By Amy Singer, Ph.D. and Diana Greninger
Long are the days we trusted professional football referees to make calls on plays. These days we look at replays before we trust a referee’s eyes. Technology has taken over everything from football to face to face meetings to trials. We use technology, such as Facetime or Skype, to speak “face to face” with our loved ones, whether they are 10 miles away or across the world. Trial lawyers use technology in the courtroom to help jurors envision the intricate details of their client’s case.
A few years ago, in the midst of a recession, spending a lot of money on flashy demonstrative aids in the courtroom was often frowned upon. Jurors would conclude that if the defendant had the funds to spend on graphics, they certainly could afford to make the plaintiff whole. Meanwhile, plaintiffs often struggled with being able to effectively express aspects of their case with graphics of the same standard as the defendant.
However, today’s technological advances are changing the environment for marketing, politics and litigation. Not only are good graphics more affordable, they are expected. Consumers, voters and jurors are used to seeing high quality graphics anywhere from TV ads, work presentations and social media outlets.
Jurors expect to see powerful graphics that are easy to read and interpret. They expect trial teams to put forth their best effort (in both presentation and visual aids) in order to be taken seriously in court. Simple graphics have come to mean lack of thoughtfulness or care for jurors’ understanding. Attorneys can no longer get away with saying things like “I hope you can see this on the screen,” or “take my word for it, it says/means x.”
Even during pre-trial research, mock jurors are expressing the want and need for higher quality demonstrative aids. We have found that when jurors cannot see/understand the demonstrative aid, they stop listening to what is being said.
Until recently, attorneys could get away with conducting their own mock trials in their offices. However, because of the recent cases that have been highly publicized, people have become more knowledgeable about trial proceedings. In-office mock trials often result in biased results that are not useful. These biased results are the equivalent to poor quality graphics that do not impress jurors who keep up with the news.
The problem with conducting your own focus groups is subjectivity. Trial consultants work on hundreds, if not thousands, of trials throughout their careers. Due to that exposure, they will identify a problem and know how to handle it because of their broad knowledge and experience. One can’t get out of their own head. Anyone can sit and listen to people talk, but what does it mean? What is the argument to which there is no counterargument? What is the psychology that drives the case? What is the appropriate strategy? Two heads are better than one.
The same applies to graphics: attorneys need an objective 3rd party, people who have been trained to convey complex information visually. Infographics are now trending as they allow a lot of information to be presented in an organized, visually appealing manner. For example, we recently worked on a case that involved a multitude of parties. An infographic can be used as a “player’s chart” where the multiple parties, shell corporations, international law and other complicated aspects of the case can be easily presented.
In a recent article entitled How to persuade jurors in a complex case (August 29, 2013), we described how the best way to impart knowledge to the jury is through the use of demonstrative evidence (graphics). The best way to impart understanding is through the use of analogies and metaphors (trial consulting). Only when you have provided jurors with knowledge and understanding, will you allow them to develop wisdom regarding their verdict.
Trial attorneys need to step up their game (if you haven’t already) and keep up with the times when it comes to trial preparation, in both graphics and overall trial strategy.