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I recently read two studies by Professor Jeffrey Loewenstein of the University of Illinois that offer extremely valuable persuasion tools for trial lawyers. They were not written with trial lawyers in mind, but the lessons they teach are universal when it comes to persuasion. Together they provide an important toolset for those of us who craft or hone opening statements for a living. The first of these studies, The Repetition-Break Plot Structure Makes Effective Television Advertisements [paywall], helps answer the question of why some advertising campaigns outperform others. It turns out there exists an ages-old and highly persuasive storytelling structure often seen in folktales around the world.  Advertisers who use it tend to win more awards, generate more purchases, and see their advertisements shared virally -- much like a folktale. It is my experience that techniques that sell products sell arguments just as well. We've written about this before in articles like Could Surprise Be One of Your Best Visual Persuasion Tools? and Repeat a Simple Message Repeatedly to Maximize Courtroom Persuasion. It is exactly these types of inherently persuasive language tools that arouse core human instincts that we must deploy in the courtroom for our clients benefit. After all, if we can give our jurors an easily memorable story, we give them a potent weapon to argue in favor of our position with other jurors.

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Sometimes I fear that my tips for trial lawyers might be perceived as self-serving. They're not, I promise, but I understand how someone could think that. Well, for at least for the duration of this article, don't take my word for it, please. Every day, we work with some of the world's best trial lawyers. I learn a lot from watching how the very best prepare for trial, and it is a pleasure to share what I witness with other great trial lawyers. Today, I'm presenting a collection of videos (some are from A2L clients, and some are not), trial presentation examples, sample litigation graphics, and other instances where trial lawyers and other great presenters lead by example. In this article, I'm not just asking you to accept what I say. I am asking you to watch your peers show or tell how to best persuade judges, jurors, and people in general. Here are twelve tips (really, there are hundreds of best practices embedded in here) from some of the world's best trial lawyers and presenters: Persuasive Storytelling Matters! Watch three accomplished trial lawyers explain why: https://www.a2lc.com/blog/three-top-trial-lawyers-tell-us-why-storytelling-at-trial-is-so-important Litigation Graphics should not be created by trial counsel - ever. These examples show why: https://www.a2lc.com/blog/excellent-litigation-graphics-in-the-impeachment-trial Litigation Graphics - It's no longer about reading bullet points. Jurors simply expect more!: https://www.a2lc.com/blog/still-think-persuasion-is-about-talking-while-showing-bullet-points-and-not-litigation-graphics Love him, hate him, respect him, disrespect him - whatever - this politician presents better than most trial lawyers (the linked articles are a trial lawyer presentation goldmine!): https://www.a2lc.com/blog/netanyahu-persuades-and-presents-better-than-most-trial-lawyers

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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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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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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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Every year hundreds of thousands of people visit A2L's website and read litigation-focused articles on our blog. We have published more than 600 articles there since 2011, and the ABA and others have named it one of the top litigation blogs. Periodically we list articles that have been deemed our very best by you, our readers, based on readership. As long-time readers of The Litigation Consulting Report blog know, our articles typically focus on topics like: Using storytelling as a persuasion tool; Combining psychology and litigation graphics to influence decision-making; Maximizing results during voir dire and mock trials; and Utilizing trial technicians so that litigators can focus on connecting with the jurors and judges. Looking at A2L's top 10 articles from 2019, these topics are indeed covered, but it’s interesting to watch the trends in the most-read articles. Storytelling continues to be a very popular topic, but as you can see from the list below, so also are subjects like litigation graphics and jury consulting. Below are the top 10 articles A2L Consulting published during 2019. I encourage you to share this list with friends and on social media. Links to post to Twitter and LinkedIn in just two clicks are included: 1. One Demonstrative Exhibit, One Concept 2. Ten Ways to Maximize Persuasive Courtroom Storytelling (Part One)

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