Monday, January 5, 2009

Tell Your Story With Timelines

The more complex the case, the more important it is that you simplify and clarify events and circumstances for the jurors. A timeline is one of the most effective ways to organize facts in a way that makes them relevant to jurors. We are used to stories being presented chronologically – the chronology alone often will tell the story. Use a timeline, or several, whenever possible. You can create these yourself fairly easily with any decent graphics program, and there are also specialized trial software programs available for this purpose.

Timelines, whether on a board or projected onto a screen, should be presented with time on the horizontal axis whenever possible. It demonstrates the movement of time from left to right, a progression jurors are very familiar with. When presented with a timeline depicting time on a vertical axis, jurors are much more readily confused.

A horizontal timeline allows you to show events above and below the line representating time, be that in minutes, days or years. This is a very effective way to organize information, You can, for example, show the evidence that directly favors your case in fact “flags” above the date line, and show the inconsistencies in opposing counsel’s case in the fact flags below the date line. Or, for example, you can contrast plaintiff’s stated behavior at points in time on the above line fact flags, with the medical reports on the below the line fact flags. Timelines of any kind should be used creatively, not just as markers in time, but as ways to tell your story even more persuasively.