What’s Your Backup Plan?

September 19th, 2023|

Four plays and out. The year of hype; the coverage; the expectations – and with one play it’s over. Doesn’t matter if you’re a football fan, a Jets fan, or an Aaron Rodgers fan. That’s not the way it should have ended. But was it a possibility? Come on – you’d have to be crazy to not think that Rodgers could get injured, and you’d need a backup plan. Watching Eli and Peyton Manning on their Monday Night Football show, it was pretty obvious that they thought it was laughable that Zach Wilson was the backup plan – obvious because

Getting Back to Basics in Trial Planning

September 5th, 2023|

Imagine you are asked to build something – you don’t know if it’s a car, a house, a playground, or any of the other endless things it might be. To build it, you are given one tool at a time, but you are only given the barest of instructions on how to use that tool, you’re not told which part it actually builds, and the instructions are not given in the logical order that would make most sense. As the days go by, you begin to get a general idea of what you’re building, but because there are two

The Rise of Post-Pandemic Nuclear Verdicts

July 26th, 2023|

Over the last year, the most popular question we have fielded from frustrated defense attorneys and general counsel is why damage awards have been rising since the pandemic. Verdicts in the hundreds of millions and billions are no longer the outliers they used to be, as legal news outlets such as Law 360 seem to report almost daily verdicts in these ranges. For many, the pandemic epitomizes a key turning point where our culture went from somewhat predictable to totally unpredictable. Yet, the research shows us that the reality remains the same, namely that jurors are predictably irrational, with new

Emails…The Cockroaches of Litigation

April 4th, 2023|

An attorney once described emails as “the cockroaches of litigation” – they are pervasive, lurking in the dark to show their faces when you least expect it. And they refuse to die. They come out at the most inopportune times and leave a terrible impression on your jury. So, what do you do if you find yourself facing a few bad emails (and hopefully not much more)? There are a number of steps you can take to mitigate the impact of bad emails, and here are three. First, if one of your witnesses is associated with a troubling email, first

The “Poverty of Attention” at Trial

January 30th, 2023|

On a recent Armchair Expert podcast, host Dax Shepard paraphrased a quote by Herbert Simon, the gist being “…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”  Wanting to get the quote just right, I looked it up and while the simple paraphrase is fantastic, there are too many gems in the full quote to not repeat it here: “In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information

Find and Eliminate the “Stop/Don’t Stop” Moments in your Case Presentation

January 5th, 2023|

A funny Instagram post caught my eye the other day – a STOP sign with another sign immediately under it that said, “No stopping any time.” While surly there’s an explanation or with some thought, one could figure it out, it is still a bit of a head scratcher. It also made me think about all the times that jurors receive either contradictory or confusing messages during trial. With years of experience and knowledge about extremely nuanced details of the law, attorneys either do not notice or are not troubled by contradiction and confusion since those don’t really exist in

Is a “Fair and Impartial” Jury Even Possible?

November 7th, 2022|

A favorite client sent me this link with this message, “Wouldn’t this be a fun case to work on!” Jury Selection in the Trump Organization Case a Trial of Its Own – The New York Times (nytimes.com)  As I read it I had many thoughts, but mostly just how impossible it would be to truly get a “fair and impartial jury” for any case involving Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion. And, to muck up the water even more, I’d be very suspicious of anyone who states that they don’t have an opinion at all.

Time Management in Voir Dire: 4 Time Wasters to Eliminate from the Process

September 23rd, 2022|

Few things are more frustrating for a jury consultant than voir dire ending with the feeling that we did not learn anything particularly meaningful about the jury. It happens much more often than one might think, in part because it is difficult for some attorneys to appreciate how they could talk directly with the venire for thirty minutes and not learn anything valuable. Instead, we are left trying to extract insights from such trivial facts as Juror #14’s decades old DUI conviction or Juror #27 being an engineer. We have published extensively on the most effective strategies for voir dire

Creating a Successful Roadmap at Trial

May 24th, 2022|

It’s fantastic being back on the road. Zoom projects were great and can still be, but there’s nothing like being in the room with ten to twelve strangers debating serious topics, struggling to understand highly complex information, and then figuring out how to use that information to convince others in the room that they are right. It’s a frustrating, entertaining, informative, eye-opening, funny, and humbling experience.  From Seattle to Miami, Oakland to Trenton, and Houston to Chicago, two things are abundantly clear: 1) people are people; and 2) people are different. What?! Here’s what I mean: no matter the case

Rethinking Your Assumptions About PowerPoint Slides

May 5th, 2022|

I was recently teaching a class on visual learning, memory, and attention. I asked the participants to make a list of good rules for designing effective visual messages in slide shows, and I got the answers you might expect. Students said things like “use fewer slides,” “keep the backgrounds light and simple,” “use section headers and signpost for the audience,” etc. These answers aren’t surprising as they reflect much of the conventional wisdom on what makes for effective and persuasive slides. The problem is this: most of what people know about visual message design runs afoul of what brain science