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2019 Trial Techniques Seminar Agenda



Agenda: Thursday | Friday | Saturday

Thursday, August 15

3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Board of Directors Meeting

4:30 – 5:00 p.m.

Executive Committee – Past Presidents Meeting

5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Opening Reception / Diversity Committee / Student-Mentor Introduction

7:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Presidents’ Cocktail Hour and Dinner – Kitchi Gammi Club

Agenda: Thursday | Friday | Saturday

Friday, August 16

8:00 – 8:25 a.m.

Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:25 – 8:30 a.m.

Welcome and Announcements

8:30 – 8:40 a.m.

Sponsor Shout-Out

8:40 – 9:40 a.m.

Mock Voir Dire – Troy Poetz & Nate Bjerke

Nate Bjerke and Troy Poetz will share their expertise in jury selection by conducting an abbreviated mock voir dire with a volunteer jury panel. This demonstrative exercise will be followed by a discussion about the goals and strategies employed by each party.

Troy Poetz is a partner with the Rajkowski Hansmeier firm in St. Cloud, MN. His practice involves defending large insurance companies and their insureds and he has successfully tried cases to jurors and judges throughout Minnesota. Troy also has an active mediation practice and serves as a mediator in all types of litigation. Troy has been perennially voted a "Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star" and a "Minnesota Super Lawyer. He is frequently asked to speak on topics related to trial tactics and techniques. He is a past President of the Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association.
Nate Bjerke is an accomplished and well-respected attorney practicing at TSR Injury Law in Minneapolis, MN. Nate has tried and won catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death cases all over the country. He spent the first 12 years of his career defending some of the biggest companies in the world in product liability cases across the country. Nate frequently speaks to groups of lawyers on topics concerning product liability, brain injury, wrongful death, serious injury, science and medicine in the courtroom and other trial practice issues. He has been consistently recognized by his peers as a Minnesota Rising Star and Super Lawyer, an honor given to less than 5% of attorneys in the state. Nate sits on the Board of Governors for the Minnesota Association for Justice where he chairs the Education and Product Liability Committees and serves on the Publications Committee.

9:40 – 9:55 a.m.

Break with Exhibitors

9:55 – 10:00 a.m.

Sponsor Shout-Out

10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Millennial Jurors: Menaces or Misunderstood? – Claire Luna

In the United States, millennials make up 30 percent of the jury-eligible population – making these 19- to 34-year-olds the country’s largest living generation.  This means it is impossible to avoid millennials, and their often plaintiff-friendly perspectives, on your jury.  Millennial caregivers and millennial plaintiffs are also leaving their mark on the legal landscape. Although negative stereotypes about this age group are plentiful, are they deserved?  Are they contributing to the uptick in plaintiff awards, and why? And most importantly, how do you engage this population in an authentic way?  This presentation will incorporate the most up-to-date data available on how millennials evaluate legal concepts including jury instructions, witness credibility and damages as well as proven strategies to guide interactions and connections with millennials in every aspect of the changing trial landscape.

Claire is the senior vice president and a partner at Jury Impact, headquartered in Irvine. Jury Impact is the jury research provider of choice for entities including HCA, CNA, Mayo Clinic, Ascension, Costco, Berkshire Hathaway and AIG. Claire has been with the company for 13 years and heads the company’s daily operations, sales and client communications and is consistently the lead in providing messaging and strategy assistance to attorneys.
Claire has worked on jury projects in 48 states and led jury selection in dozens of trials throughout the country covering the civil litigation spectrum. She is responsible for research, message development and case analysis on a wide range of cases, including medical malpractice, breach of contract, product liability, employment, toxic tort and pharmaceutical-related litigation.
Claire is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and several other U.S. newspapers. She holds bachelor’s degrees in print journalism and psychology from the University of Southern California.

11:00 – 11:15 a.m.


11:15 a.m.– Noon

Making the Case: Openings and Closings – Valerie Sims

Valerie Sims will discuss opening statements and the promises we make to juries about the evidence. She’ll cover how to properly frame the issues in opening statements. Valerie will also cover what resonates with juries in closing argument and how to effectively and strategically use technology in that setting.

Valerie Sims is a board certified civil trial specialist by the MSBA practicing in the area of litigation. Fewer than 3% of all registered attorneys in Minnesota are certified specialists in their field. Ms. Sims litigates a variety of cases, with an emphasis on construction law, design professional liability, and personal injury defense. She represents contractors, architects, engineers, business owners and individuals in all areas of litigation. Ms. Sims has handled numerous jury trials in various counties throughout the State of Minnesota. She is a member and board member of the Academy of Certified Trial Specialists of Minnesota (ACTLM) and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA).

Noon – 1:30 p.m.

Lunch and MDLA Annual Meeting and Awards

1:30 – 2:15 p.m.

Turning the Table: Offensive Use of Reptile Technique, Defeating Anchoring Damages and Dealing with Difficult Witnesses – Mark Solheim & Nick Rauch

Creative techniques and strategies for dealing with commonly encountered juror and witness hostilities in highly emotional and sympathetic cases.  Mark and Nick will both lecture and present vignettes to discuss and illustrate techniques for dealing with commonly encountered juror/witness hostilities and demographics ranging from voir dire to depositions. This will also include techniques to defuse the adverse impact of the reptile technique and similar golden rule arguments in cases involving traumatic injuries.

Mark Solheim, Larson King. Mark’s practice includes the defense of product, professional and transportation claims. He is a former President of the MDLA.

Nick Rauch, Lind Jensen. Nick focuses his practice in the areas of professional liability, transportation liability, catastrophic personal injury, and wrongful death. Nick also serves on the MDLA Diversity Committee.

2:15 – 3:00 p.m.

National Council Strategies That Can Enhance Any Client Service Model – Christy Mennen & Caren Seenauth

Clients with national litigation portfolios rely on outside coordinating counsel and local counsel to understand their business goals and drive great results. This presentation will provide both in-house and outside counsel perspectives on effective litigation handling strategies that can be used in any case.

Christy M. Mennen is a shareholder at Nilan Johnson Lewis PA in Minneapolis, where she practices primarily in the area of consumer product liability and specializes in the recreational and power sports industry. She serves as national coordinating counsel for a major power sports manufacturer and has defended hundreds of product liability cases across the United States and Canada.
Caren Seenauth is currently Corporate Counsel at Best Buy where she is a member of the advertising and marketing transactions team. She held a similar role at Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. in 2017. Formerly, Caren served as Corporate Counsel at Textron Specialized Vehicles (formerly, Arctic Cat Inc.) where she used her corporate generalist expertise to assist in all areas of the power sports business including but not limited to North American and International Sales, Supply Chain, Product Safety, Engineering and Product Development.

3:00 – 3:15 p.m.


3:15 – 4:00 p.m.

Walk a Mile in a Plaintiff's Shoes: The Value of Mock Juries and Taking a Plaintiff's Case – Stephanie Angolkar

This session will focus on formats of mock juries and the types of cases where the use of a mock jury is very helpful. In utilizing a mock jury, the work put into presenting the opposing party’s case provides increased insight into what works and doesn’t work for defense themes and helps the defense plan counterarguments to anticipated plaintiff themes. These valuable lessons can also be obtained from taking a plaintiff’s case. This session will touch on the lessons and takeaways from the beginning to end of a plaintiff’s case through the lens of a defense attorney and the impact to defense practice.

Stephanie Angolkar is a partner at Iverson Reuvers Condon. Stephanie’s practice focuses on the defense of government liability claims, land use, real estate litigation, and insurance defense. Before joining Iverson Reuvers Condon in 2008, she clerked for the Honorable Harriet Lansing and Kevin G. Ross of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. She is a board member of MDLA and liaison to the government liability committee.

6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Cocktails, Dinner, and Entertainment at Hoops Brewing Company

Agenda: Thursday | Friday | Saturday

Saturday, August 17

8:00 – 8:25 a.m.

Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:25 – 8:30 a.m.

Welcome and Announcements

8:30 – 9:15 a.m.

Preserving Error: Are all those objections really necessary? – Mark Bradford

This presentation will include techniques for ensuring that you properly preserve arguments and issues for appeal. Mr. Bradford will discuss strategic and technical considerations but will also focus on posturing your case for the best, most persuasive appellate position.

Mr. Bradford is an accomplished appellate lawyer with additional focuses in commercial, insurance coverage, and professional liability litigation. He regularly advocates for Fortune 500 clients, law firm clients, and many others in appeals stemming from diverse areas of law.
Having argued a substantial number of cases before appellate and supreme courts across the Midwest, Mr. Bradford leverages his procedural and strategic knowledge to efficiently bring resolution to clients’ disputes. He was part of a trial and appellate team who obtained an $800 million arbitration award against a large computer device company, which was affirmed by the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was also part of an appellate team who achieved a reversal of a $52.5 million verdict against an insurer, and a trial team who achieved a $21.6 million verdict against a railroad in a wrongful death case.
Mr. Bradford is chair of Bassford Remele’s Appellate Practice Group and serves on the firm’s Board of Directors. Mr. Bradford teaches appellate advocacy as an adjunct professor at the St. Thomas School of Law.

9:15 – 10:00 a.m.

Corporations Are People Too – Cedar Abadie

Cedar Abadie will discuss effective techniques to ensure that the corporate client makes a persuasive and strong appearance at trial, in deposition and throughout the litigation process.

Ms. Abadie is the Associate General Counsel in charge of litigation for Dart Transit Company and the Dart Network. After years of products liability defense work with large law firms in Cleveland, Denver and Minneapolis and formal training as a Rule 114 Neutral, she began a solo practice serving as “outside in-house counsel” to smaller Twin Cities companies. In 2014 she joined Dart, and today Ms. Abadie oversees all serious disputes and/or matters in litigation across the country – motor vehicle claim related, employment, real estate, and contract – for the many enterprises and several motor carriers within the Dart Network.

10:00 – 10:15 a.m.

Break with Exhibitors

10:15 – 11:00 a.m.

Experts and Attorneys - Teaching and Empowering Juries to Make the Right Decision – Dr. Michael McCabe and Jack Hennen

Learn how experts and attorneys can become more effective teachers and get better results. This presentation is focused on teaching Judges (“Daubert” and “Frye Mack” motions) and teaching juries. We will focus on the timely selection of the right expert, using your expert to help you discover key facts, using your expert to help you cross-examine opposing experts and on developing strategies for attorneys and experts to become effective “co-teachers.”

Dr. McCabe is a toxicology expert with Robson Forensic, Inc. Robson Forensic is a national leader in expert witness consulting, providing technical expertise across many fields within engineering, architecture and science as well as an expansive range of specialty disciplines. Dr. McCabe earned his Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Studies from Albany Medical College (New York), and completed post-doctorate training at the prestigious Karolinska Institute (Stockholm). He has held academic appointments in the toxicology departments and environmental health science centers at Wayne State University (Detroit) and the University of Rochester (New York), and he currently is adjunct faculty at Temple University (Philadelphia). He is board certified in toxicology as a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and as a Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences. He is is an active member of the Society of Toxicology and has served on numerous national and international advisory committees for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Academy of Sciences, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense and the World Health Organization. He has sat on the editorial board of 4 toxicology journals, has been widely published and has received numerous research grants from NIH.
Dr. McCabe has been admitted as an expert in toxicology in numerous state and federal courts. In addition to his own work as a scientist and expert, Dr. McCabe serves as the Director of Practice Groups at Robson Forensic. Through this administrative position, Dr. McCabe has oversight of Robson’s quality assurance program and he heads their expert forensic training program.
Jack Hennen worked for more than 30 years as a Defense Litigation Supervisor, Senior Staff Attorney and Litigation and Claims special Counsel for the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC). In that capacity he defended Minnesota Cities in state and federal trial and appellate courts. Jack works “of counsel” with Provo-Petersen and Associates where he continues to try cases for his new firm. Jack is the 2003 recipient of the MDLA President’s Award, Co-Chair of the MDLA Diversity Committee, and founder and Co-Chair of the MDLA Defense Paralegal Seminar. Jack teaches (since 2007) as an adjunct professor at both William Mitchell and St. Thomas University Colleges of Law and is a frequent CLE presenter on trial tactics, immunity, and other law related topics.

11:00 – 11:45 a.m.

Ethics for the Trial Lawyer – Nicole Frank

The focus for this program is identifying various issues that may arise during trial, which requires swift and informed decisions to comply with an attorney's ethical obligations to clients, opposing counsel, and the court. Explore how ethical considerations arise in the context of voir dire and jury selection, opening statements, examination of witnesses and witness preparation, objections, closing arguments, and dealing with the media. We will also address issues that arise in the context of new technology such as social media and other online information portals.

Nicole Frank is an Assistant Director at the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility. Prior to joining the Director’s Office, Ms. Frank practiced business litigation at Robins Kaplan LLP for eight years. Before private practice, Ms. Frank clerked for Judge Larking on the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Law is Ms. Frank’s second career; she began her professional work as a high school language arts teacher in the Twin Cities. Ms. Frank enjoys being active in the local arts community.

Agenda: Thursday | Friday | Saturday

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