By Mediator Lee Wallace
When I speak at seminars, I often get the question: “Should I use a PowerPoint presentation at mediation?” Lawyers who have no trouble whipping out photographs or circling key parts of medical records to show the other side, balk when it comes to using a PowerPoint. I am convinced that the reason lawyers feel ambivalent about using PowerPoint is that a full presentation is, at its core, attorney work product — in a way that pictures and medical records are not. People dislike revealing their work product before trial, and with good reason. That leads us to four questions:
(1) Can a PowerPoint help you at mediation?
(2) When should you use a PowerPoint?
(3) Can you reveal too much in your presentation?
(4) How do you avoid revealing too much in your PowerPoint at mediation?
I will address the first question in this blog, and the other three questions in my next blog.
Can Making a PowerPoint Presentation Give You an Advantage? Yes, and Here’s Proof.
I mediated a case where the defendant was not taking the plaintiff’s lawyer seriously. The plaintiff’s lawyer was young, but apparently she had worked the daylights out of the case. The partner she worked for told me he could not believe the success she had had during the depositions, and that her interviews of the witnesses were even better. She had beaten back a motion for summary judgment. But the defendant seemed oblivious.
Before mediation, the defense counsel gave the plaintiff a lowball offer, and said, “There’s not much more there. That’s close to our final offer.” When she arrived on the morning of the mediation, the plaintiff’s lawyer asked to show us a PowerPoint during the opening statement. At BAY, our conference rooms are fully equipped with presentation equipment, so we hooked up her computer. The Plaintiff’s lawyer ripped through an impressive PowerPoint that laid out her evidence. The defense counsel and the adjuster sat up and took notice of the plaintiff’s attorney, for the first time in the litigation. Convinced the case was worth more than they had put on the table, they got on the phone to the home office, raised their offer, and we got the case settled that day.
I can state categorically — because I sat there and watched it happen — that in that case the PowerPoint presentation, and the organization, commitment, and work it represented, made a difference in that settlement. The plaintiff’s lawyer moved herself from the “young and inexperienced” category to the “force to be reckoned with” category.
But you have to carefully curate what you say in a PowerPoint. Next week I will explain how I know that (hint: it involves painful, personal experience), and how to make an effective presentation that does not ruin the surprise at trial.
What Attorneys Are Saying About Mediating with Lee:
“We’re going to ask for Lee again, and again, and again!”
“I recently had my first mediation with Lee Wallace, and I must say it will not be my last. She did a great job facilitating negotiations, and helped each party grasp both the strengths and the weaknesses of their arguments. I would not hesitate to recommend Lee Wallace as a mediator for your case!”
“Lee had the intellect necessary to get a really difficult case settled even where the odds were stacked against her. I would use Lee to mediate any of my cases.”
“Lee Wallace exceeded all my expectations as a mediator in a Personal Injury suit presented before her. Lee’s experience, education and demeanor was amazing and she gained trust from both parties at the very beginning. Not only was she polished and highly professional, she was thorough and did not waste time bringing the mediation to a successful conclusion. Overall a very pleasant experience and my client was pleased with the result as well.”
“Lee helped get a case settled that I never would have imagined would have settled that day when I walked into that mediation. Opposing counsel and I had drastically different views of the case, as did our clients. Yet, with Lee’s knowledge, experience, and preparation, she was able to lead us to a resolution that my clients were satisfied with. I look forward to using Lee again in the future!”
“Lee’s calm reasoning and creative solutions helped us to resolve a challenging case when one side was willing to walk away and the other side would not budge on their number. She worked hard to find a compromise when none seemed possible.”
“Lee brings to her mediations a wealth of experience from which all parties can draw. Her impressive ability to marry the case facts to negotiation strategy aided in the just resolution of our case.”
“Lee was prepared, having read all the documentation I had forwarded her pre-mediation, and she did an outstanding job in getting a difficult case settled. I look forward to using BAY Mediation and Lee in the future.”
“Lee Wallace helped us resolve a case that I did not believe could be resolved. As an initial challenge we had multiple parties, several of whom had to join by remote video conference. The details of the case were also challenging [and] there were widely disparate views regarding case value. Lee was resolute, objective, and prepared. While her 30 years of trial experience and breadth of knowledge on a variety of legal issues were invaluable, her kind and logical demeanor got this case resolved. I must confess at one point I was ready to storm off myself in frustration at the other party, but Lee encouraged me to stick with it and keep working. I’m so glad she did!”
“It was a pleasure working with Lee T. Wallace during the mediation process. She pushed both sides to continue to fight through the process and not give up. And because of her vigorous determination I was able to settle my client’s claim to their satisfaction.”
“Lee did an effective and efficient job getting this case to a successful resolution. She takes a low key approach to make sure each side does not feel undue pressure to increase their offer or decrease their demand. I will definitely use Lee for future mediations.”