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How Visual Communications Won Our Client $21 Million in Court

By Bart Higgins, Principal, Shields Legal Group

The more complex the situation the more you have to simplify the communication. There is no more simplification than to offer visuals, whether they be pictures or dynamic presentations. Hence the common phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” We would argue a dynamic presentation is worth $21 million, or at least, that’s what the jury told us.

Just three months ago, in November of 2019, Shields Legal Group had just finished a two-week trial and were awaiting the jury’s verdict. This was the culmination of over a decade of legal wrangling's where the two parties had been locked in a complicated legal malpractice suit that had created thousands of pages of documentation, expert reports, and exhibits.

The complexity of this dispute was mind-numbing. It was clear to the Shields legal team that if we were going to persuade the jury to agree with our position, we had to simplify the mountains of documentation and make it easy for each juror to digest. Our strategy was to only present:

  • 15 essential documents;

  • A few dominant witnesses;

  • Minimal key themes

The complicated story was told with simplicity, using a dynamic visual presentation, in this instance PowerPoint, that was created for maximum impact. This included:

  • A visual timeline to breakdown the events of the case.

  • Photographs of key witnesses, their names and titles to introduce them to the jury.

  • Key excerpts of documents to keep the jury’s attention focused on the most important information.

Key witnesses and related documents provided the evidence for the main points of our case. As we moved through the trial, the jury was easily able to follow our account of events, even though they had no previous knowledge of the particular industry involved. As we built our story one visual at a time, it became ingrained in the jury’s minds.

Why were the visuals so important? Research has confirmed:

  1. People process visual images 60,000 times faster than words

  2. Their average attention span is 2.8 – 8 seconds

  3. 80% of people retain what they see, only 10% remember what they hear, and 20% of what they read

Asking 12 people to step away from their normal lives to listen to your client’s story, and try to understand over 10 years of data, to determine who should prevail, is a daunting task for both the jurors and counselors. Our team knew that our communication needed to break it down into digestible and tangible pieces that broke through all of the clutter that had accumulated over the life of the litigation. It simply came down to who could present the simplest, clearest and most concise message to the jury that they could not forget. Turning a decade's worth of work into visuals was the most impactful way to deliver our message to the court and jurors.

Through the final phase of the trial, from the announcement by the Bailiff that the jury was ready to render their verdict, to the award of more than $21 million to our client, our legal team was confident that it was not just the facts of the case that won the day, but HOW those facts were presented was equally as important in the final decision.

Though we were ready to celebrate a victory of great magnitude with our client, there was still a very important part of the process that needed to take place. It was time to thank the jury for their excellent services and to interview the jurors and receive their feedback. Every man and woman who sat in the courtroom for two weeks, listening to hours and hours of testimony and evidence, told us the same thing. It was our dynamic visual presentations that convinced them that we were correct in the dispute. They appreciated the simplicity that the visuals brought to the case, allowing our argument to be understood in a clear, concise, and compelling way.

As we have purported, visuals can say it all.

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