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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 The examples cited by the author are outdated and contrite.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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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