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Working in Parallel vs. Series with Trial Presentation Consultants

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

Trial Graphics, Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Litigation Management, Trial Preparation, Management, Leadership


trial presentation consultants parallell versus seriesby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Our business saw a big growth spurt begin in the summer of 2013. Since the summer, cases of all types and sizes have arrived at our doors.

With so many cases going on simultaneously, I have had an opportunity to compare the styles of various trial teams. One stylistic difference I see is between those trial teams who want to work in parallel versus those who want to work in series.

Let me define terms here -- parallel versus series. In the electrical sense, most people think of parallel versus series in the context of holiday lighting. If a string of holiday lights were in series and one bulb went out, the entire string would go out. The reality is that all holiday lighting is manufactured with parallel circuitry. Thus, if one bulb goes out, the others stay on.

So what does electrical circuitry have to do with the courtroom and trial preparations? It offers a reasonable metaphor for two styles of trial preparation. If a trial team operates in parallel, it allows a high degree of control, input and independence for its trial presentation consultants. They will be free to work with the trial team to develop a theme, a story, an outline and their draft slide decks without a ton of day-to-day input from the trial team except for some general coaching.

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On the other end of the spectrum, what I'm calling the series approach, there are trial teams that will not allow trial presentation consulting operations to proceed without a high degree of control. Nothing is to be executed without authorization and input, and discussions are conducted in a highly regimented format.

These two styles are common amongst our clientèle. We see both types in equal amounts, and I suspect if we took the time to graph and assess it, we would see a bell curve.

Very few trial presentation consulting firms can be trusted to operate in parallel. After all, how could they come to understand and appreciate the nuances of a case that has been in progress for years? Well, I can say that firms like ours and a small handful of others around the country operate quite well in a parallel format.

In trial presentation, freedom combined with some structure allows for maximum creativity. And it is creativity quite specifically that a trial team is seeking to outsource. The more freedom within reasonable boundaries, the better the results, but both approaches can and do produce good results.

One of the great challenges for our frontline litigation consultants who in our firm are usually former litigators themselves, is assessing whether this trial team who is in front of them wants them to operate in parallel or in series. Asking the question in an otherwise heated trial environment does not always produce a real answer.

How do you know if you can trust your trial presentation firm to operate in parallel at all? I think a lot of it has to do with the personnel in that firm. Are they attorneys? Are they litigators? Are they experienced litigators? If the answers to these questions are yes, I think you might get very good results by allowing them the opportunity to operate in parallel for a brief period of time.

So what would this look like? Well, you might say I'd like to see a draft presentation that follows this ten-point outline in a week. And I'd like that to take no more than 50 hours. Running a test along these lines will help you understand whether you are dealing with a trial presentation consulting firm who is capable of operating in parallel or series. This is important to know as it helps define the level of management that will be required from your team.

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