So after months (or even years) of written discovery, document productions, and depositions, it’s time to transform all that information into a narrative to present at trial. How exactly do you turn all information into a trial presentation?
In complex commercial litigation, you will generate hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of pages of produced documents, hundreds of written discovery response, and dozens of depositions. Much of that information will be essential for you and your lawyers to understand the facts and arguments that define the dispute. Discovery will define the strengths and weaknesses of your case. It will provide you with the clues to understand what your opponent will attempt to prove to the jury. But most of that discovery, while not wasted, will never see the light of day in trial. You won’t call as trial witnesses everyone who was deposed. Not every “hot document” will make your exhibit list. And many facts in you detailed timeline that help present a complete story of the case will be jettisoned when it’s time to prepare the opening statement.
Knowing how to distill down all of that discovery into a coherent trial presentation is a skill set that can only be developed through experience. Great trial lawyers know first-hand that trial presentations have to be simple, clear, and compelling. Even highly complex cases need to be presented in a direct and uncomplicated way that will hold a jury’s attention and convince the jurors of the rightness of your position.
Jurors are typically smart, fair, and thoughtful — particularly if your lawyers do a good job in jury selection. But even the best jurors will lose the thread of your case if your presentation isn’t crisp, clear, and compelling. Jurors are taking time out of their busy lives to hear your case. They still have jobs, families, and social obligations outside the courtroom that are competing for their attention. If you overload them with excessive nuance, only tangentially related facts, or witnesses who don’t have a lot to add to their understanding, they are likely to miss the big picture as they try to sift through the details.
So What Should You Do Instead of Trying to Present All the Information?
Great trial lawyers build their trial presentation around themes. They know the facts they need to prove in order to make their case and they organize those facts to support those themes. They then weave those themes into a story. Storylines are essential for capturing your jury’s attention. Attempting to get people to understand the importance of disconnected facts and figures (and to retain those specific facts) is next to impossible. People retain information much better when it is in a narrative format. The narrative also helps them make sense of how important elements of your case interact with each other.
Once you and your lawyers establish the themes and determine the facts and witnesses needed to bring those themes to life in a story, you can set aside all the details and tangents that don’t directly make your case. Remember, more witnesses and documents saying the same thing don’t make your case stronger. A single, compelling witness who connects well with the jury will stand out on her own and her narrative won’t be enhanced by adding more marginal witnesses who repeat the same information. Demonstrate your respect for the jury’s time by avoiding needless repetition.
Identify the Most Important Documents and Make Them Meaningful
Don’t bury your jury in a pile of paperwork. If there are key documents in your case the jurors need to understand, make sure your opening presentation clearly identifies them and their significance. Then during the presentation of evidence, have the best witnesses you can sponsor those documents and explain their relevance through examination. Don’t expect that back in the deliberation room, your jurors will spend as much time as you did poring over mounds of documents in evidence; their attention will be focused on the documents that seemed most important during the witnesses’ testimony.
Know the Rules and Stick to Them
Overloading the trial presentation is a typical mistake for even the most well-prepared litigators who don’t have enough experience in actual trials. Great trial lawyers will apply these principles to simplify their presentations into a compelling narrative that will capture the jury’s attention. But inexperienced counsel will be sorely tempted to add in just a few more witnesses and a few more exhibits to make sure they “make their case.” It’s not hard to see why so many lawyers end up “overlawyering” their trials. But it can backfire badly. If you lose the jury’s focus, or worse, get the jury to think you’re wasting their time, the results can be disastrous. Keller/Anderle’s experienced trial counsel know what it takes to make a compelling case and with laser focus, they build their trial presentations to achieve outstanding results.
Bring us your toughest case; we’ll get the job done.