<img height="1" width="1" alt="" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1482979731924517&amp;ev=PixelInitialized">

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.

Read More

Share:

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

Read More

Share:

The #1 Reason Top Trial Teams Keep Winning

The very best trial teams in the world have only one real secret for success. Like many of life's foundational principles, it's painfully simple to describe, but it’s painfully hard to execute. The winning secret of the very best trial teams is, simply, preparation. Of course, I'm not talking about the everyday kind of trial preparation that goes on a few weeks or a month before trial. I'm talking about a level of trial preparation that is so best-in-class that it separates America's extraordinary trial teams from merely great trial teams. Perhaps 1% of all trial teams function the way I'm about to describe. After three decades of supporting, coaching, and learning from the top 1%, I promise nothing else is more correlated with winning than preparation— not good facts, good law, a friendly judge, a smiling jury -- nothing. Just as a world record-holding athletes prepare at a level that far exceeds what professional athletes do, the same is true for world-class trial lawyers. In the last 30 years, I've seen behaviors like:

Read More

Share:

The traditional way for trial lawyers to prepare for a new case is pretty straightforward. The first step is to get one’s arms around the basic facts of the case – to understand the facts and the timeline of the case in depth. The second step is to ask oneself what the ideal resolution of these facts would be: What would the client want a fact finder to conclude? The third step is to begin to fit the facts into legal frameworks or algorithms that accord with the client’s view of the case. Often, however, lawyers take these steps, and then, when they are close to trial, probably too close to trial, they begin to ask themselves how a jury would likely view the case that they are putting together. This is the wrong time to ask that question. The right time is much earlier than most trial lawyers think. The story is told of a famous trial lawyer who is walking down the broad front steps of a courthouse. He encounters a younger lawyer walking up those same steps, laden down with piles of books in each arm and obviously feeling the weight. The older lawyer says to the younger one, “Son, what you need is a story.”

Read More

Share:

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.

Read More

Share:

I'm very fortunate to have a lot of friends, and I often end up telling the same story more than once in order to catch people up on what’s going on in my business and personal lives. Sometimes it’s just out of friendship. Sometimes I want to hear my friend’s opinion. Sometimes I want to persuade. Since I’m also in the business of professional storytelling -- or at least in the business of helping others tell their stories in the most professional and persuasive way possible -- I pay attention to how I tell a story. I especially notice how the story evolves as I tell it for the third, fifth, or 20th time.  Because it ALWAYS evolves. Sometimes the story changes because I have new insights. Sometimes it changes because of how it seemed to affect the last person I told it to. Sometimes it changes because of direct feedback or insight from my friend or adviser. May 2019 was an unusual month, in which a variety of major things happened personally and professionally. In fact, so many things happened at once that I needed to lean hard on my various advisers for good advice and wisdom. After a month that involved a great many consultations, everything got better, and I noticed something about that process. With each new retelling of events, I noticed how I automatically refined my story to more easily inform my listeners. I automatically changed the order of how I presented facts so that they flowed better. I found that I had injected appropriate humor. My stories seemed to be effective. They even caused some people to take some action in parts of their personal and professional lives just because they heard them (aka persuasion). Hopefully, you see where I am going with this when it comes to our work with trial lawyers. It's NEVER your first story that sings. Refining your story requires constant interaction and dialogue with others. That's why I will never understand the trial lawyer who writes their opening statement the night before trial or the trial lawyer who refuses to do a mock trial. In 25 years of doing this work, I have learned without qualification that the very best trial lawyers want their answers questioned. They do the mock. They conduct practice sessions. They invite critiques. They are the best precisely because they do this. Practice and preparation are what separates the good from the great -- not the law school they went to, not the firm they work for, and not even the innate ability to connect with a jury. Other A2L articles about storytelling, visual storytelling, persuasion, trial prep, mock trials and practice include: Great Trial Lawyers Behave Differently 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams 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 6 Ways to Use a Mock Trial to Develop Your Opening Statement 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 The 5 Very Best Reasons to Conduct a Mock Trial FREE DOWNLOAD: Storytelling for Persuasion - 144-page complimentary book 10 Things Every Mock Jury Ever Has Said The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation Why Do I Need A Mock Trial If There Is No Real Voir Dire? 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 7 Questions You Must Ask Your Mock Jury About Litigation Graphics 11 Problems with Mock Trials and How to Avoid Them 12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials Trending: Mock Trial Testing of Litigation Graphics AND Arguments 10 Suggestions for Conducting Mock Bench Trial Consulting Exercises Mock Trials: Do They Work? Are They Valuable? 11 Surprising Areas Where We Are Using Mock Exercises and Testing $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L

Read More

Share:

I’m far from alone in asserting that Steve Jobs was an inspiration to many entrepreneurs and CEOs of all ages. For many of us, his contrarian thought process, rigorous attention to detail, and spectacular showmanship formed a model for how to innovate, run a business, and find new customers.  I tracked Jobs’ career during my college and law school days and went so far as to email him a couple of times to thank him for the inspiration that he provided to me. Over the years, his 2007 speech introducing the iPhone served as a model for me. It showed me how to make a presentation that is both informative and inviting. I’ve written about that here. Later, when I was preparing to deliver a commencement speech, I used his 2005 Stanford commencement talk as an example. Steve Jobs’ presentations were admired by many. But not as many people have looked behind his presentations to understand that level of preparation that was involved in each presentation. An article earlier this year from Inc. magazine said it very well: Every product launch was brilliantly performed. Every move, demo, image and slide was in sync and beautifully choreographed. If I sound like I'm describing a Broadway show, you're right. A Steve Jobs presentation had more in common with an award-winning theatrical performance than a typical product launch. Apple still uses the time-tested formula including the final secret ingredient: Jobs rehearsed relentlessly. Carmine Gallo, the author of this article, pointed out that Jobs’ presentations looked effortless precisely because he put so much effort into them. These ideas are totally in keeping with the conclusions that I have reached in three decades of observing trial lawyers. I’ve heard far too many first-chair trial lawyers claim that the reason they didn’t practice their opening statement relentlessly was because it wouldn’t appear spontaneous if they did. Quite the contrary; the openings that I have heard that appeared the most spontaneous were precisely the ones that were the most thoroughly rehearsed. Apparently, Steve Jobs shared that approach. His grueling hours of practice became legendary in the tech industry. The Inc. article, in analyzing the desirable amount of practice time, concluded that the ideal is the 20-20 rule, which means that for a 20-minute presentation, one should go through the whole thing at least 20 times. This is consistent with the conclusions that I’ve reached about trial practice. We like to use a rule that a 60-minute opening should be practiced for at least 30 hours. We all want to look relaxed, confident and conversational in making our presentations. That is a good instinct because that style is in fact persuasive, but the way to get there is not with last-minute cramming, an opening statement practiced privately in a hotel room with no one listening, or an off-the-cuff talk relying on a few bullet points. The best openings I’ve ever seen are the result of countless hours of practice — often done in one-to-one sessions with an A2L litigation consultant. As is the case with any presenter, practice is what separates good trial lawyers from great trial lawyers. You might say, great trial lawyers just “think different” when it comes to practice. Other free A2L articles about trial preparations, delivering great presentations, practice, and developing opening statements include: $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation Conflict check: Be the first to retain A2L 3 Ways to Force Yourself to Practice Your Trial Presentation 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 Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers Free A2L Consulting Webinar: Persuasive Storytelling for Litigation Storytelling at Trial Works - But Whom Should the Story Be About? Free 144 page A2L E-book download: Storytelling for Litigators Free A2L webinar - Storytelling as a Persuasion tool The Magic of a 30:1 Presentation Preparation Ratio The Very Best Use of Coaches in Trial Preparation 12 Ways to SUCCESSFULLY Combine Oral and Visual Presentations 7 Ways to Draft a Better Opening Statement In Trial Presentation - A Camel is a Horse Designed by Committee The 12 Worst PowerPoint Mistakes Litigators Make 12 Reasons Bullet Points Are Bad (in Trial Graphics or Anywhere)

Read More

Share:

Rapport, or lack of it, between a first-chair attorney, who is in charge of a trial presentation, and his or her trial tech can make or break a case. When this rapport exists, the result is akin to a well-choreographed ballet, a perfectly orchestrated symphony performance, or a beautifully planned newscast. Everything happens on time and on cue. There are no pregnant pauses, and visuals feel as if they support what is being said by the lawyer, rather than being used as a reminder to tell the lawyer what to say. When this relationship is not perfect, the trial presentation can feel like watching a streaming online movie that is constantly pausing to be buffered. When a presentation has not been sufficiently practiced between a first-chair attorney and a trial tech, you will see missed timing, flustered attorneys and a general unease that does not have to be there. Trial techs, of course, are the people whose job is to ensure that content flows in a smooth, pre-scripted fashion, making the trial lawyer look like a polished presenter. The trial tech controls the electronic presentation in court, brings in the evidence at just the right time, and plays audio and video of depositions in a way that helps the judge and jury appreciate and understand the case. A good trial tech, as I have said before, frees the lawyers and the litigation consultants to marshal the witnesses and the evidence to tell a compelling story. A great trial tech produces that seamless result. Some litigation graphics consultants can have only a limited interaction with the first-chair lawyer, and the trial can still be a success. That cannot be true of the relationship between the top lawyer and the trial tech. That must be outstanding. How can you make sure it becomes outstanding and stays that way?

Read More

Share: