Legal Education & Training Seminars
Sound Jury Consulting regularly provides continuing legal education and training courses throughout the country to bar associations, law firms, in-house attorneys, and other organizations on a wide range of important topics. Each presentation is engaging, informative, and memorable as they focus on practical tips and tools that attorneys can immediately apply to their cases. Most presentations include video clips from mock jury deliberations and other materials to highlight key points.
The following list of legal education and training seminars highlights popular programs that SJC consultants have presented in the past. These programs are typically one to two hours in length, but can be modified to fit most time requirements. Each is designed to meet the CLE requirements of most State Bar organizations. Printed materials are included with the program.
All seminars can be tailored to a specific type of litigation and/or a plaintiff or defense oriented group. If there is a particular topic of interest that does not appear on the list, please contact us to discuss custom programs.
About The Presenters
Thomas M. O'Toole, Ph.D. is the Founder and Senior Litigation Consultant at Sound Jury Consulting. He has practiced across the nation for over ten years in nearly every litigation type. He has consulted on matters as small as low exposure medical malpractice and as large as “bet-the company” MDL class actions and billion dollar environmental claims. He received his Ph.D. in litigation psychology and communication at the University of Kansas. Contact Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D. is a partner and Senior Litigation Consultant at Sound Jury Consulting. Working as a litigation consultant since 2003, she has consulted with attorneys around the country in nearly every litigation type – from IP to medical malpractice, from product liability to employment. She has also conducted seminars and CLE’s for various state bars, national litigation groups, in-house counsel, and law firms. Jill received her Ph.D. from the School of Communication at the University of Washington. Contact Jill at email@example.com
Themes, Theories, and Stories: Tips and Tactics for Practical Execution throughout the Life of the Lawsuit
The “story model” is a valuable concept that often fails to provide attorneys with practical steps for improving the case presentation. One major reason is that there are a wide variety of built-in constraints that preclude an attorney from being able to “tell a story” during the litigation or trial. In fact, attorneys have few, if any, opportunities to be a storyteller (in the traditional sense) before closing arguments; yet, jury research has consistently shown 70%-90% of jurors make up their mind about a case long before closing arguments. This presentation focuses on specific strategies and concrete steps for implementing the case story through depositions, briefing, opening, direct and cross-examination, and closing. Topics include: developing and applying the controlling statement of the case, building the case framework through argument and topic modules, activation of case themes through language choices, and incorporating refutation into your case framework.
Arming Witnesses for Success: Tips and Tools for Effective Deposition Preparation
This presentation highlights the shortcomings of traditional approaches used in the preparation of key witnesses and provides a detailed “how to” guide for effective deposition preparation sessions. The speaker addresses barriers to effective communication, how jurors’ assess witness credibility, the importance of and how to instill confidence and control in your witness, teaching your witness about attorney “tricks,” and the impact of verbal and nonverbal behavior on the overall credibility of the witness’s testimony.
The Truth Told Well: Preparing Your Witness for Success at Trial
Ironically, witness preparation meetings can be the genesis of many witnesses’ problems on the stand. Their heads are full of “Don’t do this,” “Do this,” “Say this,” and “Don’t forget to …” By the time they get to trial, their voice has been drowned out by the voices of others, creating only stress and problem-filled testimony. This presentation highlights the pitfalls of the traditional preparation strategy and provides an alternative designed to bring out the best in your witness. Topics include: preparation dos and don’ts, the hurdles that prevent the witness from telling the truth well, and how to increase a witness’s confidence and credibility through specific verbal and nonverbal behaviors.
Planning and Executing an Effective Jury De-Selection Strategy
Attorneys often say that jury selection is one of their least favorite aspects of trial. This presentation addresses attorneys’ concerns and irritants by providing specific tips and tactics for a successful (and less painful) jury selection. From the initial step of evaluating your case from a juror’s perspective to the implementation of your strategy in court, this presentation gives attorneys the tools they need to take the sting out of jury selection. Topics include: the high risk juror profile, when to use and how to create an effective, supplemental juror questionnaire, crafting voir dire questions, jury selection with limited time, cause challenge and rehabilitation strategies, and voir dire execution. An extended version of this seminar includes a practice element where attorneys are invited to participate in a mock voir dire.
The Land of Lost Opportunity: Accomplishing More in Cross-Examination
Cross-examination is one of the most important opportunities at trial for effective storytelling. While most attorneys can obtain important concessions, many do not consider how order, organization, sign-posting, and other key techniques can make these concessions memorable and impactful within the larger thematic framework of the client’s case. This seminar discusses common juror feedback on cross examination strategies, and highlights practical steps for ensuring the client’s story is effectively reinforced through cross examination.
Game Changer: Developing a Powerful and Persuasive Opening Statement
Research suggests 70% or more of jurors make up their minds about a case shortly after opening statements. While this is not an excuse to mail in one’s witness examinations or closing, it should motivate attorneys to spend more time developing and practicing their opening. This presentation dissects the opening statement and provides attorneys with practical guidance for how to write and deliver their next opening. Topics include: jurors’ expectations about an opening, why less can be more (how to narrow and focus the opening), the critical first five minutes, structure and signposting, incorporating visuals, and the call to action.
Visual Persuasion in Litigation: The Development and Use of Persuasive Graphics
Graphics play a critical role in any case presentation, whether the trier-of-fact is a jury, judge, or arbitrator. Research has consistently shown visual presentations drastically increase comprehension, retention, and consequently, ability to effectively advocate in deliberations. This presentation highlights the often unrecognized value of visual persuasion throughout the litigation process and walks participants through common graphics that can be used in any type of litigation. Additionally, this presentation provides participants with a process for developing effective visual concepts that distill complex case issues into simple, clear, and compelling images that motivate and arm a trier-of-fact to be an effective advocate for the client.
Twelve Key Turning Points in Jury Deliberations and Their Implications for Trial Strategy
There is an important discussion that rarely occurs in the jury persuasion literature, which explains the common gap between persuasive case presentations and effective case presentations. Such a distinction may seem silly, but it turns out to be a critical one. Specifically, the literature lacks discussion of the actual moment-to-moment interactions in jury deliberations and the give-and-takes that constitute the process that ultimately allows a group of overwhelmed and likely confused strangers to take the evidence, testimony, jury instructions, and verdict form and render a verdict. The purpose of this seminar is to highlight those twelve key milestones and discuss the implications of each for trial strategy development.
Gaining an Advantage through Mock Trials and Focus Groups
Jury research is often viewed as a luxury reserved only for high exposure cases. Additionally, there are so many variations and different bells and whistles one can pay for, that it can make price comparisons, as well as simply selecting which option is best, a bit overwhelming. This seminar is designed to give you a look behind the curtain at the musts, the nice to haves, and the not needed elements of jury research. It is designed to help attorneys figure out not only if they need jury research, but if it is worth the expense and how to best utilize resources in an efficient manner. Topics include: design and method comparisons, costs, recruitment methods, qualitative vs. quantitative findings, and what should be your takeaways
Understanding the Reptile: The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Popular Plaintiffs’ Theory
This presentation demystifies the Reptile strategy by explaining its roots in the classic fear appeal. Attendees will learn about when and how fear appeals are effective, as well as when to use other types of appeals. The advantages and disadvantages of the popular Reptile theory will be discussed as well as key strengths and weaknesses. Practical tips for incorporating various rhetorical appeals into your case strategy are covered. Topics include: the rhetorical roots of the fear appeal, when and when it should not be used, and strategies for using and defending against Reptile.
Gender Communication: Maximizing Communication Traits to Increase Credibility
This presentation delves into the gender communication continuum. It focuses on how both women and men can achieve greater success by understanding the communication traits associated with credibility. Topics include: socialization and its impact on our communication patterns, society’s gender expectations, factors of credibility, powerless vs. powerful communication traits, and application of communication traits in specific situations. This seminar can be tailored for mixed gender or women only groups.
The Keys to Effective Public Speaking
Public speaking is a vital skill set for any attorney. Whether it be in the courtroom, at conferences, or in front of potential clients, every attorney faces important public speaking opportunities over the course of his or her career. This presentation focuses on fundamental and effective techniques for drafting and delivering powerful presentations that will captivate the audience and position the speaker to achieve the desired goals of the presentation.
Becoming a Better Communicator
Communication is at the heart of everything we do. An important message is meaningless unless it is effectively communicated. Consequently, it can mean the difference between success or failure. This presentation highlights the common barriers to effective communication within organizational settings and identifies concrete steps individuals can take to become better communicators in every aspect of their lives.
Not Buying It: The Opportunities and Pitfalls in Product Liability Cases
Product liability cases often involve a clash of the values of personal vs. corporate responsibility and this fundamentally influences the rhetorical environment of jury deliberations. This presentation examines common juror attitudes about corporations and their products. It draws on historical data from mock trials, focus groups, and public surveys as it highlights opportunities and limitations for strategy development in product liability cases.
Patents and Juries: An Examination of How Jurors Manage the Complexities of Patent Infringement Cases
The landscape of patent litigation is complex and foreign for jurors. Unlike medical malpractice litigation, where jurors have seen doctors and been to hospitals, or product liability cases, where every juror has been a consumer, few jurors have a background for understanding patent issues. This can lead to a great sense of uncertainty as the trial team prepares for trial. This seminar addresses many of these uncertainties by highlighting common factors jurors draw on as they make sense of the claims in a patent case. It concludes with a focus on practical tips for developing narratives in patent infringement cases.
How Jurors Perceive and React to Common Issues in Assisted Living and Nursing Home Litigation
This presentation begins with an examination of findings from juror surveys and mock trials in the area of assisted living and nursing home litigation and highlights the advantages and disadvantages each side faces at trial. Building on this foundation, the speaker will discuss strategies, tips, and tools for establishing a narrative/thematic framework at trial that motivates and arms jurors to be effective advocates for your client.
Anatomy of a Medical Malpractice Case
Medical malpractice litigation is unique. Unlike nearly every other litigation type, every trier-of-fact, whether it be a jury, judge, mediator, or arbitrator, has strong, personal, case-related experiences. In other words, every trier-of-fact has had interaction with doctors and healthcare providers that shape his or her understanding and beliefs about the nature and quality of healthcare services. Furthermore, the cases most likely to make it to trial are those involving significant or permanent injury or death, which magnifies the psychological and emotional impact on the trier of fact. This seminar focuses on the unique hurdles each side faces in a medical malpractice case, and presents strategies, tips, and tools for establishing a narrative/thematic framework at trial that motivates and arms jurors to be effective advocates for the client.
Traversing the Landscape of Employment Litigation: How Jurors’ Experiences and Attitudes Drive Verdicts
Employment cases are unique because every juror brings prominent life experiences to the table that shape the way he or she perceives key issues in the case. Effective strategy development draws on these common attitudes and experiences to formulate a narrative that fits the beliefs and expectations of jurors. This presentation walks participants through the common attitudes and experiences that jurors bring to these cases and provides guidance for crafting effective narrative strategies that motivate and arm jurors to fight for your client in deliberations.