How to Write a Legal Timeline For Your Case

by AWR | Sep 26, 2019 1:59:26 PM

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Legal timelines are vital for a wide variety of cases, but there are a number of ways to approach the presentation of a timeline in court. Not all of these approaches are created equally. The success of your legal timeline will depend on the jury’s ability to follow your argumentation carefully. This requires both language and images.

Images allow you to compress complex thoughts that would otherwise be hard to follow verbally and describe an event or events as they occurred in sequence. But events themselves are complicated, and different events will require different approaches. Here’s how to write a legal timeline for your case.

The Selection Process

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The first key to writing an effective timeline is determining which steps to include. Fundamentally, this is a choice. Hopefully, you have a designer on hand who understands the psychology behind how the human brain processes images. Timelines can include more than dates and text. Today, they can include images, videos, illustrations, icons, emails, and more. Remember, the most important element is sequence.

Are Ready-Made Timeline Programs Useful?

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To an extent, they can be. The problem is, they tend to not be robust enough to delineate complex scenarios. Programs like Adobe Flash or PowerPoint can be useful as well, but they have drawbacks. PowerPoint severely limits your ability to change your presentation, while Adobe Flash has compatibility problems on certain devices. The best programs are those that allow the most flexibility. Unfortunately, these are also the most complicated to learn.

Keys to an Effective Timeline

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  • Readability comes first. Before you start playing with colors, icons, and graphics, you want to be certain that your timeline is as readable as possible.
  • Colors. Colors, simply by inference, have specific associations that are well known to designers and those in marketing. This information can help lawyers create more compelling timelines and communicate more effectively.
  • Icons. Icons are fantastic to use in charts, allowing the jury something to focus on. Icons can be used to carry your narrative forward and are useful for creating continuity between different segments of your timeline.
  • Animation and video. Animations and videos are great for giving a jury something that they can visualize. Many people are visual learners and visual thinkers, even before they begin processing things in language.
  • Trimming. This is a key to writing and all communication. Using just enough information to get your point across without overcomplicating matters, introducing tangential elements, or otherwise confounding the jury is the last major step in perfecting your timeline.

A Note on Dates

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While dates and times can be useful, what’s more important is that the events are relevant to one another. Dates are an added piece of information that may not be required to tell a compelling story. The sequence of the events is often more important than the dates themselves. Date-oriented timelines may not always the best approach.

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A. William Roberts, Jr. & Associates (AWR) provides a wide variety of trial support solutions for law firms both large and small. From trial animation and storyboards to court reporting, legal video, and more, we do it all. If you need help with your next case, contact us today.

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