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Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 4 - Don't Overlook Visual Persuasion

Ryan Flax
By: Ryan Flax

Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Demonstrative Evidence, Advocacy Graphics, Storytelling, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion


by Ryan H. Flax
(Former) Managing Director, Litigation Consulting & General Counsel
A2L Consulting

In our last post in this series, we explained why storytelling is the key to gaining and keeping the attention of any decision maker and thus the key to winning before trial.

How does one develop an effective story? Here are the rules of thumb.  

First, the simpler the story, the better, and the simpler the language, the better. Use metaphors involving sensory descriptions. Reduce the facts to a relatable story, and use “word pictures.”

The complete package of storytelling is not just an oral telling of a story; it also involves necessary visual persuasion.

Studies show that at least 60 percent of people learn primarily by seeing. They are visual learners. 

The majority of attorneys, however, are auditory and kinesthetic learners, which means that attorneys typically learn by hearing and/or experiencing something.  When you think about it, this makes sense because lawyers learn this way in law school lectures, and they continue to do so as practicing attorneys by experiencing litigation. However, most people do most of their “learning” watching television or surfing the Internet.

The problem is that most people usually feel more comfortable teaching the way that they prefer to learn. So most lawyers will teach and argue to the decision-makers and will attempt to persuade them by giving a lecture. That is not what most jurors want and is not suitable to most jurors’ style. While judges are even less likely to be visual learners than jurors, many still are visual or kinesthetic learners.

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You can’t just dump information on your jury or judge audience. You have to connect with them. You have to present information in an effective way. How do you bridge that communications gap? The way to do that is by using effective demonstrative exhibits. This way, you will be able to teach and argue, using your comfort zone, but the graphics will provide the judge or jurors with what they need to understand what you’re saying. This gives them a chance to agree with you. This effort should begin in your earliest filings and hearings.

Two researchers recently tested the effect of graphics on jurors. In two different studies, each with four groups of jurors, the researchers looked at the persuasiveness and impact of opening statements in an employment discrimination case. One group of jurors saw no graphics, one group saw graphics with the plaintiff’s opening statement, and one group saw graphics with both opening statements. This was done twice, making a total of eight groups and more than 500 jurors.

The results showed that not only did the use of graphics make an argument stronger, but it actually made jurors feel that the attorney using them was more competent, more credible, and probably more likable. The jurors retained the information better – and the result was better verdicts for the graphics users. When the plaintiff used demonstrative graphics, for example, the defendant was seen as more liable for damages. When the defendant used graphics, the defendant was considered less liable.

So what is the lesson of this study? It is that demonstrative graphics are essentially a mandatory component of any litigation - both during trial and before trial . If you’re not using them and your opposing counsel is using them, you’re in a heap of trouble.

In our next post, we will look at what kind of graphics work – and what kind of graphics don’t work.   Click here to be notified of subsequent articles.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Other articles and resources related to trial preparation, storytelling for lawyers and persuasion from A2L Consulting:

A2L Consulting Voir Dire Consultants Handbook

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