Kimmie: I should let you know that Mr. Heiss will only be available to meet for about five minutes, so we should hurry up and cut to the point. Um, and speak in short sentences because he has the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth.
Ron Burgundy: Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention. I’ve just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story. I need all of you, to stop what you’re doing and listen.
[Standing on the diving board in a speedo]
Ron Burgundy: Cannonball!
— Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
I know what you’re thinking. Sarnacki has lost his mind. Divorce cases are not tried to juries. We have judges. Why, on earth, would he highlight a book about jury trials? The answer is simple: Trey Cox has captured the essence of persuasion in the courtroom, and you will be a better advocate in your divorce and family law cases if you understand the principles he presents.
This is a great book. Cox’s Winning the Jury’s Attention comes with the subtitle “Presenting Evidence from Voir Dire to Closing.” In its 191 pages, there are principles of communication and persuasion that are explained for divorce and family law attorneys in the context of the courtroom. Yes, there are specific portions that relate solely to jurors, but the vast majority of the material governs compelling courtroom performances whether to a jury of 12, a jury of six, or a jury of one, which is applicable in your divorce law firm.
Cox gives special attention to understanding the mind of “the modern juror.” He takes other publications and research and translates their findings and concepts for use in the divorce and family law courtroom. The substance of Winning the Jury’s Attention comes from the fields of marketing, education and media, where the goal is to grab attention, keep attention and persuade. “We must realize that a juror’s attention is a precious commodity and should never be wasted. As trial lawyers, we must find the best way to get and keep their attention in order to communicate our core ideas.”
Cox’s goal is to help us choose the right message, present it in the right way, and do so in the most efficient manner, something all divorce lawyers and family law attorneys need to know. Three of his primary sources are: Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson, Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, and Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. In other words, instead of buying three books unrelated to the courtroom, you can buy Cox’s book and learn principles for effective communication and persuasion in the courtroom, which you can apply in all your divorce and family law cases.
The bulk of Winning the Jury’s Attention focuses on seven principles.
These principles are effective for building connections, gaining attention, and promoting understanding. Cox introduces these concepts as follows:
1. The Personal Credibility Principle: Demonstrate competence, accuracy, leadership, and efficiency to gain credibility.
2. The Signaling Principle: People learn better when the material is presented with clear outlines and headings.
3. The Segmentation Principle: People learn better when information is presented in bite-sized chunks.
4. The Multimedia Principle: People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
5. The Coherence Principle: People learn better when extraneous material is excluded.
6. The Stickiness Principle: Make your themes and ideas “sticky.”
7. The Jolt Principle: Periodically jolt your jury so they don’t bolt.
Cox devotes a chapter to explaining the seven principles in general terms — all of which is relevant to divorce and family law attorneys. He then takes the concepts and applies them to the courtroom in nine more chapters. There also are chapters devoted to the modern juror, a simple technique for voir dire, the science of the brain, techniques for cross-examination, and presenting your final argument — something all divorce and family law attorneys can apply in their divorce law firm.
Cox is a Dallas attorney specializing in complex business litigation. He is board certified as a trial advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and has been recognized as an effective trial lawyer and a rising star. He has served on the faculty at Southern Methodist University law school and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
“Winning the Jury’s Attention” is not an introductory trial advocacy book. You need to have a basic understanding of how to prepare for and conduct a trial in your divorce and family law firm practice, and you can get that from a variety of sources. But once you have the basics, you need to focus on the art of communication and persuasion to better serve your divorce and family law clients. Cox will show you the principles, how they work on the mind, and how to use them to your advantage in the courtroom to help win your divorce and family law cases. He will help you improve your divorce and family law communication and persuasion skills, and more effective skills will position you for more successful outcomes at trial, as well as at mediation, arbitration and negotiations in all your divorce and family law cases.
So the next time you’re up against the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth, cut to the point, speak in short sentences and . . . Cannonball!
Trey Cox, Winning the Jury’s Attention: Presenting Evidence from Voir Dire to Closing (American Bar Association, First Chair Press, 2011). $69.95.