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Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 5 - Proper Use of Litigation Graphics

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

Trial Graphics, Litigation Graphics, Demonstrative Evidence, Persuasive Graphics

by Ryan H. Flax, Esq.
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting & Gen. Counsel
A2L Consulting

In our last post in this “Winning Before Trial” series, we showed that demonstrative graphics are a mandatory component of any litigation. If you’re not using them and your opposing counsel is using them, you’re in serious trouble. But what kind of graphics work? The answer to that question is not very intuitive.

A study by Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm, a litigation and jury consultant, investigated the effectiveness of various communication techniques in the eyes of jurors. Interestingly, this study found that there really wasn’t much difference in effectiveness when comparing the effect on jurors of (1) no graphics at all; (2) simple flip charts; (3) static and sporadic graphics; and (4) animated and sporadic graphics. However, when the “jurors” were immersed in litigation graphics, meaning that the attorney always gave them something to see while presenting his argument, the effectiveness of the litigation graphics dramatically increased. 

Jurors who were immersed in graphics were better prepared on the subject matter, felt it was more important, paid more attention, comprehended it better, and retained more information. Immersion is your goal as a litigator whether in the courtroom or in pre-trial filings.

Please note as well that you can’t just make some PowerPoint slides and bring them to trial or a pre-trial hearing. Putting everything you say, word for word, on a slide will actually decrease your fact-finder's understanding and retention of the point you are trying to make. This is called the redundancy effect. It is a result of people’s limited working memory. It’s a well-known psychological phenomenon that has been the focus of significant research. Basically, the result of making a graphic showing exactly what you’re simultaneously saying is worse than ineffective. It has the effect of shutting down your audience’s brain. You are subjecting your audience to a “cognitive load” that their brains can’t handle, so they stop taking in any information.

Another key lesson in developing trial graphics for an electronic presentation: Don’t use bullet points. They are unprofessional and will kill your presentation. None of the most effective presenters use them. Using bullets probably means that your presentation is text-heavy, which is a barrier to effective communication.

People read faster than they hear – 150 words per minute spoken versus 275 words per minute reading. People will read your bullets before you can say them, and they will stop listening. If jurors are spending time and brainpower reading your trial graphics presentation, they are not listening. Just using that little bullet dot makes your presentation boring.

However, the use of bullet points and other visual cues in your pre-trial filings is strongly encouraged. Here, bullets help highlight important information and the reader is not both hearing and seeing the information simultaneously.

Next, we will take a look at the views of the top experts on the visual presentation of information.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Other articles and resources on A2L Consulting's site related to litigation graphics, storytelling for persuasion, trial graphics and demonstrative evidence:

pretrial trial graphics motions briefs hearings

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