Ten Qualities of Top Trial Presentation Professionals

Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson Trial (see video below)

Back in the day, when I was the firm-wide in-house TrialConsultant for Brobeck, trial presentation software and technology wereactually quite similar to what we use today – at least with respect to the waythe exhibits are organized and presented in trial. Sure, computers and softwarehave come a long way, but the biggest difference is the fact that more lawyersare using it. So, what are a few of the key qualities that seem to be a commonthread among the nation’s leaders in trial presentation? I think you’ll findthat many of these are also the traits shared by successful litigators.

1.      TrialExperience
There is a reason this profession is often referred to as the “hot-seat.” There is nowhere to turn, or nobody else toblame when (not if) something goeswrong, and only experience can help develop the knowledge of how toimmediately correct most any issue, and in such a manner than nobody else evenrealizes there was a problem.

2.      Confidence
This comes naturally with actual trial experience, as noted in #1 above. Ifthere is a lack of experience, there will also be a lack of confidence.Typically, a lack of confidence is easy to spot, and often, the reasons forthis shortcoming become apparent in trial. A truly confident trial presentationprofessional will appear cool and calm, even when they’re under a great deal ofpressure.

3.      Obsessiveness
In addition to trial experience, there is nothing like preparation to bringpeace of mind to the trial team. During trial prep and the trial itself, thereare no adequate excuses for not getting something ready in time. If this meansworking 16+ hour days, and not going to sleep until everything is ready for thenext day, then so be it.

4.      Makes itLook Easy
Maybe you’ve seen at attorney working with a trial professional, and notedhow it appeared as if every step was rehearsed – almost as if they both knewexactly what to do, and when. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve witnessed (orbeen part of) of a trial presentation meltdown, where exhibits weren’t presentedin a timely manner, and frustration was apparent on the part of the attorneyand trial presenter – not to mention the Judge and jury. The best trialpresentation professionals are able to anticipate where the next callout orhighlight should be, and will just make it happen.

5.      Above-averageWork Ethic
One thing I have learned in my years working with some truly greatattorneys is that you must be willing to work harder than opposing counsel.While hard work won’t turn a bad case into a good one and win, laziness can makeyou lose. Great attorneys are relentless. So are their trial teams. GerrySchwartzbach once told me quite simply, “We will out-work them.” David Boiesonce asked his weary trial team, “Do you want to sleep, or do you want to win?”

6.      DataManagement Expert
One problem with those who find that trial presentation software isactually pretty easy to learn (at least the basics), is that it doesn’t makeyou a file management expert. Unless you are capable of organizing tens ofthousands of pages, you shouldn’t attempt to do so. One of the most commoncauses for problems in trial presentation is poor data management.

7.      Computerand Software Expert
While nobody can know everything, an experienced trial presentationprofessional will be familiar with most programs used by law firms, including litigationsupport applications. They will also be able to assist with computer problems,spreadsheets, and graphics. They will certainly be intimately familiar withtheir trial presentation software, and will know how to make the most of allfeatures. Paralegal skills and experience can also be a plus.

8.      Resources
One life-lesson I learned many years ago was that the smartest people arenot necessarily those who have all of the answers – but rather, those who knowwhere to find the answers. Whether that means knowing where and how to searchthe Internet, or having a list of fellow professionals handy, there shouldrarely be a situation that cannot be resolved. It can also mean finding a wayto get 3 copies of 20 exhibits scanned and printed at 2:00 AM.

9.      IT Expert
One quality that is often overlooked is the ability to simply “make thingswork.” This can mean installing and wiring an entire courtroom, setting up theremote war room, or getting everyone connected to the network. When working outof town in a remote war room, chances are you didn’t bring along your ITdepartment with you. There is far more to this business than putting exhibits upon a screen.

10.   Top Firms and Cases
Never hesitate to check the background of your provider. If you’ve neverheard of them, and/or if they don’t have an impressive list of clients and cases,chance are they don’t have the experience necessary to support your trial. Unless you’re willing to provide trainingwheels, don’t waste your time with someone who is just getting into thisbusiness.

Here’s an example of a total FAIL in the recent MichaelJackson trial of Dr. Conrad Murray, as described in #4 above, courtesy of ChrisBallard, of Video and the Law.

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