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What place do graphic exhibitions have in mediation? | Mediation & Arbitration Miles

Lawyers have mixed opinions on the usefulness and wisdom of using graphic visual aids in mediation. Some don’t want to put so much work into preparing for mediation, assuming it’s a waste of time. Indeed, it sometimes happens that a representative of a party opposite ostensibly refuses to watch a visual presentation. Such rudeness shouldn’t deter defenders from trying their best. Other lawyers prefer to “keep their powder dry”, reserving their best tricks for the trial or putting off spending more time and money on a case that could settle in mediation.

However, only a tiny fraction of litigious cases are judged. For most, mediation is the closest thing to a cathartic day in court. Mediation is more and more the best opportunity to obtain an optimal result. Saving the best bits for a trial run can be a costly mistake. However, it’s understandable that creative trial attorneys hold back a particularly devastating closing argument until the end of a rare jury trial.

It is commonly accepted that people remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read and 80% of what they see. This applies as much to lawyers, claims professionals and mediators as it does to schoolchildren and jurors. A strong visual presentation during mediation can help you achieve optimal results during mediation. The lawyer can equip the neutral mediator to help you in the other room and convince the decision-makers on the other side that you will be even more persuasive at trial. Your client may feel that you did a dynamic job of providing a “day in court” during mediation.

Bad graphics, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. In one instance, a plaintiff’s attorney showed a chart using skulls and crossbones for excessive bullet points and unnecessary border graphics. This drew gleeful ridicule from the twenty defense attorneys, diverting attention from the merits of the case.

Lawyers shouldn’t reserve grand presentation techniques for cases in which forty people are in the joint caucus, with company and insurer representatives hailing from London, New York and Los Angeles. Practice on smaller cases to hone your skills on bigger cases.

For plaintiffs or defendants, the key to good visuals is learning effective visual storytelling techniques.1 This requires a thorough analysis of your presentation objectives. Some critical objectives include:

  • Prove not only what happened, but why it happened
  • Relationships between events
  • Connect emotionally with decision makers in a way that shows how you might connect with jurors
  • Persuasive visual storytelling
  • Show, not just tell, decision makers
  • Teaching decision-makers why jurors would care
  • Give decision makers some of the anchors and links that jurors could use to achieve the desired outcome

No exhibit or illustration is isolated. All should be woven together as part of a cohesive visual communication strategy. At trial, it is better to dominate the space of the courtroom with as many large panels as necessary rather than images projected briefly on a screen. However, the mediation lawyer can simplify and save by using PowerPoint or other presentation software. If the case does not resolve through mediation, the slides prepared internally at the law firm for mediation may become the drafts that counsel must perfect for use at trial.

Some types of graphic illustrations that have proven effective, both in mediation and at trial, include:

  • Tutorials explaining medicine, mechanics, processes, intellectual property, legal principles, and more.
  • Medical illustrations – normal, traumatic, surgical and post-recovery condition.
  • Properly accredit witnesses, perhaps with a photo of the witness surrounded by key points in illustrations or balloons
  • Quotations from witness statements, brief extracts in speech bubbles around a photo of the witness.
  • Video deposition of brief excerpts of the most crucial Q&A excerpts, embedded in PowerPoint.
  • Timelines, possibly combined with illustrations such as maps etc.
  • Process flow charts
  • yes/no matrix
  • Side-by-side comparisons (before and after, us and them)
  • Illustration of what a person would have seen on a dark highway, which can be prepared by a law firm intern for mediation, although an expensive expert is needed for trial.
  • Quotations from documents, with images of documents and critical quotations enlarged and highlighted
  • Highlights about the injured person, with a photo of the person surrounded by photos of activities and highlighted quotes.
  • 3D animations. If you have them, use them.

Everyone who has attended continuing legal education programs over the past quarter century has seen terrible, mind-numbing PowerPoints. Don’t be that guy or that girl. Learn how to do PowerPoint well. Key points include:

  • Avoid bullet lists on a screen, even though that’s what I’m using in this article.
  • Keep text to a minimum, no more than about 30 words per slide, using a large, simple font.
  • Use images more than text.
  • Break the material up into separate slides to avoid information overload.
  • ISS “Keep it simple, stupid.”
  • Ensure readability for the oldest and most visually impaired person at the back of the room.
  • Avoid using cute animations, fancy fonts, busy backgrounds, sound effects, gruesome graphics, and color combinations that might be fun for a middle schooler giving a class presentation but doesn’t belong in a class. legal presentation.
  • Reread, reread, reread.
  • Test everything in the room where you will present it a few days in advance.
  • If someone, especially a claims representative with decision-making power, will be assisting remotely via Zoom, practice the use of screen sharing intensely.
  • Arrive an hour early to prepare for an impeccable presentation.
  • Consider the pros and cons of providing hard copies or pdf copies of the slides to the other side.
  • Always have a backup plan in case the technology fails.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

However, one should avoid becoming a predictable one-trick pony, automatically abusing any technology or presentation technique. Sometimes the simple old ways of just presenting the most revealing real exposure can trump all the new tricks. A single photo enlarged in a pharmacy and pasted on a bulletin board can, if necessary, prove decisive.2 Study each case carefully to discern what will be most effective.

1 See generally, Rick Altman, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck (And How You Can Improve Them)(4e ed., 2019); Cliff Atkinson, Beyond Bullets: Using Powerpoint to Tell a Compelling Story That Gets Results (Microsoft Press, 4e ed., 2018); William S. Bailey and Robert W. Bailey, Show the story: the power of visual advocacy (Test Guides, 2011); Nancy Duarte, slide:ology: the art and science of designing presentations (2009); Exhibitography: The Art and Science of Winning More Cases (and Bigger Prizes) (, accessed July 13, 2022).

2 Kenneth L. Shigley, “Effective Use of Low-Tech Visual Aids at Trial”, 31:5 For Defense 12 (1989), reprinted in Illinois Defense Lawyers Assn Trial Academy Materials (1996).