Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Translate the Expert’s Opinions into Expert Testimony

An expert I recently worked with was brilliant, no doubt. His credentials were superb, his authority on the matter in question, well, unquestioned. But his ability to communicate his expertise in a way any lay person (juror) could understand was awful. His deposition was larded with phrases such as: “The administration let other departments in the facility seize the initiative with a consequent fragmentation of the support for educational technologies offered to staff.”

Now to say to such an expert “speak in plain English” would seem a common sense approach to preparing him for Court testimony. The problem is, the expert thinks he is speaking in plain English, and that any idiot should easily be able to understand him.

Arguing the point with the expert is a waste of time. Instead, help your expert by asking a series of questions derived from his or her statement, such as: “What did the support for educational technologies consist of?” Hopefully, the answer will be something like “Classes or seminars teaching the technologies” and if it hasn’t been explained already, then ask something simple like “What are the educational technologies you refer to?” Disregard the expert’s condescending glare, since his “Orthopedic charting software 101” is information the jurors can relate to far more easily than “educational technologies.” It’s also something you can put up visually on a chart, with icons that personalize and make real “Orthopedic charting software.”

As tedious as it may feel, go through your expert’s key points in this manner as you prepare him or her for testimony. You’ll now have a much more effective direct, and have given your expert tools for being convincing on cross, which the expert otherwise would sorely lack.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How to Appeal to Silent Generation Jurors

Because we are living longer, and living for the most part healthier as we age, you may find a surprising number of “Silent Generation” jurors on your panel. These are individuals who were born roughly between 1925 and 1945. They are Baby Boomer and Generation X parents, whose grandchildren, typically, are Millenials.

How is this information relevant to your success? Members of the Silent Generation are likely to be relatively silent during voir dire, and you may have little opportunity to find out what matters to them. Yet this is a generation for whom a great deal matters, and you need to know what.

The Silent Generation is a generation of helpers. Their greatest contribution to our society was to humanize their world: this is the generation that produced the great Civil Rights Leaders and almost every leader of the Women’s Movement. What do they want now? To help ensure a safe world for their beloved grandchildren. And they do listen to those grandchildren. After all, Millenials too are community minded and seek to make a difference.

Take into account, as you develop your case themes, what matters to the generations on your panel. You will have far more juror-appeal and persuasiveness.