The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Can't See the Forest For the Trees

As a trial team develops a case, going through discovery, depositions, and possibly several attempts at settlement, each step in the process takes them deeper into the fine details of the matter. Mock Trials, Focus Groups, Settlement Conferences, Mediation, and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution can all be helpful in further sharpening the level of understanding and knowledge of the case. By the time a case is ready for trial, the entire team will know the case inside-out, and will likely be familiar with its technical aspects, events which may be plotted onto a timeline, and which witnesses will be most helpful to your case. You should also have a good idea which witnesses are good candidates to be set up for impeachment, and will have their depo testimony excerpts ready to attack their credibility.

You might also have a series of demonstrative graphics, and maybe even an animation to help convince your jurors that yours is the "right" side in this case. All of this preparation and review can make you so familiar and knowledgeable about the case that you may even understand it better than your client. One thing is certain -- you will view it differently than your client, since you also understand how everything fits into the litigation process, and what is permissible in court. As part of a trial team, you are also likely to view things a bit more objectively.

Can't See the Forest For the Trees

If you have retained a Trial Presentation Consultant, you will have the advantage of working with someone who is extremely familiar and comfortable with stress, the trial process, and handling many different tasks at once. Unlike many attorneys or other in-house legal professionals who are in trial only once or twice a year, a professional Trial Presentation Consultant is involved in many trials each year. The high stress of trial is something they deal with on a daily basis, and this too can be valuable to the team. So is it worth spending the extra money on a consultant who bills as much as some attorneys? Do they bring so much knowledge to the case that they are critical to the efficient presentation of the evidence?

While I would love to try and convince you that I am so smart and know so much that I can guarantee you will win your case if you hire me, the truth is, one of my greatest assets to your client and trial team is not what I know. Rather, it is what I don't know. I bring no assumptions of the basic facts, no knowledge of what is important in the case, and no biased perspectives. A good Trial Presentation Consultant brings a fresh pair of eyes -- not yet tainted by months or even years of preparation. They can be the closest thing you have to a juror, and in fact, will generally offer daily feedback during trial, from the perspective of a shadow juror.

If you do bring in an outside consultant, you should provide them with a set of trial briefs -- but not only from your side. In order to help identify issues which might be overlooked, or to help spot holes in the case, it is helpful for an objective observer to see what the other side has to say, as well. A good consultant comes in with a fresh perspective, and their opinion should not be taken lightly.

In addition to trial preparation, graphics, war room support, and trial presentation in the courtroom, a good Trial Presentation Consultant can act as a thirteenth juror. Even with all that, the real value-added service is often not as a result of what they know -- it's what they don't know.

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