Ten Tips to Better Courtroom Visuals

Trial lawyers are masters of language, both verbal and written. It is with words that we transmit and receive information. But many jurors on a typical panel will assimilate information more effectively when we use visual tools in addition to words, such as photographs, video, illustrations, charts, and animations. Here are some quick tips to maximize your effectiveness in the use of courtroom visuals to educate and persuade your jurors:

Jury Expert 11. Use information design, not artistic design. Your purpose in creating courtroom graphics is to communicate the facts that jurors need to reach the desired conclusion. Images that are clean and straight-forward will be more effective than those that are pretty and fancy.

2. Establish consistency with a template. Before creating demonstratives, determine uniform fonts, sizes and colors for the title, sub-title and body of each exhibit. Make selections to enhance visibility, understandability and impact – not aesthetics.

Jury Expert 23. Meet your jurors' expectations. There is a difference between slick and high-quality. In the 21st Century, your jurors expect a high-quality visual presentation, especially from a well-heeled client. "Dumbing down" your graphics for fear of looking like Goliath to your opposing David may send the wrong message – that your case is weak.

4. Illustrate your points, don't just list them. Both comprehension and retention are enhanced when visual images are used to convey information. "A picture is worth a thousand words" is more than just a cliché; it works.

Jury Expert 35. Spoon-feed, don't dump. Limit the amount of information on each demonstrative so you can feed your jurors small digestible bits. If you present a single graphic with too much data, such as a timeline with dozens of events, at best you will lose the attention of some jurors while they try to read all the entries. At worst, your jurors will be overwhelmed by TMI – too much information.

6. Break the monotony with varied presentation media. Some demonstratives are best presented on big hardboards. Others can be projected via an Elmo. Document-heavy cases require electronic presentation software such as Sanction or TrialDirector. Use a multimedia approach for maximum effectiveness.

Jury Expert 47. Use different colors to send different messages. The choice of color has a subtle but measurable emotional impact on the viewer. This includes not only the use of red's, green's and blue's, but also the use of white space, also known as negative space. If you don't have a graphics consultant, browse the internet for color connotations.

8. Engage your jurors with motion and interactivity. The cost of video, animation and Flash programming has declined substantially in the last decade. The same jurors who are engrossed by moving pictures in the theater, on TV and on the internet are sitting on your panel.

Jury Expert 59. Test visual designs, themes and concepts before trial. Focus groups and mock trials are ideal pre-trial venues to gauge the effectiveness of your courtroom visuals. But if you don't have the opportunity for formal simulations, at least try them out on 3-5 people in the office or at home who are unfamiliar with the case – preferably non-lawyers.

10. Practice makes perfect. Integrate your demonstratives into your practice sessions for opening and closing, and make sure that your witnesses are thoroughly familiar with any visuals you plan to show while they are on the stand.

Ralph Mongeluzo is Director of Litigation Services at Think Twice, Inc., a nationwide courtroom graphics and presentation firm with offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He can be reached at or (415) 834-2000.

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