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The data is in: our attention spans are getting shorter. Since the invention of the smartphone—and with the proliferation of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form social media—humans have begun processing information differently than they once did: so much so that their decision making process often follows different neural pathways than it did in the days before the internet.
So what does this mean for the trial lawyer?
First the bad news: the juries you studied in law school simply do not exist anymore. The ways we were taught to advocate do not work. Long, exhaustive statements, and briefs full of heavily cited blocks of text, are relics of a bygone era. Both judges and juries report finding legal writing dull, dry, and tedious (and the same goes for long-winded opening statements and summations). Even as the stakes have gotten higher, far too few trial lawyers have evolved their communication style to meet the needs of the modern courtroom.
Now the good news: while our jurors do not listen and read as they used to, they are more attuned to visual stimulation—and smart attorneys know how to use this to their advantage.
Bill Bailey, trial lawyer and decorated law professor, anticipated this phenomenon in 2011 with his groundbreaking book, Show the Story. His latest book, Show the Brief (2023), builds on this catalog with even more valuable insights into the power of visual advocacy. When attorneys put Bailey’s lessons to use in their legal practice, they unlock the secrets of powerful, persuasive communication.
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