The Multimedia Lawyer
Take advantage of the persuasive power of multimedia. Modern technology has allowed for increased accessibility and lower costs of resources such as digital cameras, printers and software. As multimedia presentations encourage memory retention, why not take suggestions for some quick and effective approaches.
Since Daniel Webster, and probably since the Magna Carta, lawyers have used vivid and evocative words in an occasionally successful effort to paint mental pictures for the trier of fact and to evoke emotion. However, anyone who has tried a few cases soon realizes that people neither use nor interpret specific words consistently and that it's all too easy for a fact finder to either misinterpret our word pictures or miss the point entirely when we try a case using a predominantly verbal approach to persuasion.
Such a hit or miss approach is incongruent with our professional obligation to present a case both accurately and persuasively. The ineffectiveness of a predominantly verbal trial technique becomes even more evident as we enter the maturity of the music video age, working with mature and responsible jurors who grew up with video games and ubiquitous Blackberry coverage rather than reading columns of gray text in The New York Times.
The memory-enhancing benefits of multimedia presentations have been apparent since at least the 1930s when Eastman Kodak popularized overhead projectors as an accompaniment to lectures and found that a typical audience might retain 10% of spoken words but retain 30% to 70% of content presented both audibly and visually. As our knowledge of the neuropsychology of the brain improves, we can see why: tactile, audio and visual data are processed and stored in different parts of the brain. When multiple kinds types of sensory data are simultaneously presented, memory is mutually reinforced. For that reason, jury consultants often recommend that trial counsel not only make an audiovisual presentation but also provide the jury with related objects in evidence to pass around and physically handle during the counsel's presentation.
Since the development of Gestalt cognitive psychology nearly a century ago, psychologists have understood that the human brain is usually better at perceiving incomplete patterns visually rather than comprehending linear text and that the whole pattern is different from, and greater than, the sum of its parts. Our common sense also tells us as much, hence the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words.
As litigators, we traditionally had some serious problems using multimedia presentations for all but the largest cases. Multimedia techniques were generally expensive and slow to produce, inflexible and limited. Most or all of these limitations have greatly diminished over the past few years with the advent of high-quality digital cameras, digitized video depositions and easy to use software.
In companion articles this month, we'll suggest some quick and effective approaches to multimedia presentations within the reach of even sole practitioners and evaluate twelve mid-range digital cameras along with HP's excellent DesignJet 130 large format printer which is great for making inexpensive large format photographic exhibits.
IDEAS AND RESOURCES FOR USING MULTIMEDIA TRIAL PRESENTATIONS
- Arkfeld, Michael, Using Multimedia in Legal Proceedings.
- Crawford, Richard J. Ph.D. and Charlotte Morris, The Persuasion Edge, This is a revised edition of the classic trial psychology book.
- Law in the Digital Age: How Visual Communication Technologies are Transforming the Practice, Theory, and Teaching of Law.
- Guiberson, Sam. "Digital Media as Evidence and Evidence as Media," Criminal Justice Magazine, American Bar Association, Spring 2004, Volume 19 Number 1. In this article, Sam Guiberson chooses and balances the different types of media that a litigator might use in trial.
- Bishop, R. Doak and Sashe D. Dimitroff of King and Spaulding. Psychology of Persuasion.
- Carney, Brian and Neal Feigenson. "Visual Persuasion in the Michael Skakel Trial: Enhancing Advocacy Through Interactive Media Presentations." Criminal Justice Magazine, American Bar Association, Spring 2004, Volume 19 Number 1.
- Tufte , Edward, Ph.D. Beautiful Evidence. Further thoughts on concisely and accurately presenting complicated information in a readily comprehensible form.
- DecisionQuest's Jury Consulting Web site is also worth a look.