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Litigation Timelines: 5 Tips for Effective Litigation Timelines

Timeline for Courtroom Presentation
Hardly a case goes to trial without some sort of timeline.  Whether it is produced in PowerPoint, Prezi, printed on a trial board, displayed on an Elmo or made using litigation timeline-specific software, timelines are an essential tool in a litigator's arsenal.

Preparing a timeline, like creating a PowerPoint or driving a car, seems easy enough at first. However, like either of those tasks, the basics are simple, but the talent-spread between a novice and a master is vast. Below are 5 tips from a group of timeline masters at A2L Consulting that will help anyone advance their talent level:

  1. Tell a Story!  The entire point of a timeline is storytelling.  Like a poorly constructed PowerPoint presentation where the presenter reads bullet point after bullet point, if the timeline is used primarily as a memory device for the presenter it fails.  Consider integrating charts, documents, photographs and video into your timeline to make it come alive.
  2. The Bar with the Years On It is Not the Most Important Thing: OK, maybe sometimes it is but you have to admit it is pretty rare.  So, why do people make it huge, red, glowing or even blinking.  Usually it is the relative position of the events to one another that is key not the date bar. We recommend emphasizing the events and not the date bar.
  3. Don't use a key or legend:  If you have not read Edward Tufte's books yet, you should.  One great point he makes is that there is not usually a good reason for a color coded key or legend.  All it does is force people to decode your message before getting your message.  Consider including icons or other information to tell your story instead.  For example if it is a dispute between two companies, put the logo for the relevant company on the event.
  4. Trim it to Just Enough Data: The biggest mistake most people make is that they draft a 12 page timeline ine Word and then hope to fit it all on one timeline that can be viewed at once.  Don't feel bad, everyone does it. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, if we had more time we would make a simpler timeline.  Our advice is to do your best when drafting in Word to keep your events short using as many abbreviations as possible.  Then, cut it down over and over until it is down to the basics.  Only then, make your timeline.
  5. Use Large Enough Text:  If you don't follow tip #4, you will not be able to follow tip #5.  Our rule of thumb is that text should be no smaller than 18 point if projected and 18 point on a printed board.  Prezi can help you overcome these timeline problems by allowing you to create an interactive zoomable timline.

We hope these tips help you make a fantastic litigation timeline.  If you need the assistance of one of our experts, please contact us by email or at the contact number below.

  • "We made the right decision when we hired you. You are absolutely the best."

    Holland & Knight
  • "I am very happy with the quality of A2L's work and happy with the graphics. One of the best jury consultants I have worked with."

    Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
  • "If you are in need of highly qualified, creative, diligent and personable providers of trial graphics, I recommend A2L. They were wonderfully helpful and supportive of our team and demonstrated, repeatedly, real skill in creating graphic and demonstrative exhibits that captured the essence of our presentation. Just as important, they did this under extreme time and quality pressure and, always, with a smile."

    Foley & Lardner
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    Fidelity National Law Group