Will Being Folksy and Low-Tech Help You Win a Case?

by Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

low tech trial technology slick folksy

“I generally delegate the preparation of litigation graphics, and I tend to keep things pretty low-tech anyway.”

To be fair, this is the way cases have been tried for a very long time, and the partner had had a great deal of success with this approach. So, what’s wrong?

What’s wrong is that jurors’ expectations have changed enormously in just the last few years. Jurors expect a trial presentation to be polished and more like the nightly news than like a corporate PowerPoint. They expect a trial lawyer to be polished and well-practiced, more like Brian Williams than a dull CLE presenter. This rural Arkansas jury said it better than I ever could when they responded to a question about the use of trial technology by saying, “Today is technology. That’s what it’s all about.”

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13 Reasons Law Firm Litigation Graphics Departments Have Bad Luck

by Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

I have seen some great law firm litigation graphics departments over the past 20 years. The best was at Howrey, which is where A2L’s second team member and others came from in the mid-1990s. Back then, Howrey’s litigation graphics department was led by an Academy Award-winning artist and producer.

These credentials commanded respect. Litigation graphics were largely a mystery to most lawyers at that time, and I believe that the litigators at Howrey were quite proud of the in-house graphics department. Smartly, it and other divisions of Howrey were separate profit centers. The idea was visionary, but it failed. And it failed long before the firm did.

Having been in the industry for 18 years, I have seen many firms, vendors, and law firm graphics departments fail. I see a pattern in those failures and have come to believe that a law firm graphics department can, at best, only achieve short-term success.

Here are 13 reasons why I believe that in-house law firm litigation graphics/trial graphics/animation departments are mostly doomed for failure:

1. Law firms rarely go to trial. By far the biggest thing working against an in-house trial/litigation graphics department is how rarely it is used.  Even the largest law firms only make it all the way to trial maybe a dozen times per year, and that is across 15 or more offices. Even if you imagine that every one of those trials was handled by an in-house team, it’s just not that much work. Contrast that with our firm, which goes all the way to trial 25 to 75 times per year in addition to a lot of related work. More trials equals more meaningful experience.

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Five Tips to Keep Trial Tech on Course: Rules to follow when you’re in charge of courtroom presentation.

My favorite quote from this article is “If you want to see the worst of someone’s personality, go to trial with them — especially those who are only in trial once a year or less.

A little OCD can go a long way. Making sure everything is in order before you go to sleep at night will help you rest. Waiting to finish something in the morning can lead to other problems if something goes slowly, or additional work comes in. One point should be very clear — this is not a 9 to 5 job.”

By Ted Brooks

The option of using the tools of technology for trial presentation is no longer an issue for debate. Once thought of as running the risk of appearing “too slick,” juries and judges now expect to have the ability to view the evidence — even in bench trials.

With this acceptance comes an increased level of expectation. Where it was once not uncommon for an attorney to spend a few minutes digging through a stack of exhibits or boxes to locate a desired exhibit (and sometimes not finding it), it is now only a matter of seconds from the time an exhibit is mentioned until it is on the screen for all to view.

This bridge between attorney and evidence is often referred to as the “Hot Seat.” Like the attorney who could not find the important exhibit, the Hot Seat operator shares in the burden and risk of disturbing the flow of the trial. Although it looks like a well-rehearsed performance when done properly, technology glitches can cause a delay — or even a mistrial.

Here are a few things to include in your “insurance policy” that can help prevent a courtroom meltdown.


Can the Slow Pace of Trial Keep Up with Our Fast-Paced World?

Rushing through the C terminal of SeaTac Airport hoping to catch an earlier shuttle to Portland, I was pleased to see that every business and service around me attempted to accommodate my jet setter lifestyle. The Massage Bar enticed me to relax with a “15 minute short shot;” Butter™London promised a “waterless express manicure,” and Beechers suggested I, “Rush in and grab lunch to go.” I didn’t have time for any of those things. I was too busy eyeballing the “standby list” eager to get home an hour earlier than planned. Alas, the 2 p.m. flight came and went, and there I sat next to a 20-something kid who provided me with 30 minutes of entertainment and the inspiration for this blog.

It occurred to me that this kid, living in his double-screen world, could very well end up sitting in the jury box of your next trial. If he’s lucky, there will be a single foam-core poster board proudly displaying page 4 of a key document. And if he’s really lucky, there may be a PowerPoint show containing 40 bullet-pointed slides explaining the expert’s opinion. But, there won’t be interactive games or FaceTime connections with friends four states away.


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12 Astute Tips for Meaningful Mock Trials

I have led or helped lead over 400 mock trials in the past thirty years. In that time, I have learned what works and what does not. Below, I share twelve of the best lessons that I believe litigators can take from all of my accumulated experience.

1)     Don’t pull punches on the opposing side.

In mock trials, we often see counsel hone their messages and themes, as well as throw their best ammo at their own side’s presentation, but come up short when preparing the case for the opposing side, whether intentionally or unwittingly.

2)     Use balanced litigation graphics for both sides.

Understandably, in an effort to contain cost, as well as their natural desire to make the best case for their client, counsel often creates more and better-aimed litigation graphics for their own side, but may make an anemic attempt, if any, to create punchy graphics to drive home opposing points.

by Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.

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The Five Do’s and 12,000 Don’ts of Opening Statements

By Rich Matthews

I sat through some opening statements the other day, and can only just now talk about it. Even now, at some points in the story, I feel like pointing to a doll to communicate exactly where and how the two men in the black suits hurt me.

They did some good things – they actually had crafted some themes and frames that might still turn out to be pretty effective. But as an interested professional, I was looking for those things and was willing to sniff through a hill of crap to find the truffles. Fifteen jurors and alternates, I noticed, did not write down a single one of the themes that I thought were good.

What made these opening statements so bad? Well, the common lawyer tropes that make most opening statements so lousy.  Look, just because you have heard something from older lawyers about How To Do Things, it doesn’t mean they are right about it. As I point out to people who proudly declare themselves “old school,” there are usually good reasons they tear down old schools and put up new ones. So let’s go through those vampiric clichés that suck the life blood out of a speech and never quite die.

Read more here: http://juryology.com/2013/05/17/the-five-dos-and-12000-donts-of-opening-statements/

Three Critical Components in Litigation Graphic Design That You’re Not Doing

As litigators, we are standing at the edge of another revolution in trial advocacy. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the technology revolution transformed courtrooms around the country into multi-media presentation theaters. The next revolution is going to ensure that audiences are just as engaged as they are at an IMAX: prepare for the Visual Revolution. With almost 70% of the population being visual learners (Deza, Michel Marie & Elena (2009), Encyclopedia of Distances, Springer) and more and more people getting their information from the internet (49% according to Pew Research Center for the People & the Press), the threshold is near. Knowing this, each and every case that comes through a modern courtroom needs to be told in a visually compelling manner that turns complex facts into a clear and coherent story.

We are dealing with a different breed of audience; one that embraces technology, spends 141 hours in front of a television, and 41 hours a month online (A2/M2 Three Screen Report, Nielsen Media. Vol. 5, 2Q, 2009.). Our audience is pioneering this Visual Revolution and we too need to make this transition by creating an engaging story using multimedia tools to meet the ever changing needs of this modern, visual, and “instant information” culture. The more effective your courtroom presentation is, the more persuasive your argument is going to be, and the easiest way to accomplish this is with a visual framework and strategy.

In my twelve-year career as a litigation consultant, I have witnessed numerous graphics that have not embraced this ever-changing culture’s wants and needs. I have reviewed and critiqued countless visuals that have been carelessly laid out and unintentionally colored, while scrutinizing others that were difficult to read and even more difficult to understand. Visuals have departed from their original, intended purpose of telling a cohesive visual story and have become glorified word processing or a mix of improperly laid out, poorly selected images with an obscene election of colors.

In this day and age of “web-based learners,” our communication strategy needs to be structured and adhere to the same concepts to which our audiences are exposed daily. This article will demonstrate how to implement easy-to-follow tactics into your next presentation and take your communication to the level your audience expects.

Properly Placed Titles and Subtitles in Consistent and Prominent Areas

Placing titles and subtitles in the same spot every time teaches your audience where to look whenever a new visual is introduced. The overwhelming majority of the population reads left to right and top to bottom. Beginning your title in the upper left-hand corner takes full advantage of how your audience learns and educates them where to expect something important to be located. Placing your title and subtitle, which should also be your takeaway, in this strategic position ensures that your audience sees and understands the context and the theme of the graphic first, before other aspects are viewed and considered. We recommend creating two to three template variations that allow for horizontal and vertical positioning of the title and subtitle to accommodate different types of information. Creating a few templates allows more latitude in choosing the best layout to display a variety of documents, images, charts, etc., yet still focuses your audiences’ attention to the same location for your theme (i.e. takeaway).

A client on a recent case, commented that “a good demonstrative, can immediately convey a message in a single look,” and in our experience, nothing makes this easier than a perfectly worded and placed title.


Consistently Formatted Text, Data, and Images

Adhering to the same principles above, it is a smart practice to consistently format text, data, and images. Effective presentations should always support two principles: education and persuasion. Just as we are educating our audiences about our case, we are also aiding/training them to recognize the visual structure of the presentation by teaching the viewer to “know” where to look for important points. Conversely, if you constantly shift where important text, data, and images appear your audience will become confused as to whether or not this data is meaningful, leaving it up to them to decide. Remember, if you don’t show your audience how to assess what is important to your case, they will do it for you, and the result may not be what you wanted or intended.

Presenting information in this fashion enables both presenters and readers to readily ‘find’ critical data during testimony. As communication experts, we know individuals are more likely to be emotionally and/or logically tied to a decision when they themselves have reached it, compared to when another party determines it for them.


Consistent Application of Color in Diagrams, Icons, Labels, and Backgrounds

Since color plays a vital role in our everyday psychology, it would be irresponsible if we ignored it in our presentations. Color has the ability to influence our feelings and emotions in a way that few other mediums can. Color is a catalyst for affecting human mood, behavior, thinking, and rationale. Color invokes emotions, which is why marketing gurus have been integrating color into their strategies for centuries. Do you think the Coca Cola cans have remained red for decades by accident? If you’re thoughtlessly mixing colors throughout your presentation, you may end up unintentionally influencing your audience in the wrong direction.


When creating presentations for our clients, our consultants use blue or green, since it represents honor, trust, and calmness to identify our side of the case. We use the most emotionally intense color, red, for our opposition, because it represents danger and caution. By assigning a consistent color to the parties in a case, we ensure that each side is easily discernible and the point-of-view we’re advocating is clearly drawn.


Color can not only be used to differentiate parties, but also to help focus your audience on key information within a graphic. When trying to call attention to something, we utilize yellow highlighting (associated with liveliness and energy) to focus our audience’s concentration and let them know “hey, this is important.”


Colors can be a powerful tool to entice and engage your target audience and when used in a decisive manner, can be the difference between a visual that persuades and a visual that confuses or distracts.


You may notice something “consistent” about these points. Consistency in your strategy, your communication, and your presentation should go hand-in-hand. Grabbing your audience’s attention is not simply about communication processes; it is a strategic necessity, and the only true way to do this, is by investing as much time in your visual framework as you invest in your strategy. You could craft the most persuasive themes ever uttered in a courtroom but if you present them in a convoluted and unorganized manner, your case will fall short of your desired verdict. Think of it this way: What good is the perfect oratory presentation if your audience is deaf? Remember, nearly 70% of the population are visual learners, so we need to ensure we are addressing our audience’s wants and needs at THEIR level, not OURS.

After completing hundreds of post-trial interviews with jurors, one thing is clear: if we don’t supplement our case strategy with compelling, deliberately well-crafted visuals, our audience will be distracted and tune-out, forgetting our themes and dismissing the merits of our case. Following these simple, yet imperative rules will ensure your audience stays engaged throughout your presentation and empowers them to advocate your themes throughout deliberations and verdict.

David W Mykel is a Litigation Communications Consultant with VisuaLex, LLC, a litigation and graphics consulting firm located in New York City serving clients nationwide for over 25 years. Mykel assists clients on high exposure matters where he leverages his litigation experience and background in psychology in order to develop communication and presentation strategies that drive verdicts. From interviewing thousands of jurors and logging countless hours in the courtroom, Mr. Mykel has developed a unique perspective that allows him to utilize the tenets of art and the methodologies of science in order to create litigation graphics and presentation strategies that resonate with both jurors and judges.

Ban the Bullet (From Your Slides)

….my focus is on something less deadly in the literal sense, but more deadly to chances of good visual communication: bullet points in your PowerPoint presentation. Using bullets can seem like a simple way to walk the audience through your argument, but it isn’t, and the approach actually impedes understanding. We’ve written before (here and here) to join a rising chorus criticizing presenters’ reliance on bullet points. Despite this, walk into most courtrooms, mock trial presentation rooms, or CLEs and you’ll see presenters who keep using bullets like they’ve got an unlimited magazine.  One reason for this might be that the message hasn’t fully gotten out yet. Another reason, though, might be that bullets are simply easy for the speaker (both at the preparation and presentation stages) and the lure of having one’s own speaking notes on the screen can lead presenters to put their own needs ahead of their audience’s.

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

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Does the Pitch of Your Voice Impact Audience Perception?

By: Kacy Miller

Imagine you’re sitting in a jury box, and the trial attorney sounds just like Morgan Freeman. Or James Earl Jones.  Or Matthew McConaughey.  Or even Kathleen Turner or Judi Dench.

Then imagine that we can clone that attorney and make a “twin” who is 100% identical in look, style, demeanor, presentation, diction– everything but for the pitch of voice. One is a baritone and the other, a tenor.

Who do you think the audience would deem more trustworthy?  More competent?  As the better leader?

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Use Metaphors to Touch Your Fact Finders

By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:

As much as we celebrate thought and cognition, we still tend to experience the world in a tactile fashion, through our bodies. And as much as we celebrate innovation and originality, we still tend to understand the new in terms of what is already familiar. Putting the two together, a team composed of specialists in neurology, psychology, and rehabilitative medicine at Emory University have recently looked at the curious ability of some metaphoric language to be processed not just in the speech regions in the brain, but in those associated with bodily action as well. In particular, they looked at the ability of tactile metaphors — those that invoke the experience of touch — to activate the regions of the brain that are involved in the sensory experiences of touch. It appears that discussing a “smooth” landing, a “rough” experience, or a “pointed” comment doesn’t just lead the brain to consider the ideas suggested in that language, but leads the gray matter to process the touch-based experiences as well.

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