Nordstrom: Book offers little insight for experienced trial attorneys

Rodney Nordstrom
October 10, 2012
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The book, “Winning the Jury’s Attention: Presenting Evidence from Voir Dire to Closing,” piqued my attention as a trial lawyer and trial consultant. Anything that improves our ability to “win over” the jury for our client is worth learning about. As most trial attorneys realize, jurors are not simply going to hand over their undivided attention for a lengthy trial unless the trial attorney is capable of making it interesting for them. In the courtroom you simply cannot demand attention but must attract attention. In order to do this, you need to select the right message, present it in the right way, and do so within the allotted time. Although the tips offered in the book are solid, they are tips we have heard before.

Author Trey Cox reminds us lawyers are not considerate of jurors’ time. Jurors have lives, husbands, wives and jobs to get back to. Every minute they are sitting in trial, their normal living activity is disrupted. And though jurors take their duties seriously and will work hard to sit in judgment of your case, they do not want their time to be wasted. Too often trial lawyers waste their time by repeating the same information and asking the same questions. This turns jurors off.

Trial lawyers have to show that they are proficient and efficient at what they do. Jurors flyspeck your every move for clues to your credibility, competence and trustworthiness. If you appear lost and confused or labor over the admission of exhibits, neither you, your abilities, nor your trustworthiness will rate very high with the jury. On the other hand, if you move through the evidence efficiently, with confidence, and demonstrate a mastery of the facts, the jury will surrender its attention to you because you are a leader in the courtroom.

Cox reminds us of several common principles for communicating effectively with a jury:

• The Personal Credibility Principle: Demonstrate competence, accuracy, leadership and efficiency to gain credibility.

• The Signaling Principle: People learn better when the material is presented with clear outlines and headings.

• The Segmentation Principle: People learn better when information is presented in bite-sized chunks.

• The Multimedia Principle: People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

• The Coherence Principle: People learn better when extraneous material is excluded.

• The Stickiness Principle: Make your themes and ideas “sticky.”

• The Jolt Principle: Periodically jolt your jury so they don’t bolt.

Although these seven principles are always good reminders, they offered little additional new information for anyone having done more than a few jury trials. These suggestions are common sense and second nature to experienced litigators.

One shortcoming of the book is that the author does not clearly identify his target audience. This is not necessarily a big deal, but experienced litigators will find the book underwhelming. A college pre-law student or law student, taking a first trial advocacy class, would get more out of it.

The author appears to be committed to understanding jurors but his trial inexperience is demonstrated by his lack of examples of actual trial applications. In other words, he advances the usual tips important to most trial advocates; i.e., “don’t speak like a lawyer,” “be confident” and “value the jury’s time.” He also cites to the perfunctory Aristotle’s Principles of Rhetoric (Logos, Pathos and Ethos) and Rule of Threes. The book reads more like a primer to jury selection, rather than a book on meaningful tips for experienced litigators.

The author heralds his many personal accomplishments; however many of these compliments refer to his rating in Martindale Hubble and recognition by the “Best Lawyers” title but do not reference any meaningful or significant trial victories let alone trial experiences. He also references his experience clerking for a federal District judge.

Although Cox is described in his book as “a pioneer in complex technology and neuroscientific principles to improve jury communications and persuasion,” nothing in the book appears to be “pioneering” and little, if any, offers to “advanced technology and neuroscientific principles” as they relate to “winning” jurors’ attention. Despite the limitations mentioned above, Cox’s effort is quite apparent. The book does offer merit as an overview of how common skills can benefit a beginning trial lawyer. The book by Trey Cox is 201 pages, 14 chapters, published by First Chair Press, and sells for $69.95.•

Rodney Nordstrom Ph.D., J.D., is a trial consultant with his company Litigation Simulation Services (www.litsim) located in Peoria, Ill. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.


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    Photo taken in the Bencher's Room of the Honorable Society of the King's Inns: (From left to right) Michael Collins SC, Mr Justice Paul Carney, Dermot Gleeson SC, Mr Justice Niall Fennelly, Tom Girardi, David Barniville SC, Mr. Justice Donal O'Donnell, Turlough O'Donnell SC, Paul Gallaher SC, Mr. Justice Colm Ó h’Eochaidh, Brian Murray SC, Paul Sreenan SC and Mr. trial attorneys

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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

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  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise