inconsistent, irrational, inexplicable and thus, frightening and random. They are not. Jurors rarely understand the cases as much as hoped, and they follow predictable behavior patterns (see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said). While their rationale may not match the lawyers’, there is a rationale to those willing to understand it from the jurors’ perspective. Finally, data are collected from the jurors, the results from the deliberations are tallied, and an oral and written report is presented to the trial team. This report includes specific tactics, both rhetorical and visual, that should be used at trial. We have written and taught about best practices for mock trials extensively. Some of those articles and webinars include: The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 6 Good Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement 5 Ways That a Mock Trial Informs and Shapes Voir Dire Questions 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said - Watch Anytime Together, these resources provide an excellent manual for conducting a mock trial for an upcoming case. However, they don’t deeply address a trial team behavior I’ve seen show up in just about every mock trial our firm has conducted: The lawyers try to win – and I don’t mean fairly.

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A Surprising Lesson From Voir Dire

I get excited when I am called for jury duty. After all, my entire 25-year professional career has been focused on persuading judges and juries. Serving on a jury is a rare opportunity to get a view from the inside. It allows me to confirm everything I routinely watch in mock trials and have learned. For example, see 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said. When I get called, and yesterday was that rare day, I watch everything -- from how potential jurors are organized to the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the pool, and every little choice the lawyers make, from clothing to tactics. Unfortunately, the fact that I am a litigation consultant always comes out during voir dire. The last time I was on jury duty, I made it through voir dire and served as foreman in a small traffic case. My fellow jurors said, “You know more about this than the rest of us, so you be our foreman.” That made sense to me, and I know myself to be a good facilitator of group discussions. It was all less formal and only five jurors were seated. Today was different. Thirty-six potential jurors were called for a 12-member jury. So I knew we were going to be facing a criminal matter. Ultimately, I was dismissed, but not before I had a chance to observe the process once again as a juror and to make some observations. Once voir dire began, I noticed that the prosecutor focused very heavily (probably too much) on potential jurors who had a connection with law enforcement and the legal industry. In the process, she exposed many government-friendly law and order jurors, doing herself a disservice. She also exposed me in a discussion around witnesses who lie – something that I had seen in a recent matter that A2L consulted on. Defense counsel put on an aggressive voir dire. She visibly angered many potential jurors by using deeply complicated hypotheticals and double negatives. Jurors turned against her, she invited many objections, and the judge ultimately turned against her as well. Her techniques exposed many jurors who were likely to be biased. However, her unapologetically brash approach distanced her from every juror. So, for the defendant's sake, I hope that her co-counsel is putting on the opening. This was not just my opinion. After being released, a group of 10 also-released jurors rode down in the elevator with me. They were abuzz with negative comments about defense counsel. I asked, so did she piss you off? The universal answer was hell yes. The lesson is that although there’s no question that it’s a good idea to weed out certain types of jurors, trial lawyers must never forget that they are dealing with human beings, not computers. It’s possible to antagonize the very jurors whose votes you need as early as the voir dire process. Don’t do anything that can stand in the way of building that fragile rapport that a trial lawyer needs to develop with the jury. Other free A2L Consulting articles and resources about voir dire, jury selection, being likeable, and more: 10 Ways to Lose Voir Dire Like It or Not: Likability Counts for Credibility in the Courtroom 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said A Jury Consultant Is Called for Jury Duty 5 Questions to Ask in Voir Dire . . . Always 5 Voir Dire Questions to Avoid The Voir Dire Handbook | Free Download | A2L Consulting Jury Selection and Voir Dire: Don't Ask, Don't Know 7 Tips to Take “Dire” out of Voir Dire 10 Ways to Spot Your Jury Foreman 5 Things Every Jury Needs From You 10 Signs of a Good Jury Questionnaire 13 Revolutionary Changes in Jury Consulting & Trial Consulting Is Hiring a Jury Consultant Really Worth It? 12 Insider Tips for Choosing a Jury Consultant Do I Need a Local Jury Consultant? Maybe. Here are 7 Considerations. Who Are The Highest-Rated Jury Consultants? Webinar: 12 Things Every Mock Juror Ever Has Said  

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Many people are familiar with mock trials, which are full-blown exercises before a trial in which witnesses are presented and arguments made before mock jurors, who proceed to render a “verdict.” The results of mock trials, as we have discussed here before, can be extremely helpful to litigators who want to know how strong their case is, which arguments and testimony to pursue at trial, and which ones to forget about. As Slate magazine wrote in an illuminating article in 2005: Either side of a case can hold a simulated trial, and they're used in both civil and criminal cases. But because these productions can cost quite a bit of money, they're most often used by lawyers who represent wealthy clients or companies in a civil suit. First, the attorneys find a random pool of mock jurors in the jurisdiction where the trial will be held. Participants are selected by random telephone calls, classified ads, or through an employment agency. (Anyone who has recently received a summons to serve as a real juror is immediately disqualified.) Another technique that is perhaps not as well known is the early-stage focus group. These are far less formal than mock trials. They are a bit like brainstorming sessions in which jurors tell trial lawyers, often in real time, what they thought about a particular piece of evidence or a particular argument. Focus groups have several advantages: 

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