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5 Surprising Areas Where Geography No Longer Matters in Trial Support

Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.
By: Kenneth J. Lopez, J.D.

Trial Technicians, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Trial Technology, Jury Consultants, Trial Preparation

trial support firm local geography litigationby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Geography is often part of a buying decision. We make decisions about where to get our hair cut or where to buy groceries that are influenced by geography. Then again, we don't often make a decision about which social networks to use or where to buy flowers from based on geography.

Trial support services fall somewhere in between those extremes, and I find that the question of location really depends on whom you ask. We have clients around the world, and some of those are geography-sensitive clients who prefer to work with one of our staff close to them. This week alone, I saw inquiries from a New York client and a Chicago prospective client, both of whom demanded to meet with our local staff. Others don’t care where our people are located. They just want the best trial support firm.

When I started our firm in the mid-1990s, geography was not a big issue for most people. There were really only a few firms anywhere who did what we did. Accordingly, people who needed jury consulting help or litigation graphics help focused only on quality. Today, there are more firms doing what we do, although I really still see only a small group who are really industry leaders.

So some people still do not pay attention to geography, while others do. Given that anyone can now hop on GoToMeeting or even Google Chat and have a video conference in seconds, geography really should not matter much. I find that a video chat is nearly as good as an in-person meeting. It is also more time and cost efficient.

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Here are five surprising areas in which geography used to be a big deal for trial support services but just isn’t (or shouldn’t be) any more.

1. Brainstorming: Litigation graphics brainstorming or trial preparation strategy sessions used to be something that had to be done in person. We needed the free space of a whiteboard or flip charts to make it work, and the personal interaction was crucial for us in learning how to advise a trial team to illustrate a key point or to design a jury exercise. Today, we use shared mind mapping tools to brainstorm with clients, coupled with video chat.

2. Interviewing Vendors: It used to be that the best way to pick a trial support vendor was to meet the prospect in person. This is no longer necessary, and in many cases it only serves to increase price. Today, video conferences are increasingly replacing in-person meetings.  After all, one's ability to set up a good looking environment for a video conference and handle the technology says a lot about the ability to serve you well in a trial support capacity, doesn't it? You can find a lot out about how well a firm anticipates problems.

3. Moving Big Files: It was not too long ago that FedEx was our large file transfer solution. Today, we use highly secure services to manage documents online, and large files are moved in seconds. Still, at a certain point, moving gigabytes worth of data gets to be a pain, but we have an integrated system for moving files readily. This ability is especially important when managing a quick-turnaround e-brief project.

4. Practicing One's Trial Presentation: Litigators used to rely on practicing in front of the mirror or conducting mock trials for practicing their trial presentations. Now, we are offering remotely conducted Micro-Mock exercises where trial counsel can test themes, evidence and their trial presentation remotely. The less personal nature of it seems to encourage more practice, which is a great benefit.

5. Good Trial Consultants Aren’t Just Local: Pretend you're sick and need lifesaving surgery for a rare condition. Do you go to your nearest hospital, or do you go to the best and most experienced doctors who can help you? The same should be true for most trial support services we provide, in particular trial/jury consultants. There are very few jury consultants and litigation graphics consultants, and I think a lot of people forget that. The entire industry is estimated to only be about $150 million. So, it would be very unusual if the best person or most experienced person was nearby. Our senior jury consultant for example has conducted more than 400 mock trials. I suspect there are only a handful of people in the world who can say this.

As both voice calls and in-person meetings are slowly replaced by high-quality video calls, I expect to see fewer in-person meetings. This is just as true for local meetings as it is for meetings across the country. As geography matters less and less, competition will increase and prices will fall. That is good news for an industry that is seeking more cost efficiency related to trial support.

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