Creating trial visual aids might be a large part of your role as a litigation paralegal. Using a visual to demonstrate evidence is a great way to make sure that a jury or judge understands complicated information that might be difficult to explain with words alone. Most courtrooms now have functionality that allows you to present visuals in a variety of different ways.
But why bother with trial visual aids at all?
This is a tool that, first and foremost, improves the ability of jurors to recall information that has been presented in trial. This is a goal that every lawyer strives for and one that can be difficult to achieve with just words. Most people are visual learners, and even for those that are not, pairing a visual with a spoken explanation will cement information in the mind of the jury. Another goal that visual aids help you to achieve is clear explanation of an idea or concept, helping to solidify the opinion of an expert witness, eliciting emotion from a jury, and helping you to persuade a jury to convict or acquit.
To achieve all of these goals, you will want the highest quality visual aids possible. Making time to perfect these visuals is extremely important, especially considering their weight during a trial. This is actually an integral part of discovery and because many cases are resolved before actually going to trial, may be something your lawyer asks you to do in order to prepare for mediation. By creating a visual aid, you will impress upon the viewers the importance of what you have to say and the value of the cause you are making.
Here are five ways that you can improve your trial visual aids:
1. Decide Your Objectives for the Trial Visual Aids
What do you want to communicate with these visual aids? What are the most important points that you want to convey? What are the most important things for the jury to remember? Answering these questions will give you the list of points that you want to focus on when creating your visual aids. It will help to direct you when it comes to creating visual aids that impress the importance of these points onto the viewer. Knowing what these points are going to be before you begin will ensure you do not waste time creating visual aids that do not center around the most important information.
2. Limit Your Text as Much as Possible
Remember, these are visual aids. And while some text may be necessary in order to make clear what is being displayed in the visual aid, there should not be so much text that anyone viewing the aid is trying to read what the text says and is not paying attention to what the lawyer is saying. It is also important to remember that the text should be large enough that it can be read easily from wherever the jury and judge are sitting. Text that is difficult to read is going to undermine your visual aid’s efficacy. Limit the text and what labels or clarifications you do use, make sure they are large enough to be easily read even from across a large courtroom.
3. Make Sure Your Visual Aids Make a Concept Easier to Understand
The ultimate goal of your visual aid should be to make a difficult concept easier to explain (therefore taking less time to explain it) and easier for the viewer to understand. Evaluate all of your visual aids based on this criteria. Does this visual help the average person understand what the lawyer is trying to say? Does it give them a better idea of what happened and why it is important? Does it reduce the amount of time that your lawyer has to spend talking about or trying to explain a situation, idea, or concept to a group of people who have little prior knowledge?
4. Get an Outside Opinion
It can be difficult to be objective about whether or not the information presented makes sense to someone without prior knowledge of the case. As long as it is appropriate, ask for a few lay people to look over the visual evidence and tell you whether or not they understand it. Ask a few co-workers who have not worked on the case. to take a look at your visual aids. Ask them:
- Does it make sense?
- Does it effectively convey what we are trying to convey?
- Does the information feel valid? Is the information presented in an interesting way?
While your goal is not to entertain the judge and jury, presenting information in an interesting way can ensure that you hold their attention.
5. Start Early
Do not wait until right before the trial to start making your visual aids. Start as early as you can and keep streamlining and working on the visual aid until it has been perfected. This is especially important because there is the chance that the visual aid might need to be used in mediation before the trial. Add to that, your time will be limited as the trial date approaches, so it is better to do the trial visual aids early in the trial prep process.