Overview: My work in litigation media design and consulting

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“The days of a litigator handing an average American juror 5-inch-thick 3-ring binders, filled with written and technical information, as the stand-alone repository of one’s evidence, are over.  There is no substitute for meticulous organization and documentation of essential facts.  Today, however, a litigator cannot begin by presenting an ultra-simple, compelling visual and verbal introduction to these facts, in a way that even an modestly-literate American adolescent can quickly grasp, this advocate is at an automatic disadvantage.

An excerpt from key visualizations I created for a wrongful death case against Ford Motor Company.

“Aside from my skills in design, writing and research, the biggest asset I bring to litigators in high-value and complex cases, is empathy.  Despite having achieved significant accomplishments in advertising, 3D animation design, investigative journalism, documentary development and more, I have little formal education.  This, combined with my deep, original research into the the assumed knowledge, perceptions, literacy and media usage patterns of both modest and highly-educated Americans, empowers me with a visceral understanding of how the average juror perceives and considers information, in ways that many other pros in the legal field cannot.

“Combined, my creative skills, situational assessments, empathy have enabled me to produce key litigation media tools that consistently earn high praise from my legal clients.”

– Jon Sutz


Contents

(1) The two major obstacles facing litigators in the courtroom, and the court of public opinion

(2) The primary values I bring to legal clients: Visualization and graphic design, writing, information architecture, research-and analysis

(3) I help litigators to overcome these obstacles, through my skills in visualization and graphic design, writing, and research-analysis

(4) Partial client list


(1) The two major obstacles facing litigators in the courtroom, and the court of public opinion

The need for quality litigation media tools has never been as acute as it is today, due primarily to two reasons:

(1) The low functional and civic literacy of the average American juror

Despite all the freedoms and technological advancements we enjoy, we live in an age in which even the most “educated” among us has questionable literacy skills, is either unfamiliar with or harbors gross misconceptions about our Constitution, and prefers to obtain information from watching TV as opposed to reading (or listening):

  • bored50% of American adults cannot read above the 8th-grade level, and 25% cannot read above the 4th-grade level (functional illiteracy).[1]
  • Half the students at 4-year colleges, and 75% at community colleges, cannot perform complex but common literacy tasks, such as understanding the arguments in a newspaper editorial, or comparing the cost-per-ounce of food.[2]
  • 95% of American adults cannot correctly answer ten of the most basic questions about the U.S. Constitution. 99% cannot identify all five rights contained in the First Amendment; 92% cannot name even three.[3]
  • 55% of Americans say their “best understanding of the news comes from seeing pictures or video” (only 40% say it comes from “reading” or “hearing”).[4]

Clearly, the days of being able to hand the average juror a thick 3-ring binder (or many of them), stuffed with complex data or “legal-ese,” and to expect him/her to have the patience and skill to read it, and the ability to comprehend it, are long over.

(2) The “CSI Effect”

Adding to the challenges faced by attorneys today is the “CSI effect” – the expectation by jurors to see high-end 3D animations and graphical analyses employed whenever complex facts are being disputed.

Attorneys realize they need a way to transform raw, complex data into a format that today’s typical juror can understand, and retain.

And it takes a special type of media professional to help attorneys to do this – one who is capable of digesting such raw data, understanding its context and relevance to the overall argument, and being able to creatively distill it to its essence, in a clear and compelling way.


(2) The primary values I bring to legal clients: Visualization and graphic design, writing, information architecture, research-and analysis

Briefly, I have the proven ability to:

  • Convert complex data into compelling 2D and 3D graphics and visualizations that the layperson can understand and retain
  • Act as a prospective juror, report on weak or unclear aspects of presentations, and make recommendations for improvement
  • Conduct investigative research
  • Bring to bear my years of working in advertising, corporate communications, advocacy and activism, to help litigators create courtroom presentations and key juror notebook elements that are persuasive to the average juror

See my Litigation Media portfolio here.

Learn more about the specific services I offer to law firms here.


(3) In their own words: Legal clients rave about the value I bring them

Since 2000, law firms in Virginia and beyond have retained me to consult on, design and produce key elements of their courtroom presentations. And as is described in my Litigation Media Portfolio, many of my legal clients have raved about my performance, and the results that my work has yielded. Excerpts:

  • “We cannot be happier with the quality of the animations you produced for us. (They will) help tremendously in this national litigation and I expect juries will relate well, regardless of their geographic location.”
    – Samuel L. Tarry, Jr., McGuire Woods (Richmond, VA world headquarters)
  • “…(I)n a startling courtroom admission, Ford’s own expert acknowledged (the) accuracy and effectiveness (of your analytical graphics). This is a tribute to your quick grasp of the specifications and your tireless work in getting the job done.”
    – Edgar F. Heiskell III, Michie Hamlett (right)
  • “Jon was able to comprehend a difficult fact pattern and illustrate the scenario in a method that was both easy to follow and efficient. His input and work product made all the difference in settlement negotiations.”
    – Eric Yost, Marks & Harrison

In terms of dollar-amount victories, the largest was the role I played in helping a client, a property developer, to prevail in the largest land-use dispute in Ft. Lauderdale, FL history, regarding his proposal to build a $100 million luxury condo tower on the last available piece of beachfront property:

“Jon’s unique combination of creative research, analytical writing, graphic design and presentation development skills were successfully utilized in our communications programs, in achieving the governmental approvals we sought. Jon’s innovation, attention to detail, and ability to digest extremely complex/abstract legal provisions, concepts and arguments, and translate them into clear, impactive visualizations, were integral parts of our presentations.”
Morris Richter, Yale Properties International

See more client testimonials at:

Jon Sutz: Raves from Legal Clients

Of all the comments my legal clients have made about my performance, the one I value the most – and which I’ve heard more often than any other – is, “Thank goodness you’re on our side!” Those who have enlisted me in conflicts in which they can convince me of the merit of their argument, and the nature of the conflict, quickly discover how potent I can be, when all my skills and experience are focused on one objective: victory.


(4) Partial client list

Unless otherwise noted, these clients (listed alphabetically) are in Charlottesville, Virginia:

  • Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz
  • Chandler Law Group
  • Marks & Harrison
  • Martin & Raynor
  • McGuire Woods (Richmond, VA world headquarters)
  • Michie Hamlett Lowry Rasmussen & Tweel
  • Ritchie Law Firm
  • The Law Firm of Charles Weber
  • Yale Properties,Inc. (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Periodically I have also consulted on legal matters outside of Virginia, but cannot discuss them publicly.


[1] National Center for Education Statistics; U.S. Department of Education’s 2003 report, “A First Look At The Literacy Of America’s Adults In The 21st Century; ” National Institute for Literacy; National Assessment of Adult Literacy; cited in “4th Annual E-Government Survey” by Brown University (2004).

[2] Ibid.; “National Survey of America’s College Students,” Pew Charitable Trusts; cited in “Many College Students Poor On 3 Rs,” 1/19/06.

[3] Center for Research Survey and Analysis survey of 1,012 adults nationwide 6/01 for the First Amendment Center report, “The State Of The First Amendment 2001;” Intercollegiate Studies Institute survey of 2,508 American adults during April and May 2008, as reported in “Our Fading Heritage;” Survey of 1,000 American adults by Synovate, for the McCormick Tribune Freedom Foundation, 1/06.

[4] Pew Research Center: “Biennial News Consumption Survey,” 6/8/04.

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