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Nordstrom: Book disappoints seasoned jury consultant

Rodney Nordstrom
July 20, 2011
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

When I first saw the flyer for this book, I immediately thought of the potential for application to trial work. The book’s catch phrase “It’s not what people hear. It’s what they repeat,” has natural application for use with a jury, or so I thought. I believed that anything that can enhance a trial lawyer’s communication effectiveness is worth studying. Unfortunately, after reading this book, I was disappointed.

nordstrom-book-review-cover4c-1colThe main point of this book is the author’s concept of the Dominant Selling Idea as it relates to marketing, selling, and politics. A DSI is a central proposition underlying the message much like a case theme. The concepts in the book are pretty much already obvious to the trial lawyer. The examples cited by the author are outdated and contrite. The author advocates making the DSI, or in trial parlance, case theme, simple and memorable like the oft-quoted phrase, “if the glove does not fit, you must acquit.” A DSI is generally a good idea to follow as it relates to developing a case theme. As the DSI model contemplates, it should sell your case in a simple short phrase. A DSI for a wrongful death of a child case might be: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”

The book introduces common terms like heuristics and metaphors. A heuristic is a mental shortcut that saves the brain from running thousands of algorithms leading to a quick conclusion. Think of it as a mental shortcut. Yes, juries use heuristics to help them analyze and decide a case and it is critical that trial lawyers identify naturally occurring case heuristics. That’s why focus groups are so critical. Once a heuristic is identified, it can be effectually incorporated into your trial strategy. The examples cited by the author are not really applicable for trial purposes.

Although the book is simple to read, in an hour or so, it offers little benefit to a seasoned trial attorney. Its nine chapters – 171 pages – are more aimed at a branding or a selling strategy: not as part of trial application. As a communication enhancing book it offers little insight from the lawyer’s perspective. In conclusion, perhaps I have unfairly compared this book to another book, “Winning with Stories” by Jim Perdue, which is a must-read for all trial lawyers.•

Rodney Nordstrom, Ph.D., J.D. is a trial consultant with his company Litigation Simulation Services located in Peoria, Illinois. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s.

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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