Monthly Archives: August 2015

“Tokenism” does not equal “Diversity”

Lawyer defending client with jury in court

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.

A tweet from Bloomberg Law caught my eye: “#Gender gap persists Among Lead Trial Counsel.” The tweet was a reference to a recently released report titled, “First Chairs at Trial: More Women Need Seats at the Table.” The report was prepared by the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the American Bar Foundation (authors Stephanie Scharf and Roberta Liebenberg). The report is an excellent analysis of the lack of women in lead trial roles and what can be done about it. I urge anyone involved in the legal profession –law schools, corporations, firms – to read the report and look for ways to encourage diversity within trial teams.

While gender (as well as racial) diversity is optimal for a number of reasons, I hesitate to make this kind of statement without a quick follow-up: too often people think that means that the trial team simply needs to “add a woman.” That is absolutely not the answer – adding a “token” woman to the team to “appeal to women on the jury,” does not work. I would say the same thing if someone asked, “Do we need a man?” or “Do we need a minority?” or “Do we need a handicapped person?” I add that last one since we had a client ask us once if they should find a disabled expert since the plaintiff had a disabled expert. For all of these, the answer is “no.” (To be fair, I’d tell someone in a deposition to be quite careful using an unequivocal no….there can be exceptions. So go ahead and ask the question, but the answer is likely: “Still no.”) Continue reading

“Don’t Take That Tone With Me!” Working with Witnesses to Improve Performance

tone

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.

When you were growing up did your mom or dad ever say that to you? Do you say it to your kids? My son is a pro at turning a relatively innocuous response into a mordant-laden one simply through his tone. The answer “We’re going to the movies,” reads innocent enough until tone is added by the 17-year-old who is completely taken aback that his mom would dare ask where he and his friends are going. He’s equally successful at adding a charming tone to any question asking for money, the car, or new Nikes.

For a wonderful example of the power of tone, look no further that this YouTube video of a 10-month old baby crying as he listens to his mom sing a moving and melancholic song. This sweet little baby isn’t responding to the words of the song (also moving); he’s responding to the tone — the way the words sound. He’s simply overtaken by the way she is singing, not what she is singing.
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Sound Jury Consulting’s Deposition Training Video for Witnesses

By Thomas M. O’Toole, Ph.D.

After receiving several requests from clients, we recently put together this 7-minute video for attorneys to share with key witnesses in their case before their depositions. It is always preferable for attorneys to meet with their key witnesses in advance of the depositions to spend time practicing the testimony. This helps familiarize witnesses with the common pitfalls of a deposition, can increase their comfort level, and give them an opportunity to fail in a mock setting so that they can succeed in the actual deposition. However, these practice sessions are not always possible. Consequently, we put this video together as a free tool for attorneys to send to their witnesses.

The goal of the video is to provide witnesses with the essentials for performing well in a deposition. While the video is certainly not comprehensive, the core principles and rules that are discussed will help witnesses navigate most of the hurdles they will face.

We have also posted the video on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhsVBRQezz0

For more information on effectively preparing witnesses for depositions, check out the publications section of our website.

The Donald Trump Problem

2014-11-17-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_2

By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.

With that headline, there are quite a few things I could write about. This blog, however, is about the Trump problem for the other seventeen GOP candidates. Watch any interview with a Republican candidate and what do the interviewers spend most of their time asking the candidate about? Trump. A few candidates are fairly good at deflecting and putting the focus back on their candidacy, but others buy in and spend their valuable network time talking about Trump.

Now, I’m not saying that Trump is going to win the nomination since Trump’s biggest problem is also Trump. But, when the other candidates only talk about Trump (whether “forced” by the media or by choice), they become another mouthpiece for him and his story, not their own. Even if they spend that time attacking him, they are still making it about him and, consequently, letting him control the dialogue and debate.
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