Friday, December 28, 2012

Want Powerful Testimony? Science Proves the Power-Sit’s Impact!

I have long encouraged witnesses to adopt the “Power-Sit” position I developed after observing juror responses to witness body language.

Simply put, the witness sits with their rear planted firmly in the “L” of the chair, which assures good posture without having to think about it. They then are asked to avoid leaning to the left or right, and to keep their back in contact with the back of the chair at all times. The impression jurors receive from the “Power-Sit” is that of a confident, straightforward, credible witness – one whose testimony is far more likely to be believed than the testimony which issues from a witness who slumps, or leans to the left or right, or aggressively forward, to give but a few examples.

Now I’ve always known the impact of the “Power-Sit” on juries, but what I didn’t know, and science has recently discovered, is the impact of the “Power-Sit” on the witnesses themselves. According to Harvard Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s recent research, “assuming a high power pose for just two minutes before the job interview, the body would generate hormonal changes that corresponded with feeling empowered, comfortable, and less reactive to stress.” In lay-person’s language, the person him/herself experienced greater confidence, ability, and comfort.
What a platform for effective testimony! The stronger your witness feels, the more likely they are to testify well, and the better their testimony will be received.
And all it takes is a little attention to your witness’s body language.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Don’t Treat Your Firm’s Millennial Lawyers Like Wanna-Be Boomers!

As your Boomer partners, lawyers and staff retire, you are dealing increasingly with the Millennial generation, no longer the “babies” of the group, since they are now hitting 30.

You are no doubt discovering that these young lawyers, soon to be partners, aren’t going to become Boomers. Their interests, work ethics and personal values are very different.

Don’t treat your Millennials like wanna-be Boomers! Respect what engages their hearts and talents.

Millennials are driven by meaning, by the ability to make a difference in the world, and although they certainly appreciate decent compensation, it’s not what gets them to be productive or to excel.

For example, when you assign work, make sure to point out the meaning, the value of this work, be it to the client or to the community. Especially to the community, for societal issues are pertinent to this generation, and they will gear up on its behalf.

Provide lots of ongoing positive feedback, along with whatever suggestions for improvement are required. Make sure you offer opportunities for growth and learning. Millennials are generally very accepting of a Boomer’s experience and knowledge, and can benefit greatly from a mentoring relationship.

Don’t begrudge Millennials their tenacious enthusiasm. It is what fuels their willingness to put in the hours and the brain-power you need.

The Millennials are an exciting, powerful generation. Respect them as such, and they will soar – and your firm along with them.


A Winning Case Dr. Noelle Nelson recently consulted on:

Congratulations to Leila J. Noël and A. Barry Cappello of Cappello & Noël (Santa Barbara) for their successful $4,800,000  Settlement which the Santa Barbara County and Santa Barbara County Sherriff's Department agreed to pay to the survivors (and their parents) of a wrong way driver accident, involving a Sheriff's Deputy, that took two lives and seriously injured two others.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Focus Groups Save the Day–on Broadway!

In the spring of 2012,  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, was widely believed to be headed for total flopdom: media were comparing it to the Titanic. Yet, this fall, the show has already grossed more than $160 million, a Broadway blockbuster, largely due to co-lead producers Jere Harris and Michael Cohl’s willingness to take drastic measures to turn their incipient flop into a fabulous success.

Among those measures were—you guessed it—focus groups. The producers realized that audience members were leaving the preview performances confused, so they conducted focus groups investigating specific aspects of the show. Production was stopped—a radical move--in order to make changes based on the focus group feedback.

It worked.

Your cases deserve no less. A focus group is a relatively low-cost pre-trial strategy to give you the winning edge. There is nothing that can replace vigorous discussion of your case’s strengths and weaknesses among a group of people rigorously selected to match your jury pool.

Unlike Broadway, you can also receive (if the focus group is conducted with this purpose in mind) juror profiles as to “best” and “worst” likely jurors, assessed from the responses of the focus group members.

Yes, it takes effort and the courage to withstand open criticism from a group of strangers, yet given that these strangers are willing to give you the feedback that can put your case in an advantageous posture, it’s well worth it, even when you don’t think your case resembles the Titanic. 

A WINNING CASE Dr. Noelle Nelson recently consulted on:
*Congratulations to Dave Luce and Meghan Lamping of Carmody MacDonald P.C. (St. Louis), and Spencer M. Taylor and M. Todd Lowther of Balch & Bingham L.L.P. (Birmingham) for their $11,106,420 Jury Verdict in TAMKO v. Factory Mutual (FM), a hotly contested business interruption insurance case. FM claimed that TAMKO's damages, which TAMKO sought in the amount of $12.2 million, were less than $2.5 million. FM argued that TAMKO did not suffer a loss of production due to an absence of raw material but instead was impacted by the late 2008 economic downturn, and that TAMKO could not demonstrate that it had actually lost any sales. Clearly, the jury did not agree with FM.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who Wants A Perceived Liar On The Stand? Not You!

People aren’t very good at detecting liars. Studies show that people’s hit rate for detecting lies (54%) is slightly above pure chance (50%), which is good news for the liars, but bad news for you in the courtroom.

Why? Because people tend to pay attention to certain cues to determine if someone is lying, but these cues may mean something entirely different.

Take the “vocal immediacy” cue, for example. Vocal immediacy is the directness with which someone responds to a question. The more roundabout or vague the response, the more likely jurors will figure your witness is lying. However, your witness may simply be thinking out loud, which sounds roundabout. Or your witness may not know what to say, and rather than answer “I don’t know,” or “I don’t understand the question” may resort to a vague mulling which again, looks like lying.

Another cue is “uncooperativeness.” People often assume that a person being uncooperative is hiding something, being dishonest. Yet often an uncooperative witness is one who argues with opposing counsel rather than answer the question asked, or attempts to force his or her views of the facts into every response, rather than let their own attorney do the litigating.

Your best witness—among other things—responds directly to the question asked, and leaves the lawyering up to the lawyer.

The best tool I know to help your witnesses get up to jury-worthy credibility is to use video-taped role-play in preparing them to testify. You can’t afford to let your witnesses get away with behaviors that could be mistaken by the jurors as those of a liar.


A WINNING CASE Dr. Noelle Nelson recently consulted on:

*Congratulations to A. Barry Cappello and Lawrence J. Conlan (co-counsel) of  Cappello & Noël (Santa Barbara) for their successful $7.7 million jury verdict in United Studios of Self Defense (USSD) v. Z-Ultimate Self Defense Studios, et al. The jury decided unanimously in favor of USSD on almost every cause of action against Z-Ultimate companies and its owners (former USSD executives). The charges included breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, misappropriation of trade secrets and confidential information, Penal Code 502 (destroying computer records), trademark infringement and civil conspiracy. In addition, the jury found against the owners of Z-Ultimate companies for malice and fraud.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Put “Truthiness” To Work For You—At Trial!

The value of visuals in trial work is well established, in that images emphasize and clarify testimony or evidence.

However, new research shows that visuals have impact in yet another way, which can be put to powerful use in the courtroom.

Scientists in New Zealand and Canada examined what Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness” –the feeling that something is true. What they discovered is that when a statement, whether true or not, is accompanied by a simply decorative photograph [i.e., one that does not reveal the validity of the claim], it is more likely to be perceived as true. People simply “feel” that the statement is more likely to be true, by virtue of the accompanying visual.

So the statement “The liquid metal inside a thermometer is magnesium” accompanied by a picture of a thermometer (which revealed nothing about the metal inside), was believed to be true far more often than the same statement not accompanied by a decorative photograph.

What does this mean for you? That even when you don’t have a visual or graphic that directly elucidates testimony/evidence you are confident is credible, it’s worth attaching a visual that in some way relates to the testimony/evidence. You thus have greater chances of engaging jurors’ feeling that the testimony is truthful, as you know it to be.