Two Reasons ‘Fake News’ Spreads Like Wildfire

March 14th, 2018|

Fake news. It’s the buzzword of 2018 and sadly, some say, it is quickly becoming a huge threat to journalism and democracy. But what exactly is “fake news” and why does it matter in the world of litigation? Fake news is misinformation that is broadcast, shared or otherwise disseminated to the masses. Typically, we think of fake news as occurring on the internet, but it can (and has) appeared in print media as well. But for now, let’s focus on the internet, specifically, Twitter. The most comprehensive “fake news” study to date was published March 9th in the journal Science.

5 Tips for Becoming a More Persuasive Speaker

February 21st, 2018|

In a perfect world, each of us would have been born with an innate set of TED-worthy communication skills that could help us magically transform any audience into a group of attentive, interested and engaged listeners. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and unfortunately, too many audience members choose to flip the proverbial ignore switch.  Whether you’re a natural in front of an audience, or a work-in-progress, each of us has one critical communication skill already available in our toolbox: our voice. And the bonus? It’s free. Available 24/7. And it never requires WiFi.   Our voice isn’t simply a method for conveying words to a potentially unmotivated audience. When used effectively, our voice has the capacity to maintain our listeners’ attention, persuade, and even evoke emotion. Which,

Courtroom Conduct Matters. Yes, Counsel: That Includes You.

February 12th, 2018|

I never attend trial without issuing some specific behavioral guidelines to my team. And this includes counsel. The rules for courtroom conduct are, to me, nothing short of Courtroom Commandments. They are: Watch your Ps and Qs from the moment you leave your house/hotel room. Keep your note-passing to a minimum. Whisper only when necessary. Keep your work space clean. Be organized. Don’t stare at the jury. Do not react. Never lose your cool. In other words, always, always, always exude the utmost degree of professionalism. One Chance to Make a First Impression I realize these rules are little more

The Rhyming Theme of OJ’s Dream Team

January 31st, 2018|

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” The most legendary trial theme of my lifetime. Probably yours, too (assuming you’re older than 30). Those words, perhaps more than any actual evidence presented at trial, are what will be remembered most about the 1995 OJ Simpson murder trial. In the eyes of many observers, it was what cinched his acquittal (though reasonable minds can differ on that point). Johnnie Cochran, OJ’s showboat defense lawyer who uttered the unforgettable words, undoubtedly knew the importance of trial themes (we’ve written before about the benefit of developing themes in early discovery). But what was

How to Meet Your Witness’s Need for Approval

January 16th, 2018|

In my younger years as a newbie jury consultant, I worked with Dr. Phil McGraw – if you didn’t have an opportunity to work with him in the pre-Oprah days, you may know him as “Dr. Phil.” Phil developed a reputation for being fairly blunt and “telling it like it is.” Some of his quirky comments became known as “Philisms”, and surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), there are even websites dedicated to these sayings.  (And a funny YouTube video compilation for those wanting a few seconds of comic relief.) But not every Philism was quirky: some were spot-on, and practical.

The Top Ten ‘Persuasion Matters’ Posts of 2017

January 9th, 2018|

As we gear up for an amazing 2018, we thought it’d be fun (and let’s be honest, easier on our sluggish, post-holiday brain) to feature the Top 10 posts from 2017 (according to Google Analytics). What’s kind of cool is that the #1 post was an article published in Texas Lawyer, and seven  posts were recognized by Texas Bar Today as one of their weekly Top 10 posts!  Now that’s what we call a pretty nice incentive to continue writing. While we noodle new ideas and worthy tips to share, we hope you’ll visit, revisit and share the posts below!  

Finding Scrooge: Trial-Tested Tips for Seating a Defense-Friendly Jury

December 13th, 2017|

The holidays are a wonderful time of generosity, when we open our hearts and wallets to those we love, and sometimes, complete strangers. But in the legal industry, some litigants shy away from jury trials during the holidays, if for no other reason than to avoid a box filled with jurors who feel a tad indulgent. Civil defendants roll the dice each and every time they go to trial and risk of receiving a multi-million-dollar judgment. (Just ask J&J.) When it comes to money damages, defendants typically fare better when bleeding hearts are not seated on the jury panel –

How a Cold-Hearted Bully Illustrates the Importance of Theme Development

November 28th, 2017|

Remember when the name “Lance Armstrong” was synonymous with cycling, Tour de France, and über-athleticism? And remember how all that love came to a screeching halt in 2013 when Armstrong was essentially banned from competing in the sport for life due to his long history of using performance-enhancing drugs? What you may not remember is the post-doping lawsuits that were borne from various companies’ attempts to recover prize money, endorsements, and a host of other contractual issues. Enter: SCA Promotions, Inc. v. Lance Armstrong, et al. (DC-13-01564) in the 116th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas. Although I did not personally

Anchoring Your Argument: How to Use The ‘Anchoring Effect’ to Persuade

November 8th, 2017|

I recently worked on a federal jury trial where our main objective was damage control: keeping the verdict as low as possible. Plaintiff counsel, of course, wanted to maximize damages, and thus needed the jury to buy in to his damage number as early as possible. The plaintiff lawyer (knowingly or not), attempted to benefit from the “anchoring affect” during his opening statement. A bit of background: The anchoring effect is a cognitive bias that causes us to rely on a reference point, or “anchor,” when making future decisions or evaluations. It’s a well-tested psychological phenomenon. We rely on the

Vacated J&J Verdict Offers Insight into Jury Deliberations

October 30th, 2017|

A recent ruling in California tossing a $417 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson provides trial lawyers with a priceless peek into how jurors think and what they take into consideration in awarding damages – even when they shouldn’t. The $417 million verdict against J&J was in one of several suits against the company alleging that their iconic baby powder, and other talcum powder products, causes ovarian cancer and that it failed to warn consumers about the risks of using their products. On October 20, however, the Superior Court of California issued an order granting defendants a new trial. The