As a Trial Attorney, it’s no secret that during any stage of litigation (trial, mediation, arbitration, etc.) at the most fundamental level, lawyers are charged with employing a plethora of resources to effectively communicate with a number of different audiences.
Communication (and the methods in which it is delivered) is, at the end of the day, a major factor in a plaintiff or defense verdict. Delivery of this communication is multi-faceted in nature, and, depending on one’s audience, will need to accomplish different goals in a finite period of time. During the course of your practice, you have been charged with communicating—informing, educating, persuading—and shaping messages that have a direct impact on your client’s quality of life, your success and your firm’s reputation. Suggesting that “sharpening your tools” to deliver the most effective communication possible (resulting in positive outcomes for clients) is stating the obvious. What may not be as obvious are some of the tools available to help shape and deliver your message, as well as the effect those tools have on the outcome of any given lawsuit.
It’s also no secret that technology is evolving at a rapid pace and therefore is essentially shaping the way people receive and perceive information. There are countless studies devoted to exploring the notion of how people today process information. Having insight into this arena can grant a major competitive advantage. The key takeaway being your audiences expect you to “bring the big show”—that is to deliver a lot of information quickly but in bite-sized morsels.
That last part about bite-sized pieces is KEY. Consider all the information available within minutes, if not seconds, on a modern-day smartphone. In a couple of minutes one could access world news, return emails and text messages, make dinner reservations, and check flight availability all from the palm of the hand. Why then would one expect an audience to stay tuned while wading through countless hours of expert witnesses, written reports and verbal explanations? Add to the mix that your jury may not be interested in the topic at hand, and you’re already behind.
I believe one of the under-utilized resources that attorneys have at their disposal is the visual exhibit, or demonstrative evidence, whether they be illustrations, animations, orinteractive media. When a jury is given an opportunity to weigh what they have heard that day, week, or month and is charged with making any number of decisions, what do you think they will remember? Three days of expert testimony, countless written reports, PowerPoint slides filled with text and unfamiliar language? No. What they will most likely remember are the visual exhibits presented to them showing all the horrible injuries your client sustained. They will remember the day-in-the-life documentary depicting that your client can no longer provide for her young children. They will remember and understand why your client’s entire lower body is in constant pain, even though only his back was injured.
I think many accept that demonstratives, like medical illustrations, provide such benefits but sometimes fail to grasp how much these benefits outweigh costs. Using visual aids adds value to your case(s), because you’re educating audiences on issues they aren’t familiar with but doing so in a manner they can more easily process and will therefore remember. There is no substitute this type of learning and resonating with an audience. And it’s crucial that your audience does learnsomething, especially if you’re asking them to make decisions about unfamiliar topics to them—decisions sometimes involving millions of dollars. You need to be unequivocally confident audiences understand what you’re asking of them and more importantly, why.
Although medical illustrations address a certain aspect of trucking cases (damages), we’ve found that many of the trucking cases we’ve been involved with address hours of service (HOS) violations (liability). Such violations involve specific regulations that truck drivers must adhere to as employees of trucking carriers. Most of these laws regulate how far a driver may travel in a given amount of time and how much that driver must rest (not be driving) in that period of time. The longer one travels in a finite period of time, the longer they must rest before returning to the road. These laws are deemed the “11 hour rule”, the “14 hour rule” and the “70 hour rule.” Over the course of a trip that may encompass several thousand miles, it can be mind-boggling to comprehend what laws were violated when, let alone explaining it to a jury. One presentation High Impact pioneered to track HOS violations and visually present a trucker’s location (via GPS data) is the Individual Logging & Interactive Evaluation Display, or, I.L.I.E.D.
At it’s core, the I.L.I.E.D. platform utilizes truckers’ written logs and truck GPS coordinates to track and display a truck’s position over the duration of a trip. The presentation provides avisual depiction via interactive map of where a truck was at a specific point in time. Users also have the ability to pull up on-screen images of actual roads and locations via satellite imagery. In addition, I.L.I.E.D. acts as a counter to track any and all HOS violations. When preparing and entering GPS and log data into the presentation, I.L.I.E.D. has, in some cases, returned violations that otherwise were not identified in discovery. On several occasions, the system actually found violations that experts had missed. I.L.I.E.D. also addresses other common issues such as multiple drivers’ logs and falsified logs.
The takeaway here is that conventional exhibits such as medical illustrations and innovative demonstratives, such as I.L.I.E.D. are examples of the many resources available today to effectively communicate with modern day audiences. Presenting complicated data in a visually compelling and/or user-friendly interface underscores the idea that you, as an expert communicator, now more than ever, have access to more resources to effectively resonate with audiences of all shapes and sizes.