Monday, June 30, 2014

Use "Less is More" to Win in Court

Some courts are lenient with the amount of time allotted for a trial, some are not. It certainly can seem impossible, sometimes, to jam the amount of evidence and testimony you have in the number of hours permitted.

And yet, as is so often true of many things in life "Less is more."

This was strongly brought back to mind upon reading one alternate juror’s response to the verdict in the recent case against Trenton, Ohio Mayor Tony Mack,  as reported in The Trentonian. The alternate juror, Sherie Jackson, was distressed as she explained to the Judge in a letter post-trial, by what she considered a "rushed verdict" that was arrived at precipitously because: "In the jury room, I heard of plans to go on a cruise, to a relative's wedding and an overall atmosphere of impatience as the trial stretched on" — for a month and one day.

Jurors who may have had the patience to sit through long trials and long deliberations some 10 or so years ago, are no longer willing to be held hostage past what they consider a sufficient rendering of the facts and testimony. Our world has sped up tremendously: we abbreviate everything, we rely on bullets and headlines, we expect everything to happen quickly.

This is one of the great advantages of focus groups: attorneys are forced to reduce their entire case to a mere hour and a half, which puts a glaring spotlight on what is essential and what could be left aside.

Yes, you still must get across your points, you must still develop testimony and present evidence appropriately. However, in my experience, a great deal can often be trimmed from the presentation of your case without losing impact. If anything, you generally gain impact from being succinct.

Monday, June 2, 2014

What the Trix Cereal Cartoon Rabbit Can Teach Litigators

So you thought cutesy cereal boxes were designed just to capture your innocent toddler’s rapt attention? Not only . . . In a recent Cornell University study, researchers manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes and found that adult subjects were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away. “Making eye contact even with a character on a cereal box inspires powerful feelings of connection,” according to Brian Wansink, professor at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and director of the school’s Food and Brand Lab.

But there’s more: according to research conducted at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, when doctors make more eye contact with their patients, those patients enjoy better health, comply with medical advice more often, and are more likely to seek treatment for future problems. In other words, these patients listen to and follow the advice of their doctors. Precisely what you need your jurors to do.

Eye contact engages us. Eye contact facilitates communication. Eye contact influences others. Eye contact is persuasive.

When you are conducting voir dire, make eye contact as often as possible, especially when listening to a response, or asking a question. If you need to glance at your notes, do so after a response, before your next question.

Throughout the trial, take advantage of the persuasive power of eye contact to look at jurors whenever you are making an important point. Encourage your witnesses to look out at the jurors, especially during direct.

Marketers have billions on the line; where the rabbit looks is of vital importance. You have just as much at stake, if not more, every time you walk into the courtroom. Where you look is of vital importance.