How To Help a Jury Understand Complex Litigation

We hear this quite a bit from our clients. An attorney, when introducing us to his pending complex litigation matter, tells us upfront, “This is a complicated case.” It’s code for, “I don’t think jurors will understand this case.”

We hear it again in opening statements: “This is a complicated case.” So now, the attorney knows it’s a complicated case; the consultants know it’s a complicated case; the jurors know it’s a complicated case. Great. What now?

Here are a few ideas to help you connect your complex litigation to the jurors and make them more comfortable hearing it.

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Change the Question

Instead of asking, “How can I make jurors understand my complex case?”, how about asking, “How can I simplify my case for the jurors (and the judge and the witnesses)?” This basic reframing can change your focus; instead of focusing on the complexity, you and your team begin to focus on simplification. There’s a big difference.

Don’t Tell the Jury It’s a Complicated Case

When you tell a juror the case is complicated, he or she hears one of two things: “He thinks I’m too stupid to understand this,” and gets offended; or, “This is going to be way above my head,” and then tends not to listen. Finding ways to explain the unfamiliar in familiar terms helps them understand the concepts underlying your case. Characterizing the case does no one any good.

Tell the Jury a Story

Try thinking about your case as a story. What story do you want to tell? Or think of this way: If you had to tell someone at a dinner party about your case, what story would you tell about your side of it? We all think in stories, especially from the jury box. Jurors want to know what happened between these opposing parties that landed them in court, not a list of evidence and complex facts. Instead, tell a story that answers jurors’ questions about motives for the lawsuit and the significance of your case, which should (again) simplify the complexity. Talking in stories makes your complex litigation more jury-friendly.

There’s a saying that goes, “What you focus on expands.” Ultimately, the key to helping jurors understand your complicated case lies in focusing not on its complexity, but on its simplicity.

 

Robert-Gerchen

 

By:  Robert Gerchen, Senior Consultant