Law 360 - The Newswire for Business Lawyers [Visual Storytelling Key to Courtroom Success] (2!19!10)

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  • 8/8/2019 Law 360 - The Newswire for Business Lawyers [Visual Storytelling Key to Courtroom Success] (2!19!10)

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    Portfol io Media. Inc. | 860 Broadway, Floor 6 | New York, NY 10003 | www.law360.comPhone: +1 646 783 7100 | Fax: +1 646 783 7161 | customerservice@portfoliomedia.com

    Visual Storytelling Key To Courtroom SuccessBy Erin Coe

    Law360, New York (February 19, 2010) -- When litigator James R. Evans Jr. was preparing

    to defend client Coach USA LLC in a $1 billion proposed class action of more than 1,000 taxi

    drivers claiming they were misclassified as independent contractors, he wanted to paint a

    picture for the court of how inefficient it would be to try the case as a class action.

    After teaming up with visual storytelling firm The Huck Group, the Fulbright & Jaworski LLP

    partner went before the California Superior Court for the County of San Diego and displayed

    a series of images, including one of an array of different colored bubbles.

    The thousands of individualized issues were all colored bubbles, and the colors

    corresponded to the named plaintiffs, Evans said. The graphic represented that there were

    far more individualized issues than common issues.

    The combination of the image and the facts Evans used to demonstrate the existence of

    thousands of individualized issues led the court in April 2009 to deny class certification to

    the cab drivers, who have since appealed the case.

    Evans, who has pulled in the storytelling firm on several cases over the past five years, says

    the dynamic process of honing in on a core message in a case and developing a visual

    representation of that message has helped him become a better storyteller before a judge

    and jury.

    At first blush, the image may make no sense, but as soon as I begin telling a story, the

    image comes to life and has meaning. Jurors remember that large board with the image and

    they remember what I had to say, he said.

    A challenge that lawyers continue to face is how to get their message to sink in when the

    subject at hand is dry or complex, but experts who specialize in visual storytelling

    techniques can help attorneys not only get their point across, but make it resonate with the

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    people who count: judges and jurors.

    The problem is that most lawyers are not trained to be storytellers, according to Dana K.

    Cole, an associate professor of law at the University of Akron and a former trial lawyer.

    Whether dealing with a claim of personal injury or breach of contract, law school teaches

    students how to break down a claim in elements and deconstruct the facts, he said.

    Thats vital to a lawyer, but its death to a story. Its like dissecting a frog to see whats

    inside. You may learn a lot that way, but the frog is never going to hop again, Cole said.

    Cole said his whole approach as a trial lawyer changed in 1995 when he attended the Trial

    Lawyers College in Wyoming, which offers a program for plaintiffs lawyers and criminal

    defense lawyers to tap into the power of storytelling.

    Rather than put on the mantle of a lawyer and try to portray what the jury expects of you

    as a polished lawyer, the college makes an overt attempt for you to discover who you are as

    a human being and bring more of that to the process as a trial lawyer, said Cole, who now

    serves on the Trial Lawyers Colleges board of directors.

    Cole said the college taught him that it is not as important to be the best lawyer in the room

    as it is to be the most credible human being in the room.

    If the jury forgets that youre a lawyer and sees you as a teacher or guide, youve done a

    great job, he said.

    The college uses role-playing exercises to help lawyers see a trial from the vantage point of

    the client or the witness, according to Cole. The lawyers also learn the physical gestures

    involved in telling a story so that jurors can be transported, for example, to the scene of a

    crime, he said.

    The physical moves can be more important than the language. Its about showing, not just

    telling, Cole said.

    Juliet Huck, CEO of The Huck Group, is focused on using visuals to highlight a consistent

    theme in a case. With a background in graphic design and advertising, Huck started the Los-

    Angeles based trial support firm more than 10 years ago when she realized that lawyers

    were missing out on an opportunity to design presentation materials that were not only

    informative, but persuasive.

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    What if it became known that it could not control the terrorist in its own firm? Wyzga said.

    When you pull back the lens of the camera and look at the larger picture, you can

    understand what is going on. This was a firm that was afraid its name would be damaged

    and it would lose business, and the only way to keep that from happening was to silence the

    employee.

    To help put a case in perspective, Wyzga often advises lawyers not to automatically see a

    case from their clients position.

    Dont think of a story from your clients point of view until you tell the story from every

    other possible way, she said.

    Evans said getting feedback from a third party can be helpful because it forces him to look

    at a case from new angles and wrestle with questions that a jury or judge may ask.

    Sometimes you become so enmeshed in your own case and you understand the case so

    well, it takes someone else to stand back and look at the mess of facts, and ask, How do

    we break this down and simplify? he said.

    All Content 2003-2010, Portfolio Media, Inc.

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