Domestic Diversions

Strategies for winning at trial

Effective trial advocacy requires powerful themes. Recent ATLA-sponsored research has identified a number of concepts which can be used to win at trial.

The first theme is: Stuff Happens. Sometimes we would rather not assign blame to one person. We would rather accept the influence of the roll of the dice, the luck of the draw, the gods of chance. We see personal tragedies as a part of life. These things just happen.

The second theme is: Personal Responsibility. At other times, we would like to think that we really do have the power to shape our destiny, to control our lives, to make things happen. We lament that people just do not want to take responsibility for their actions, that they would rather blame someone else. Politicians, self-help gurus, and talk show hosts promote this attitude throughout our culture. We need to be accountable for our actions and personal choices.

The third theme is: Defensive Attribution. We also like to shield ourselves from the thought that someone else’s tragedy might become our own, that we could be in the same position, that we might react in the very same manner. Bad things don’t happen to good people, so . . . the person must have done something wrong. We would have done something differently or would have not done something that person did.

The fourth theme is: Confirmation Bias. We are ready, willing and able to quickly assimilate information that fits our view of the world, our personal stereotypes of events and people, our internal stories about life on this planet. But when someone argues against our mental framework, we go out of our way to avoid changing our basic beliefs. We often look for the hook that places new information into a familiar box.

The fifth theme is: Belief Perseverance Bias. Once we choose one version of events over another, we would rather fight than switch. We hate to admit we might have been wrong or might have rushed to judgment. We will cling to the story we first adopt even in the face of contradicting evidence provided later.

The sixth theme is: Availability Bias. The fact is that we do judge a book by its cover. Our minds will not wait, so they begin processing the data in the order of receipt. We work with the information at hand, and first impressions really do matter. As soon as we begin hearing information, we begins a search for the simplest human story for what happened and why.

One thought on “Strategies for winning at trial

  1. John Venlet

    Dave – thanks for providing that link. Evidently there is a regular theme park of psychological babble to utilize for almost every contingency.

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