Should You Videotape a Doctor's Deposition?

The best surgeons are best at surgery. Some of them are good speakers, some of them can teach, some of them can educate. A lot of them can’t. While it’s important for everyone in every profession to be able to get their point across, not every one can.

It’s good enough for good doctors to be good doctors. However, we have to explain to the jury the mechanism of the injury, the treatment, causation of the injury and other medical issues to people unfamiliar with these topics.

Some doctors can explain things better, some can’t. It’s as simple as that. If I can’t have the doctor at trial, I would prefer to have a good, credible, well spoken doctor on videotape. If the doctor hems and haws, is uncertain of his or her opinions or has not reviewed the file, it’s probably better to just take the deposition and not videotape it.

David Ball is of the opinion that trials are human events and that it is better to read the deposition in to the record and have a live person read it, than have a talking head on a big screen.

I think in the long run it comes down to a judgment call.

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Don't Keep the Jury Waiting

Fellow trial attorney Ronnie Richter was recently on jury duty and had the

I was recently called for jury duty in Charleston County.  I did not get picked (surprise) to sit on a jury, but was called on 3 separate occasions to the jury assembly room.  I spent my time trying to observe and listen to what was being said.  I offer the following observation to my brother and sister trial lawyers.

Forcing the jury panel to wait absolutely sucks the energy out of them.  We are doing ourselves a GRAVE injustice when we arrive at the courthouse and continue a dialogue with the court or opposing counsel that causes the jury to wait.  On one occasion, we were asked to report to the assembly room by 2:30.  By 2:40, you could feel the tension, and comments such as “now they are on my time” were overheard. 

When the judge showed up a little late and commented that he and the lawyers were working, the jury muttered “yeah, but you’re getting paid.”  On another occasion, we were asked to report by 9:30.  The clerk did not appear until 10:00.  In the interim, I overhead the jury commenting on how much lunch cost the day before and how much money their service was costing them. Continue Reading Posted inPresentation, Trial Techniques |Comments (0) |Permalink

I Know Nothing!

Sgt Schultz

 What do you do when a corporation

  • Doesn’t do an inspection?
  • Doesn’t have any incident reports?
  • Doesn’t keep any records?
  • Doesn’t know what employees were working at the time of the incident?
  • Doesn’t have any document creation or retention policy?
  • Doesn’t have any written policies or procedures at all?

Or to put it a Southern way. What do you do when a corporation doesn’t know nuthin’ about nothing?

We’ve all encountered situations like that, both in life and the practice of law. We had a situation of that nature and for a demonstrative exhibit at closing arguments, we had a blow up of Sergeant Schultz from Hogan Heroes.

What kind of person can know absolutely nothing about nothing? One who is purposefully and studiously looking the other way. It’s hard to make a man see, when he makes his living by being blind.

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Do You Talk Like a Talking Head?

I went to a seminar awhile ago and gave a presentation. There were a lot of accomplished presenters there that had very impressive academic backgrounds. I looked forward to listening to what they had to say. But you know what? They didn’t say anything.

They covered their background, told an anecdote or two that was totally unrelated to the topic or helpful to the audience in anyway (because it didn’t share helpful information, it conveyed how clever the speaker was). Much of the talk included gobbledy gook language. Every profession has their own lingo, but talk English to people. Hopefully as trial lawyers we’re better at this than most.

One of my favorite questions is “What does that mean?” I was at LexThink a few years ago and talking to someone and asked him what he did. He gave me a rambling corporate speak that really didn’t tell me anything. Okay. What does that mean? Again random corporate speak. Okay. What does that mean?

I had to ask him three times what that meant before I got anywhere close to an answer. The answer was we deal with standardizing innovation and new ideas, so that people can respond to them, improve them and have an objective way of determining which are the best ideas, which are working and which are not. Ahhhh….well, then. That’s pretty cool. Then just say that.

When he first started talking, such gibberish was coming out of his mouth that I was thinking to myself “This guy is either a genius, or an idiot, but I can’t figure out which one”. It turns out that he’s a genius. He used to work for one of the big 8 accounting firms as a senior consultant and he was really doing neat stuff. But he had a hard time saying that.

Make it simple. Talk like a person.

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How to Ask a Vague Question

I was in depositions yesterday on a car wreck case. There was a dispute about how the collision occurred. The other side disputed how the responding officer stated the collision happened. Honestly, the other side was not a good historian, was a bit cantankerous and the deposition lasted much longer than is typical in this situation. After his deposition, we took the wife’s deposition and had the following exchange:

Q: You were present for your husband’s deposition and heard everything he said?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you agree with everything your husband said?

A: Good heavens, No.

Q: Let me reprhase that. Regarding how your husband described the car wreck, the speeds, and the position of the vehicles at the time of collision, do you agree with all that?

A: Yes.

Sometimes you have to be more precise. (I typically don’t like compound questions, but I already knew that she didn’t have an opinion that was different than the husband’s).


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Just Because Juries Don't Know Legal Language, Doesn't Mean They Aren't Smart

Evan Schaeffer of the Illinois Trial Practice Blog, has a great post Communicating with Juries by Acting Like a Regular Person: Is It Even Possible?. As Evan says:

… To put it another way, I remember what it was like to be a typical juror. Here's the key: I wasn't stupid. Despite my lack of legal education, I happened to be damn smart--smarter that I am today, I'm pretty sure. My only failing was that I hadn't yet been indoctrinated into that cozy group of professionals who knew the meaning of words like tort, strict liability, negligence, and demurrer, and who sometimes looked down at those who didn't.

I think you get the point. Try it yourself. By thinking back to a time before law school, you too might be able to get in touch with your inner regular person. I'm certain you'll find that he was smart, articulate, and intellectually engaged. He probably had a wealth of personal experience. If a snotty lawyer had stood up in front of him and said that he was going to "attempt to keep things simple" so that "even a non-lawyer could understand"--well, your inner regular person probably would have been a tad offended. He'd probably have asked the lawyer to get the hell off his pedestal and start acting like a regular person.

He makes a good point. There’s a whole world of smart people that aren’t lawyers. The entire post is worth a read.

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Visual Communication Style for Lawyers is Taking Off

Visual communication has been around for awhile. It consists of ‘anchoring’ arguments with a visual image. If you’re talking about a person, show their picture. If you’re talking about a doctor’s office, show it’s picture. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but even if you’re in a contracts case, show a picture of the outside of the office of the company that breached the contract. People respond to and remember things better when there is a visual.

I was in Columbus, Ohio recently for the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers annual Convention and gave a presentation using the visual communication style. It’s a style that has been perfected and popularized by Cliff Atkinson in Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire. I was pleasantly surprised when a number of people came up to me after the presentation to talk about Beyond Bullets and the visual comminication style. The person giving a presentation after me used the visual communication style as well.

If you want to know more about the visual communication style, go to Cliff Atkinson:s blog, Beyond Bullets or look at Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen blog. Garr has a different take on the same principles. I love them both.

Hmm…..I wonder if Cliff Atkinson:s success with Mark Lanier on the first Vioxx case has anything to do with his new popularity?

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Structure for Opening Statements

As longtime readers already know, I’m a big fan of David Ball’s book on Damages. David suggests a structured approach to opening statements. I had been using David’s structure before, but hearing Bruce Stern at the ATLA Convention and Ken Suggs at Auto Torts reinforced this approach.

  1. Rule and consequence
  2. Story (of what the defendant did)
  3. Blame (Who are we suing and why)
  4. Undermine (What is wrong with the liability defenses?)
  5. Damages (What are the losses and harms?)
  6. Money (What do you want?)

One of the primary goals of the opening statement is to prepare the jury to understand that your case is about determining harm and setting damages (to fix, help and make up for) as opposed to just determining who is right and wrong. You want the jury focusing on the degree of the harm, and not just who is right and wrong. I can’t recommend David’s book highly enough. You should also go to ATLA’s Damages Seminar that David gives, if you get the chance.

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Bring Your Client to the Deposition of Difficult Doctors

Rodney Pillsbury gives the excellent suggestion of bringing your client to the deposition of a treating physician you think might say negative things about your client. It is much more difficult for a person to that someone is lieing and malingering if that someone is sitting in the room watching.

Good point Rodney and thanks for the tip.

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Focusing on What People Need to Hear

PowerPoint gets a lot of bad press. There’s nothing wrong with the software, but there’s a ton of bad PowerPoint presentations out there. I think PowerPoint allows a bad presenter to give bad presentations more easily. Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft PowerPoint to Create Presentations That Inform, Motivate, and Inspire does a great job of moving away from the horrific presentations we’re used to.

Cliff urges us to consider what the audience wants to know and how the information will help them. Then take that information and put it in a classical Greek story format so that you’re not just giving facts, but telling a story. Good stuff. Cliff has also set up a template to help people storyboard and turn their information into a story. As a trial lawyer, I appreciate Cliff’s structure and find it helpful, but don’t feel the need to follow it 100% of the time.

I’ve also been reading Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds recently. Garr uses the same concepts as Cliff; e.g. getting away from bullet points, working to focus on what the audience wants to hear and using carefully selected graphics to anchor the points. Garr is an American living in Japan and when focusing on simplicity he focuses on a zen approach. As Garr quotes "Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means." — Dr. Koichi Kawana

For trial lawyers this is important stuff. How do we get across information so that people will actually understand and accept the information? It’s not enough that we say things, it has to be understood, accepted and internalized by the juror or audience member. If we don’t have that, we’re just talking in the wind.

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Don't Describe the Plaintiff as the Victim

I just got back from the Southern Trial Lawyer’s Association Fall Retreat. Howard Nations reminded us not to ask the jury to ‘compensate the victim’. A large percentage of the jury thinks that the defendant is the victim! Regardless of how badly your client was injured and did nothing to contribute to the injury, the person that caused the injuries is the victim, because he’s being sued. Ah well.

And of course, by now we all know now not ask for a jury award. Award is too much like reward, as in ‘jackpot justice’ and ‘litigation lottery’ terms commonly used by people trying to coopt our legal system. (Reform is far too inappropriate a term for it).

The Retreat was at Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. While there, I was the opening act at Jokers Wild, the comedy club at Atlantis on Friday and Saturday night. It was my first performance away from Myrtle Beach and a lot of fun. Pics are here.

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Evan Schaeffer on The Dangers of Winging It in Depositions

Evan Schaeffer at the Illinois Trial Practice Weblog has a great post on The Dangers of Winging It in Depositions. Some of the questions Evan asks:

  • What are the goals of the deposition? Are you merely gathering information or can you also get helpful admissions from the witness? How do you plan to achieve your goals?
  • Do you plan to exhaust the witness's memory on certain issues? Which ones? Why those issues and not others? When you're finished, will the witness really be pinned down, or have you left some open doors for him to wiggle through later?
  • Have you reviewed the pleadings? If not, why not? Have you looked at the discovery responses and documents? Which ones do you plan to use at the deposition, and why?
  • Have you considered the way the witness might fit into your plan for trial? Have you even thought about trial? How will the witness support or detract from your legal claims or defenses?

Good stuff, Evan. Check out the entire post. He has a good list of questions to review when preparing for a deposition. An interesting comment on the post also states that the people most likely to make mistakes are those with too much experience as they get overconfident. I can understand that.

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Laying a Foundation to Impeach a Witness at Deposition

Evan Schaeffer recently wrote a post on How to Start a Deposition at his Illinois Trial Practice Weblog. It’s a good post for young lawyers on how to get started. That reminded me of the opening questions that I use to lock a witness down in the event that the witness needs to be impeached at trial:

  • Is there any reason you can’t do the deposition today? We have to do this at some point, but is there any reason today is any worse than any other day?

  • Are you under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs or anything else that would affect your ability to understand or answer my questions?

  • Have you ever given a deposition before? (If so, find out when and under what circumstances. What other depositions have you given?)

  • The purpose of this deposition is twofold. First, this is my only chance to talk to you. I want to hear your side of the story. So, if I ask a question you don’t understand for any reason, please ask me to rephrase the question. If I ask a question that’s too long, if I use a lawyer word, or if for some reason you just don’t understand what I’m asking, please don’t answer the question. Ask me to rephrase the question. Would you do that for me?

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Read Depositions to Jurors instead of Video Depositions

A tip from David Ball that I find surprising. David is fond of saying that trials are human events. He cautions against using video depositions at trial. And if you do need to use a video deposition, keep it down to ten minutes before the jurors tune out.

With the advent of Sanction and the ease of showing video depositions at trial, I had become a big fan of video depositions for the doctors depositions that were not cost effective to bring to the courtroom.

David suggests getting someone that reads well, not a professional actor, just someone with a good voice that reads well to read the doctor’s deposition. I was surprised that he felt that was more effective than hearing from the doctor himself. The answer is that trials are human events and that jurors react better to a live person, rather than a talking head on a video.

P.S. – If it seems like I’m posting a lot from David Ball, I am. I took my own advice to learn from the smartest people I know and meet with David once a month to learn the latest tech.

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Smart Boards Replacing Chalk Boards

While we lawyers have been slow to adopt smart boards, smart boards have been replacing chalk boards in the classroom:

Wired News reports on the rapid growth of interactive, computer-driven whiteboards in classrooms…smart boards are being used in more than 150,000 classrooms in the U.S, with even more being put to use in 75 other countries. The boards let teachers and students share assignments, surf the web and even edit video using their fingers as pens. And, by all indications, the market for the devices is booming, with more than a dozen manufacturers in the field, although one company, Smart Technologies, has a 60-percent market share.

It looks like we need to start catching up to the schools. I’ve had been using a projector and multi-media for 5 years, but don’t have a smart board yet. It looks like that just jumped up my tech priority.

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The Important of the Pause

Howard Nations reminds us that  sometimes the most important thing a lawyer can say is nothing.

The pause serves two major purposes for the orator:

First, the pause allows the statement immediately preceding it to soak in thoroughly; and secondly, the pause will recapture the minds of those who have strayed and cause those who have been listening to pay more close attention to the statement that follows the pause.

Often, inaction is the most effective means of nonverbal communication, i.e., the use of the emphatic pause.

Well said. Click on the link and read the rest of Howard’s well written article.

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Comedy Workshop for Trial Lawyers - June 10/11 in Myrtle Beach

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to do stand-up comedy and be on stage? Now is your chance. I recently took a comedy workshop with Manny Oliveira at the Comedy Cabana. A lot of  lawyers said they wish they could do that, so we put a 2 day class together. The class will be Comedy Workshop for Trial Lawyers: Building Trial Skills Through Stand-Up Comedy at the Comedy Cabana on June 10 and June 11. The skills in stand-up comedy are exactly the same as in trial work (public speaking, presentation, going with the flow), but used in a different environment.

In the class, you will learn how to put material together, edit the routine, prepare for the stage and then go on stage and perform on Saturday night.

When you sign up, we’ll send you a DVD from Manny Oliveira on how to get started with the material and things to think about. You’ll also get a workbook to fill out and bring to class. The schedule will be:

Friday, June 10:

  • 10:00 - 11:00 Principles of Public Speaking
  • 11:00 - 1:00 Developing Material - Mind to Page
  • 1:00 - 2:30 Lunch
  • 2:30 - 3:45 Writing Workshop
  • 4:00 - 5:00 Performance Workshop - Page to Stage

 Saturday, June 11

  • 10:00 - 11:45 Performance of developed material
  • 12:00 - 1:00 Final Edit Performance of Material
  • 1:00 - 2:30 Lunch
  • 2:30 - 4:00 Final Program Rehearsal
  • 7:00 - 9:00 Showcase

Our showcase performance at the Comedy Cabana is at 7:00 p.m. on June 11, 2005 in Myrtle Beach. Come out to the show if you’re in the area. Bring your friends. It promises to be a lot of fun.

The cost for the workshop is $300, which includes the showcase performance, workbook and DVD. If you’re interested in attending the class, send me an e-mail. If you’re coming from out of town, we can help with accommodations.

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Update on the Comedy Show for the Myrtle Beach Lawyer

Whew. What an experience. It was scary as hell, but a lot of fun. It went over pretty well. I think I had good material, but was a little shaky until I got my first laugh and then settled down. My material is sort of an intellectual / bizarre sort of shtick. I think it takes people awhile to get it, but about halfway through I noticed that I had pulled the crowd into my world and they were riding the wave with me. Definitely fun.

I learned a lot from it and will definitely do it again, and work on polishing up the act. The owner of the club has offered to let me do a guest spot whenever I want (during the week, not the weekends when there's two shows and more of a time press), so I'll be getting back up there, practicing and getting better.

I think a lot of the skills in stand up are similar to trying a case:

  • Public speaking
  • Poise in an uncomfortable setting
  • Winning a group of people over to your side
  • Thinking on your feet
  • Taking what you're given,  even if it's not exactly what you thought it would be.
  • Not pushing where the crowd won’t let you go

However, the stand up is a much more visual element. As trial lawyers, we spend a lot of time thinking of how to explain things. With the comedy, you don't have to explain, as much as sell the material. Much more theatrical, sometimes a head shake, a raised eyebrow can do the trick. One of the things Manny taught me to do was instead of *saying* "I'm thinking...." Look up to the ceiling and THINK.

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Comedy Show Tonight for the Myrtle Beach Lawyer

Well tonight is the big night. I’ve been doing a comedy workshop for the past month with Manny Oliveira. There have been 8 other students and they’re all quite talented. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned quite a bit. After the show, I’ll do a recap of what trial lawyers can learn from stand up comedy.

But tonight is the big show. The showcase will be at the Comedy Cabana in Myrtle Beach at 8 p.m. tonight. You can call for tickets at (843) 449–4242. If you plan on going, I would call ahead for reservations as this is the third year they’ve been doing this and it’s been sold out the last two years.

Wish me luck.

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Enhancing Themes by Anchoring by Howard Nations

To enhance a theme, repetition and anchoring can be used to enhance the the impact and recall of the fact for the jury. Howard Nations talks about anchoring in his great article on themes:

 Anchoring Through Repetition - Anchoring is a well accepted psychological technique. Anchoring is a technique whereby a word, a phrase or a theme is repeated. It is repeated from the same spot, with the same gestures, with the same facial expressions, the same tone of voice, and with the same mannerisms. One use for anchoring that everyone can remember was done by the late great Jack Benny, who had a certain way of folding his arms, putting his hand under his chin, and saying the word, "Well...." Pretty soon he was getting laughs without saying the word and then he did not even need to put his hand under his chin. He just used part of the gimmick and the anchor worked. Continue Reading Posted inPresentation |Comments (0) |Permalink

Should You Suggest a Large Verdict Award to the Jury?

Credibility is the single most important tool a plaintiff's lawyer has. Once you lose that, it's all over but the crying.

But, lawyers do not lose credibility because they ask for a large verdict. People want that high figure to use as an anchor of which they will give a percentage of that number. The reason a lawyer does not lose credibility over this is that the jury expects the plaintiff’s attorney to come in too high, the defendant to come in too low and that it is their job to pick an appropriate number ‘somewhere in the middle’.

[Note: This entry was edited. I incorrectly wrote about David Ball's opinions based on my notes from his Damages seminar last fall. David wrote to correct me on that and I've updated this post accordingly.]

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Telling the Story and Knowing What You're Selling

Seth Godin has a new book, All Marketers Are Liars : The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World coming out May 23, 2005. The book appears that it will focus on the stories behind the ads and marketing campaigns we see every day.

For example, Seth talks about Evian bottled water is not just a drink of water, it is more than just water. You’re also buying the story It's not just water, but water from the French Alps.  It's superb water.  Beyond all other waters.  I feel smarter.  I look better.  You've lifted me out of my mundane, middle-class existence…”

Seth has a post concerning the way lawyers approach trying a case:

Smart lawyers win cases where the facts don't back them up. That's because smart lawyers know how to tell a story that people will want to believe. It's a story that makes a juror feel competent and ethical and satisfied. It's a story that has very little to do with the facts and a lot to do with the lies we insist on.

I think most marketers spend way too much time worrying about their version of the truth and not enough time be authentic and telling stories about what they're up to.

I like Seth’s point, but will disagree that telling an authentic story can be done regardless of the facts. You have to have facts to tell an authentic story. After the facts, the story you tell is important. You can read Seth’s entertaining blog here.


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Ten Minute Mentor: Great Resource of Video Talks from the Greats

Imagine being able to sit down with one of the best lawyers in the state for 10 minutes of advice. Now multiply that by 100. That’s what the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association did. They took a video production crew around the state for several months, videotaping 10 minute presentations from some of the best lawyers in Texas. Robert Ambrogi describes the project well:

In cooperation with Texas Bar CLE, TYLA created a library of short video presentations by some of the state's best-known experts on key points of law, firm-building, tactics and personal development. Anyone -- no need to be from Texas to find value in this series -- can hear veteran trial lawyer Harry M. Reasoner of Vinson & Elkins tell how to structure a legal argument, "King of Torts" Joseph D. Jamail discuss the lawyer's role in society, and Haynes Boone co-founder Michael M. Boone tell how to build a law firm that will last.

The site is Ten Minute Mentor. You can browse by topic, or by author. A lot of the information is not Texas specific. The best part of it is that it’s free. The project is described as “Concise. Practical. Free."  Yep.

[Note: I’m slow to post about this great resource. In addition to Robert Ambrogi, MyShingle, Illinois Trial Practice Blog, Al Nye the Lawyer Guy and Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips Blog have also gotten out the word.]

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Comedy School for the Myrtle Beach Lawyer

Well, I signed up for a comedy workshop at the Comedy Cabana in Myrtle Beach. Manny Oliveira has put together a comedy workshop. I’ve seen Manny at least five times and he’s hilarious. He’s one of the top headliners in the business. Here’s a bit about the workshop:

Learn the writing and performance techniques it takes to be funny, as well as how to develop your own unique style. This class is great for everyone, regardless of your walk of life. You will perform your standup routine in a showcase performance at an Atlanta area comedy club!

Designed to challenge and hone the instinctive aspect of acting, improvisation is a fast-paced opportunity to understand how quickly your mind can react to various situations and to think on your feet. You will learn to trust your instincts and manifest them with confidence.

The workshop will consist of four three hour classes and end with a comedy showcase where all the workshop participants will do their routine on May 2 (my birthday) at the Comedy Cabana. If you’re in the area, you’re welcome to drop by.

I think that I’ll pick up some valuable tips that can be used in a courtroom. After all, public speaking is public speaking. I'll pass along any tips that will  be helpful to trial lawyers. Otherwise, I’ll just have fun with it. My only concern is that I’ll be in Seattle for one of the sessions and will have to miss it. So no matter how well Manny teaches us, I’ll be 25% less funny.

Maybe we’ll finally be able to answer the question “Why are lawyers so stuffy?” that Evan poses at Notes from the (Legal) Underground.

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PowerPoint Makeover for the Lawyer Guy

I did a ‘pre-review’ of Cliff Atkinson’s new book Beyond Bullet Points a few weeks ago. I have since bought the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. A lot of great tips and advice on giving more effective presentations. I’ll do a more full featured review of the book at a later date. Even if you don’t use PowerPoint, this book has a lot of great tips for putting together better presentations.

Cliff put out a call to do PowerPoint ‘makeovers’ in the style of his book and I sent him one of my mediations. Using the principles in the book and with Cliff’s help and feedback from others, we’ll do a makeover. There’s a discussion group for the makeover, so mosey on over and say your piece.

Cliff’s Blog – Beyond Bullets

Cliff’s Makeover Homepage

Dave’s PowerPoint Makeover Page – Check out the original mediation presentation

Discussion Group for Dave’s PowerPoint Makeover Page – Go and give your opinion

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Tips for Using Visual Aids from David Dempsey

I did a short review of David Dempsey’s book,  Legally Speaking: 40 Powerful Presentation Principles Lawyers Need to Know. After that review,   Al Nye the Lawyer Guy did a little research and found out that David Dempsey has a website about his book. The website includes a couple of great tip sheets. So if you haven’t bought the book yet, here’s some good advice:

Ensure That The Visual Aid Is Visible
Far too frequently, visual aids are hard to see. The lettering or the graphs are so small that even the speaker standing right next to the visual aid strains to read them. Other times, the speaker displays an object that is difficult to see. Make your visual aid visible from every vantage point, and if you cannot, either use a different visual aid or none at all.

Highlight Only Key Concepts
Focus on the key points that you want to reinforce with an audience or a jury . . . Use numbering, lettering, or bulleting to facilitate easy understanding of the visual aid. Limit the number of lines per page, as too many lines make a visual aid difficult to read.

Select Appropriate Lettering And Fonts
Use crisp, easy-to-read lettering, and use no more than two font styles per page. Artistic, cursive text is frequently illegible. The size of the lettering will be dictated by the size of the audience. A visual aid that may be appropriate for a courtroom setting, where only twelve people will view it in close proximity, may be useless at a luncheon meeting with one hundred people.

The rest of his tips are here. Good stuff. and thanks for the find, Al.

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Book Review: Courting Justice by David Boies

Dave Stratton of the Insurance Defense Blog has some excerpts from  Courting Justice, from NY Yankees v. Major League Baseball to Bush v. Gore, by David Boies. I’ve listed one below, but click on the links for more of Dave’s excerpts or check out the book. It looked like a lot of good stuff in there.

As a lead off witness you need someone who will point some points on the board and do no damage; you do not want to take a risk. If your first impression with a judge or jury is not good, your case is in trouble. You also want a witness who can explain the overall case and put matters in context.


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Some Great Legal Quotes for Closing Arguments

A few days ago, Stephen Suggs posted some great quotes to our SCTLA listserv. When I called to see if he would mind if I shared these with the rest of my readers. Stephen thought that would be great, but admitted that he had copied a number of the quotes from Gary Green’s website. Anyway, thanks to Steve and Gary here are the quotes for your pleasure:

If you do not have the basis for an argument, abuse the plaintiff. - Cicero

Law is a pledge that the citizens of a state will do justice to one another. - Lycophron, 3rd Century BC Greek poet and scholar

Wherever Law ends, Tyranny begins. - John Locke, 17th Century English philosopher

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. - Dr. Martin Luther King, American Civil Rights Leader Continue Reading Posted inPresentation, Trial Techniques |Comments (1) |Permalink

The Difference Between Lightning and Lightning Bug

Mark Twain famously said “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” As lawyers, we know that the words we use are very important. A recent ATLA survey gives some insight into what words we should use at trial.

  • People like businesses, organizations and associations. People do not like corporations.
  • People like companies. They do not like industries.
  • People like the Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association and hospitals. They do not like the insurance industries and HMO’s.

Words make a difference. Words matter.

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Book Review - Legally Speaking: 40 Powerful Presentation Principles Lawyers Need to Know

David Dempsey’s  Legally Speaking: 40 Powerful Presentation Principles Lawyers Need to Know is in my pantheon of top five favorite law books. David does a great job of breaking down public speaking, how to organize a speech, how to start it, how to end it, how to practice and refine the speech and so much more.

His writing style is short and to the point with a wealth of great quotes from a variety of sources like Mao Tse Tsung, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill and so on. It’s an eclectic collection of quotes that really add to the book. While David has some specific points on opening statements, closing arguments and questioning his book really applies to any public speaker, not just lawyers. I’ve bought 6 copies of this book and have given them out to friends. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

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What You Hear Can be as Important as What You See

In his article Trial Tips (Or Lessons Learned the Hard Way!) Richard C. Miller reminds us that sound is as important as the visual.

" At the same time he did so, he was making the point that my client died immediately after being thrown from the motorcycle when her head hit the pavement. Unfortunately, my case depended on being able to prove that my client died instead when a car that came along a few minutes later ran over her. As soon as I heard the crack of the helmet, I knew that it was the death knell for my theory and I was left with a verdict against the uninsured motorist that had knocked her off the motorcycle in the first place."

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Teach Your Client How to Describe their Pain

Clients are not used to describing their pain and what they are going through. While we deal with these issues on a daily basis, the client does not. At AutoTorts, Tom Vespers gave a suggestion on how the client should talk about their pain during their deposition or when being examined in a defense medical examination.

‚ωθ What does it feel like?
‚ωθ How often does it come?
‚ωθ How long does it last?
‚ωθ What do you do for relief?

The client should tell exactly what pain they're feeling and what it feels like. Not just "It hurts". But "It hurts like I'm being hit in the back with a hammer". "It hurts like I've been kicked in the back by a mule". Talk to your client and have them think about this before their deposition or DME.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

The better we describe the injuries and the difficulties our clients went through, the better recovery we will get for them. Fortunately, the internet gives us a tremendous research tool.

I typically stay away from medical-legal art companies at the beginning of a case. The best sites for pictures are typically the websites for orthopedic doctors explaining the anatomy involved, the mechanisms of the injury, the treatment that will take place and the recovery process.

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How to Prove a Negative

It's an axiom that you can't prove a negative. It's hard to prove something that didn't happen. A few years ago David Ball, a trial consultant out of Raleigh, NC, was involved with a railroad intersection case. 27 railroad employee witnesses. None of the witnesses, nor none of the departments were responsible for intersection. But how do you highlight this to the jury and help the jury really understand this?

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