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8 Considerations to Help You Make the Best Document Callouts

Telling your story through the use of exhibits is one of the most longstanding and impactful ways to present your case.  When presented well, supporting documents – such as contracts, memos, emails, advertisements, studies or invoices – can showcase crucial information.  Therefore, it is critical to employ effective document enhancements that will both quickly direct the jury to the most valuable pieces of information, as well as hold their attention.  With that in mind, we review below the most effective uses for document callouts with the goal of maximizing the persuasiveness of your case story and improving your connection with the jury.

Document Enhancement 101

Special care should be taken when deciding which elements of a document should be emphasized and how best to present called-out information.  It is important to use the right tools and the right timing.  Also consider that you know every document related to your case inside and out, which means you read and interact with the materials differently than someone who has never seen them before.  Keep this in mind when choosing the specific information to which you want to draw the jury’s attention.

Show Small Details to Remind Jurors of Larger Themes

Taking a cue from advertising, a good document callout will draw a juror’s eye to the “hero” of the story.  Through use of color, placement, size and “reveal,” trial attorneys can share vital pieces of information in a way that helps members of the jury remember important facts and themes.

The best document callouts take into account the following considerations:

1. Incorporation of Titles.  Titles are an important piece of any slide incorporating document callouts and should be used whenever possible.  A title can act as an introduction to the document, to specify the origin or author and/or tie previous facts/witness testimony/arguments together.  Particularly during closing, titles can be thematic – reinforcing your case themes in the minds of jurors before they begin deliberations.  Please note that it is best to use titles as a supporting, rather than dominating, element.  Examples of good titles are used throughout this blog.



2. Deciding What to Call Out.  It is tempting to call out entire paragraphs or multiple sentences within a document, but that can lead to a slide that’s quite crowded and confusing to jurors.  Focus the jury on the most important details of your case by being selective with which language and how much of it you call out.  If there are many things to be called out in one document, break them up into multiple slides to show – and showcase – the different callouts [Figures 2-6].


Figure 2


Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 5


Figure 6

3. Use Cover Pages.  If the page you need to call out is buried deep within a multi-page document, or even if your callout is on page two, including the document’s cover page can be a great introduction to the material; it is the “wide angle shot” that establishes the scene and often contains relevant information such as dates and authors [Figures 7-8].


Figure 7


Figure 8

4. Callout Size and Placement.  It’s one thing to view a callout on your large, 20-inch desktop monitor, but consider how it will appear on courtroom equipment.  Will the jury be looking straight across the courtroom or will they be looking up to a monitor?  Will they be 10 feet away or 30 feet?  Will the courtroom have a projector screen or just a large monitor?  Factoring these considerations into the design of your document callouts will help you build a slide that is not only readable from a distance, but also effective in positioning the callouts for maximum impact [Figure 9].


Figure 9

5. Know When to Rekey Document Text.  If an original document is several years old or has been altered with highlighting or handwritten notes, or if you only have a copy that is degraded from multiple prints and scans, consider rekeying the text that you need to call out. When rekeying text for a callout, try to match the typeface and line breaks from the original document for consistency.  Conversely, there are many instances when using a blowup of the original document is the best way to go.  As with everything, this decision is highly dependent on the case and the document [Figures 10-11].


Figure 10


Figure 11

6. Animated Versus Static Callouts.  One of the benefits of using PowerPoint is that it gives trial attorneys the ability to display pieces of a document sequentially through the use of animation.  Zooming in and highlighting relevant data can help reinforce your argument or theme.  Some animations can also help the jury understand that the language you are asking them to focus on comes directly from an existing document [Figure 12].

second Fig 12 Animated Callout Example

Figure 12

There are occasions that you will opt for static callouts without animation.  In these situations, try to offset callouts to avoid hiding the entirety of the original text.  Adding a box around the text within the document is also helpful.  In a closing argument, callout animations are frequently removed to save time since the jury has seen the document [Figure 13].


Figure 13

7. Incorporating Dates, Exhibit Numbers and Other Secondary Information.  When placing a document callout, it is always a good idea to also include on the slide vital details such as the date an agreement was signed, authorship, cities and states, exhibit numbers, document source or the full title of the document (even if you have included a cover page).  This can be done through callouts or as a citation at the bottom of the slide.  When displaying information in a citation format, use a small (8-14 point) font size to indicate it is information for reference, much like a footnote might be used.  A citation should never be something that draws your eye.  Also be consistent with citation placement on slides; bottom right or bottom left generally works best [Figure 14-15].

Fig 14

Figure 14


Figure 15

8. Best Practices for Handling Tables, Charts and Graphs within Documents.  It can be extremely useful to call attention to an important table, informative chart or eye-opening graph.  However, when doing so, it is important to focus on specific elements and include callouts that enlarge titles.  Simply placing a full-screen image of a table is too much information and will not aid in juror comprehension; instead, show the table in the background, and blow up the important pieces of information within the table.  Always include column headers and titles to help the jury identify the types of data you are showcasing [Figure 16].


Figure 16

Other Helpful Tips When Creating a Document Enhancement

  • Never fill a screen with text – edit it down to the most critical words or sentences.
  • Never blow up a document to fill the screen – it is distracting and overwhelming.
  • Use highlighting to indicate specific words within the callout.
  • Use highlighting with red underlining to further enhance items of vital importance within the callout.



Adding some graphical treatments alongside the original document, such as enlarging the pertinent information into a callout box, placing a bright yellow border around it and highlighting key words or phrases helps distinguish the key facts from the rest of the document. Document Enhancements help trial attorneys focus jurors on specific information, giving some clarity to what is likely an overwhelming amount of unfamiliar and confusing information.  Let us help you enhance your persuasive impact with the jury for your next case.




By: Marti Martin-Robinson, Designer – Case Manager


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