understanding

100 – David Ball – Damages Evolving: Practicing Law in an Ever-Changing World

In this very special 100th episode of the Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael has the legendary David Ball back on the show to discuss his soon-to-be-released book, Damages Evolving, written alongside Artemis Malekpour and Courtney and Nick Rowley.

“I’d shake the hand of any person who can keep this going for 100 episodes.” – David Ball

Michael begins the episode by asking David what he means by “Damages Evolving.” David explains that it’s mostly what they’ve learned since the release of Damages 3. He was almost finished with his first draft right before Covid hit. After Covid, turmoil in Washington, George Floyd, and more, he knew the shifts on jury perception would be too large not to re-analyze before publishing.

David continues by elaborating on why Nick and Courtney Rowley were involved in this book. He heard of Nick Rowley and the incredible verdicts he was getting all over the country and thought, how is he doing this? As Michael interjects that David and Nick have different methodologies, David says he feels they are more similar than most believe. And as he’s progressed in his career, he’s learned there’s no one way to do things. You need to find what works for you and run with it.

“I’ve stopped saying ‘Courtney is Nick’s wife’ and started saying ‘Nick is Courtney’s husband.’” – David Ball

Michael then digs into the meat of the book and asks David about the concept of alignment. David shares that the goal of alignment is to get jurors to start believing something important about your case. This aspect of your case doesn’t need to be the most important or most central part. This works because people tend to continue believing what they first start to believe, and if the next thing they hear re-enforces that belief, it’ll be even stronger. This repeats until you’re almost impervious to any jabs the defense attempts to make.

“If you get the alignment in place, you start winning within the first 2-3 pages of your opening.” – David Ball

David then shares how the concept of alignment can break through any preconceptions about attorneys being dishonest. The key is to never tell the jury what to think; it is vital that the jury decides for themselves what they think. He then shares a brilliant example of how to use alignment in a rear-end collision case, which is sure to solidify this concept in every listener’s head.

After David shares that he doesn’t think he would be a good lawyer because he would get too frustrated with the judges, Michael shares some of the mindset work that he’s done to help with this and how being angry during the trial isn’t productive. David then recommends the book “The Way of the Trial Lawyer” by Rick Friedman, which he admits he thought was just another self help book at first. It discusses ego, why you’re in trial, and the importance of empathy, which David also covers in “Damages Evolving.”

Continuing on empathy, David emphasizes how important it is. Understanding where defense lawyers, jurors, and judges you don’t like are coming from can both make it easier on you mentally and create a bond with that person. This allows you to make decisions within their mindset, which is incredibly powerful.

After a discussion about the many benefits of having a female trial partner, Michael picks David’s brain about the best ways to give developing lawyers experience in the courtroom. David has a few recommendations, including finding simple cases for them to try, splitting liability and damages, and even hiring actors to play jurors for practice.

Moving on, David shares some brilliant techniques on how to include the jury in an examination of a hostile witness. Referencing the teachings of Joshua Karton, David explains how to position your body, when to stay silent, and what your facial expressions should be saying throughout the process. It sounds simple, but David asserts this type of inclusion of the jury does not come naturally to most people, especially those who would choose to attend law school and be a trial lawyer. It’s something that takes a lot of practice and vulnerability to do successfully.

“It’s all you working with them to arrive at a mutual understanding.” – David Ball

Michael then asks David about another section of his book on “Forgotten Damages.” David explains how these are compensable damages which are often left out of the equation. He then elaborates on some forgotten parts of chronic pain, including trouble sleeping and a sedentary lifestyle. What does long term lack of sleep do? It makes you about 1/3 more likely to develop cancer and heart disease, leading to a shorter remainder of life.  With a sedentary lifestyle, the long-term effects are well-known and documented. While finding and highlighting these forgotten damages is more work for the lawyer, David goes as far as to say a lawyer is committing negligence if he or she does not look for them in a case.

“If someone is in great pain, and you don’t look for the forgotten part of their pain, what the hell else is there?” – David Ball

After a brief but very insightful look at how framing your client’s loss of control over their life is a loss of freedom resonates extremely well with conservative jurors, the conversation shifts to experts. David explains that evidence presented by our experts must be both reliable and relevant – otherwise, it’s not evidence at all. He outlines the three criteria we should have for our evidence and adds that if the defense expert’s evidence is not reliable, you need to frame it to show the jury they are cheating. And not just cheating your client – they’re cheating the jury, and they are the villain. The trick is to do this without ever making an accusation. Like with the other techniques mentioned in this episode, jurors must come to their own conclusions.

“It’s a way of showing the other side isn’t just mistaken. It’s to frame it to show they are cheating. And they’re not just cheating me and my client; they’re doing the worst sin you could do. They are cheating the jury.” – David Ball

Before wrapping up this episode, Michael asks David to discuss another topic in his upcoming book- respect. David shares how our need for respect stems from an evolutionary need to stay in the tribe to survive. This survives to this day, causing the feeling of disrespect to be one of the most memorable and hated feelings we have. David takes it a step further to assert that every act of negligence is an act of disrespect to EVERYONE, and you need to frame your case that way.

“As powerful of a persuasive tool as you will ever find, is to harness the power of how much we HATE disrespect.” – David Ball

If you would like to speak with David Ball or his partner Artemis Malekpour about working on a case or their research, you can contact David by email at jurywatch@gmail.com or Artemis at artemis@consultmmb.com.

“Damages Evolving” is available now for pre-order on the Trial Guides website and will release on April 15th, 2022.

This podcast episode also covers David’s templates, why some of the most evil people in history actually had great empathy, how to split an opening statement between 2 different lawyers, why brain injury cases should be the highest value cases, why you should always check to see if your client has a brain injury, how our hatred of disrespect got Donald Trump elected, and much more.

Guest Bio:

David Ball (Malekpour Ball Consulting) is the nation’s most influential trial consultant. With partner Artemis Malekpour, he guides plaintiff’s civil cases and criminal defense cases across the country. They are the nation’s only trial consultants qualified to help attorneys with Reptilian methods and strategy, as well as with Ball’s David Ball on Damages techniques and a wide range of other essential approaches. They have an unparalleled record in helping attorneys with every size and kind of case.

Dr. Ball is also a pioneer in adapting methods of film and theater for use in trial. His theater/film students hold Oscars, Obies, Tonys, and Emmys. His Theater Tips and Strategies for Jury Trials has been a bestseller for nearly two decades, and his Backwards and Forwards has been a foundation of theater and film training since 1984.

Dr. Ball wrote two of the bestselling trial strategy books ever published: David Ball on Damages and—with Reptile cofounder Don Keenan—Reptile: The 2009 Manual of the Plaintiff’s Revolution.

Dr. Ball is an award-winning teacher for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice and the American Association for Justice’s National College of Advocacy. He has also taught law students at North Carolina, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Campbell law schools, and at Duke Law as a senior lecturer. He has long been the nation’s most in-demand continuing legal education speaker.

39 – Sari de la Motte – What we Tell Jurors Without Saying a Word

In this Trial Lawyer Nation podcast, Michael Cowen sits down with presentation coach, speaker, and trial consultant, Sari de la Motte, for a conversation on nonverbal communication. With two advanced degrees in music, and having started out initially teaching teachers how to get better results in their classrooms, Sari has transitioned her skills to working 100% with trial attorneys on how to present and work with juries.

Sari began her journey while attending school for her Master’s Degree in Music, when her professor told her she needed to go to a training on nonverbal communication to help her become a better teacher. She attended with the mindset that she was going to learn about how to read people’s nonverbal cues and make up stories about what they are communicating. Little did she realize the focus would be on herself and how she communicated nonverbally, and how she could increase her presence and charisma. And she was hooked! The trainer was Michael Grinder, a master of, and world renown expert in, the power of influence — the science of non-verbal communication, non-verbal leadership, group dynamics, advanced relationship building skills and presentation skills. She was so intrigued, she looked him up, and followed him around the country, paying her own expenses along the way for upwards of 9 months to observe and take notes on what he was presenting. After which she pivoted completely from music to nonverbal communication.

Both music and nonverbal communication are the two universal languages. She explains, you don’t need training in music to enjoy it and the same goes for nonverbal communication in order to understand it, i.e., you don’t need to be trained to know when your spouse is upset. But, if you want to perform music or you want to be systematic in how you communicate nonverbally, then you certainly need to become trained in those areas.

In the beginning, Sari started training teachers in schools on how to communicate using nonverbal techniques until the recession hit and she realized schools had less and less money to use. That’s when she adapted her trainings for the corporate world. Little did she know that when the Oregonian did a story on her, she would receive a call from a lawyer asking her to come help pick a jury the next week. She also wasn’t sure on how she would be helping but once she was in the courtroom, she again was hooked and knew it was a great fit for her.

Michael wonders how Sari learned how to take what she knew about nonverbal communication and apply it to what lawyers do. Sari shares a story about how the original lawyer wanted her to come to the courtroom, watch the jury pool’s body language and tell him who to keep on and who to kick off. Ironically, she found that as much as she kept watching the jury, to which there is no scientific evidence to back up the ability to read body language as its own language to make judgements about people, her attention kept coming back to the lawyer himself. She soon realized, the biggest opportunity to help this lawyer was to in fact, help him with his own nonverbal communication in how he was interacting with the jury. Thankfully he was open to her feedback and wanted to know everything he could from her. Sari goes on to point out that all the nonverbal skills she teaches, whether teaching teachers, the corporate world, or to lawyers, are all the same skills. It’s just the context that changes. And once she learned the context lawyers operate in, how to apply those skills, and met a lawyer who was able to look at himself instead of focusing on what the jury was doing, she truly fell in love with the work trial lawyers do. Michael points out the irony of “how many times we’re doing something with our hands, a facial expression, other body language, or even our tone of voice, and we don’t even know it. And we’re giving off a message that is the opposite of the words we’re saying.” Sari not only agrees, but also points to research that shows “if there is a mismatch between what you are saying and what you’re communicating nonverbally, the listener will go with the nonverbal message every single time.” She continues by pointing out those awkward times lawyers are videotaped, watch it back, and are absolutely horrified by what they see; not so much in regards to the superficial things like hair being out of place or our weight, but rather because we have no idea about all the weird things we’re doing nonverbally.

Early on, at the beginning of her career, Sari was approached to speak to The Inner Circle, a group of the top 100 plaintiff attorneys in the United States, and statistically notes after 15 years, she has found that it is always the best lawyers that show up on her doorstep. Michael and Sari discuss “winning in the courtroom” and how some overstate its importance and talk through what they see as a better way to define winning. Furthermore, Sari points to what is in your circle of concern versus your circle of influence, a mindset which stems from The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey, and further proves her point about the definition of winning.

Talking about Sari’s podcast From Hostage to Hero (also the name of her upcoming book), Michael is curious about where the name came from. She recalls needing to learn the context of how to apply her skills to the courtroom and finding the best way to do so being to read all the books lawyers were reading, attending CLEs, watching DVDs, etc. And she found that after helping to pick several hundreds of juries and having read all kinds materials, there was something missing from the conversations … the idea of jurors being hostages. No one was really talking about the elephant in the room, where jurors don’t even want to be there in the first place, and they’re forced to do it anyway. So, she set out to fix this “communication dilemma” and understand how we get jurors to want to participate and realizing the hero role they truly play in the end. In other words, we’re asking jurors to take action for some person who they don’t know, with something they think doesn’t benefit themselves at all. “We’re asking them to be heroes, but when they first come into the courtroom,” Sari reveals, “they’re hostages.”

Sari discusses the levels of engagement lawyers go through with jurors on their journey through a trial: creating a safe environment; engaging them with you and the material, AKA voir dire; commitment, and be willing to listen to your opening statements; and finally, taking action at the end. Whereas, lawyers have a tendency to jump all the way to the end before systematically moving them through the other levels of the interaction. Or, as Sari describes it “that’s like going to our coffee date, talking for two minutes, and then getting down on one knee and asking the person to marry us.”  Sari continues to discuss each level in detail, including: understanding the 3 components of any message (content, delivery, reception) and using your breathing as a way to create safety. Then she discusses listening to understand vs. listening to talk and how to elevate people’s status by listening, along with the different levels of listening. And lastly, empowering jurors to make a decision and take action.

Listeners might think a podcast episode about nonverbal communication could potentially leave people feeling like they’re missing out on what’s to see, but Michael’s conversation with Sari couldn’t be more engaging and relatable with their descriptiveness. The episode rounds out with several other topics such as: understanding the S.C.A.R.F. model (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness) and how it relates to juries; how to turn a jury from an unformed group to a functioning faction; how to introduce jurors to each other using just your eyes; issues vs. relationships; the two buckets EVERY communication fits into and how knowing which one you are presenting can give you permission from a juror; things that lawyers do that hurt their cases; and so much more. This is absolutely an episode every lawyer who speaks or moves in the courtroom needs to listen to.

 

BACKGROUND

Sari de la Motte is a nationally recognized presentation coach, speaker, and trial consultant. She has trained extensively with an internationally recognized authority in nonverbal communication and is an expert in nonverbal intelligence.

Sari speaks to audiences of a few dozen people to audiences of over a thousand. A sought-after keynote speaker, Sari is often asked to headline conferences across the United States. Sari also works with high-profile speakers in her Portland office, helping them to hone their messaging and fine-tune their nonverbal delivery.

Sari has spoken for, and works with, several members of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only group consisting of the top 100 trial attorneys in the United States. She’s a featured columnist for Oregon Trial Lawyer’s Magazine, Sidebar, and has also written for Washington State Association of Justice, Oregon Criminal Defense Attorney, and other legal publications. She provides CLE’s for various state association of justices around the country. Because of her unique ability to help attorneys communicate their real selves, she has been dubbed “The Attorney Whisperer.”

“For more information on Sari de la Motte you can visit http://www.saridlm.com/

 

RESOURCES

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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