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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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The science around repetition is well settled, and I've always found it a little disturbing. For all the advanced degrees, experience with thousands of cases, and the wisdom litigation consultants like us have to share about maximizing persuasion at trial; the truth is one of the easiest ways to increase persuasion at trial is simply to repeat yourself - a lot. It is a technique used by politicians and trial lawyers alike. However, I think the political climate of the last few years has shown us that there are few upward limits on the number of times one can repeat themselves before it feels uncomfortable. And it works. Politicians on all sides and people of all political beliefs make false assertions, these assertions are repeated and amplified by social media, and over time, people come to believe them. This has happened for thousands of years. It's just much more accelerated now, so it feels new. The last ten years brought us this social media multiplier effect. Now, repetition comes fast and from seemingly independent sources - both factors that increase persuasion. Furthermore, assertions are often presented in a meme-like format, and the easier an assertion is to process, the more likely someone is to be persuaded by it. That's why short and simple quips frequently repeated are far more persuasive than a well-reasoned lecture delivered once.

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I enjoy an interesting turn of phrase and an interesting bit of trivia more than most people. So, for me, I'm especially delighted when someone can find a way to combine trivia and language in a memorable way. Fortunately, in the litigation graphics and jury consulting business, there are many opportunities to do just that. At A2L, we are routinely challenged with finding a creative way, both visually and with words, to explain complex topics like volume, speed, amounts, and scale. We have written about some of these methods in articles like Explaining a Complicated Process Using Trial Graphics, Antitrust Litigation Graphics: Explaining Complex Information Simply, and 6 Ways to Convey Size and Scale to a Jury. Explaining time presents unique challenges. Sometimes you need to emphasize how long ago something occurred, sometimes you need to show how close in time two events are, and sometimes you want to show how far apart two events are. This is why timelines are used in most trials, but sometimes that simple litigation graphic is not enough to be memorable. These five tips with examples discuss different time comparisons that can come in handy when preparing for trial. 1. Explaining (orally) something happened a long time ago: If you want to explain something is old or occurred a long time ago with words, you can relate it to something everyone automatically agrees is old. For example,  Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, and Joe Biden were all born closer to the Civil War than today. Hard as that may seem to believe, it's true and very memorable. I don't share that with any political intent, I promise. These men are people to admire for various reasons. What's interesting is that you'll probably repeat this fact to someone else, which is exactly the same behavior we want from jurors. That's the power of an original and surprising time comparison. Oxford University is older than the Aztec Empire, The Incas, and the printing press. This fact is similarly surprising. To most, the Aztecs and the Incas seem ancient. In a way, they are. But Oxford opened its doors in 1049. Humans and the T-Rex lived closer in time than the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus. I founded A2L Consulting about a year after Jeff Bezos founded Amazon. I keep telling myself I can still catch up. 2. Explaining the passage of time: A2L was engaged by the Justice Department to help explain how several individuals conspired to win government contracts by illegally sharing information on the telephone. A defense was raised that they didn't really speak by phone that often. Using an election year reference to the home of Sarah Palin, we explained that the conspirators had spent 3,548 minutes on the phone. That number by itself would probably mean nothing to a jury. We translated that fact into a memorable litigation graphic that showed that in 3,548 minutes, someone could drive from New Orleans (site of the trial) to Wasilla, Alaska (the election year reference). The implication was, of course, that in that amount of time, a lot of conspiring could be accomplished. They were convicted.

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My Facebook feed lit up this week after the passing of 67-year-old drummer Neil Peart of the band Rush. Suddenly, mild-mannered middle-aged friends were pouring their hearts out over the loss of a drummer who was at the height of his popularity some 35 years ago. For many of my friends and indeed for me (someone who likes playing drums but is not particularly liked by others when he plays), he was the best of the best - the G.O.A.T of the drumming world. Neil Peart forever changed the way other drummers performed and even thought about how to approach a drum set. Why should trial lawyers (who didn't happen to come of age in suburban America or Canada in the early 1980s) care at all? A quote in Peart's Rolling Stone obituary is what jumped out at me because it demonstrates a way of thinking that is useful for trial lawyers and drummers alike:  “What is a master but a master student?” Peart told Rolling Stone in 2012. “There’s a responsibility on you to keep getting better.” Here, Peart was talking about why he started working with a drum coach/instructor relatively late in his career -- even after he was widely considered the best drummer in the world. To people who work with the world's best anything, whether that's athletes, actors, or trial lawyers, this kind of thinking is not surprising. In our field, rules of professional responsibility speak to this concept of continuous improvement, but I don't think that's why the very best push themselves to be better. The reasoning for why is circular, but I think it's true: the best are the best because they seek feedback about how to be the best, and this loop never ends. When the best trial lawyers in the world (and those who aspire to be) work with A2L (or someone like us), they benefit not just from jury consulting and litigation graphics services, but they also benefit from working with similarly accomplished trial lawyers called litigation consultants -- a term we first started using in the 1990s. We have written about this concept of trial lawyers supporting other trial lawyers in articles like: Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well When Peart wrote the obituary for his coach, he paraphrased a foundational message from his coach, and that message rang very familiar to me. It sounds a lot like the message the trial lawyers on our team deliver to other trial lawyers who hire us. "You've been doing what you do for a long time, so it obviously works. Don't mess with that. Consider my suggestions as options." And there it is -- firms like ours and people like us present already successful trial lawyers with options. It's part of the reason those trial lawyers outperform their peers. Whether an athlete, musician, or litigator, if you seek to be the best, seek and listen to options. It's what the very best always do. Here is a good Neil Peart tribute piece that already has millions of views on YouTube:   Other A2L articles and free resources about storytelling, coaching, and litigation consulting include: Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel Dan Pink, Pixar, and Storytelling for the Courtroom Practice is a Crucial Piece of the Storytelling Puzzle Three Top Trial Lawyers Tell Us Why Storytelling Is So Important The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation Your Coach Is Not Better Than You – in the Courtroom or Elsewhere What Steve Jobs Can Teach Trial Lawyers About Trial Preparation Develop Your Trial Story – Sooner, Not Later 21 Reasons a Litigator Is Your Best Litigation Graphics Consultant Practice, Say Jury Consultants, is Why Movie Lawyers Perform So Well 7 Things In-House Misses When Litigation Consultants are Underutilized FREE DOWNLOAD: Storytelling for Persuasion - 144-page complimentary book The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation RECORDING STORYTELLING WEBINAR Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L

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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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6 Articles Every Trial Lawyer Should Read

Last week I shared A2L's top 10 articles of the year based on the visits of our 10,000+ subscribers. In those articles, there are many valuable best practices, useful war stories, and litigation consultant expert tips for trial lawyers and the professionals who support trial lawyers — particularly if you are interested in storytelling, jury consultants, litigation graphics, or trial technology/using hot-seaters. However, for as valuable as I know these articles are, I think other articles were published over the last year or two that may have been overlooked for one reason or another — and they should not have been. Sometimes the title doesn’t capture the attention of our audience. Sometimes the timing of the release of a particular article is terrible. Sometimes the news of the day simply competes with our publication, The Litigation Consulting Report. So in that light, here are six articles that I think are really exceptional and useful for every trial lawyer. I believe that when read together, they will improve the performance of both veteran and new trial lawyers alike.  Here are six recent articles that every trial lawyer should read: Develop Your Trial Story – Sooner, Not Later: This article by veteran trial lawyer and senior litigation consultant, Alan Rudlin, explains clearly when one should develop their trial narrative. Obviously, the answer is suggested by the title, but hearing the rationale from such an experienced expert will help any trial lawyer prepare for trial more effectively. Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently: Simply put, if the other 99% of trial lawyers really knew how the top 1% of trial lawyers prepare for trial, I believe the 99% would improve their trial prep. This article gets to the heart of the stark difference in trial preparation strategies. Netanyahu Persuades and Presents Better Than Most Trial Lawyers: While Netanyahu's fall from grace is noted, it takes nothing away from the fact that the PowerPoint presentation shown here was incredibly well executed. Every trial lawyer could learn something from it.

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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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As both a leading jury consulting firm and a leading litigation graphics consulting firm, we can offer a unique perspective about the intersection of these two fields. A mock trial is frequently a part of A2L's jury consulting work. One aspect of designing and executing a valuable mock trial that I take particular interest in is the development of litigation graphics for both sides of the case. This litigation graphics presentation is typically created in PowerPoint and is designed to support the "clopening" argument for each side's case. If it is not apparent, the industry term "clopening" is a portmanteau of the words opening and closing. During an actual trial, argument is prohibited during an opening statement and reserved only for the closing statement. During a mock trial, the opening and closing statements are combined into a single event where a case is introduced, explained, and argued. A typical clopening argument is 1-2 hours long, and an average of 30-60 real and demonstrative evidence slides will be used to support the clopening argument. Just a few years ago, many jury consulting firms neglected to use and test visual presentations during a mock trial. For decades, we have explained the obvious importance of this testing and made a case for it in articles like: Why Litigation Graphics at Mock Trials Make Sense, Why You Should Pressure-Test Your Trial Graphics Well Before Trial, 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics, and Mock Trial Testing of Litigation Graphics AND Arguments. In my experience, the visual presentation is as important as the oral presentation during a mock trial. It aides in juror understanding, it speeds up the case considerably, it provides lessons to the litigation graphics team, and it makes for a more realistic simulation of the actual trial. See, Insist Your Litigation Graphics Consultant Attend Your Mock Trial. As is often the case for a trial, preparation for a mock trial is typically focused on the development of the initial presentation for the mock jurors. It's a sensible place to concentrate trial prep efforts as designing this presentation forces timely preparation of the legal arguments, the development of a well-honed narrative, and often the discovery of the best way to visually explain a case. Preparing these presentations for a mock trial is quite different from preparing for a courtroom trial, however. Whether you are a veteran trial lawyer or you are considering your first mock trial. These three tips below are useful for anyone planning a mock trial and have proven to be critical in the very best mock trials I have observed:

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