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Settlement sessions are going high-tech

Savvy attorneys are using technology to speed settlement talks and mediation sessions.

Many attorneys come to trial with flashy PowerPoint presentations, but will sit down at ADR sessions with only pens and paper.

That’s changing, however, as attorneys realize that software can be used to help explain complex matters to mediators and convince opposing counsel to settle.

“People tend to be better at visualizing things than hearing [them],” said Dallas lawyer J. Allen Smith.
Another advantage, said Smith, is that “electronic presentations … may have some bells and whistles that … impress the other side” by showing how prepared you are.

Smith, a business attorney who has been involved in more than 100 mediations, uses PowerPoint to pull up documents and zoom in on critical language during mediation sessions.

“When creating your presentation, think about the endgame,” he advised. “Focus on what you’ll be saying to a jury and work backwards from that. Get to the crux of the case in the first 30 seconds, then double back and bootstrap your point with additional materials.”

Joseph Rice, president of Jury Research Institute in Alamo, Calif., frequently uses timelines to tell the story of a case from the beginning, and to point out critical incidents.

“Almost every case cries out for a timeline,” he said. “They can be created very simply in PowerPoint.”
Risk analysis software can also be valuable in ADR. David Sparks, an Irvine, Calif., trial lawyer who specializes in business law, has developed his own spreadsheets for crunching numbers.

Sometimes, Sparks will show a client a spreadsheet that estimates the future cost of a lawsuit, including attorney and expert fees. That way the client can decide whether to pursue litigation or agree to settle.

“Spreadsheets can also be used during mediation,” he said. “Hyperlinked ones allow me to answer questions fluidly and allow everyone to make intelligent decisions about settlement. It’s one of the best tools in my bag.”

Lawyers can purchase risk analysis software, such as TreeAge Pro, that offers a range of potential damages and outcomes in a case.

The programs can be helpful in convincing both parties to settle.

Risk analysis spreadsheets are good when the central issue is uncertainty, lawyers say.

– By Allison McAndrew

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