Thursday, July 18, 2024

LSUS graduate pioneers niche industry as trial visual presentation expert 

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – With a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Digital Media in hand, LSUS graduate Natalie Bianco entered into one of the most unforgiving job markets in U.S. history in May of 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was raging around the world, and non-essential workplaces were either functioning remotely or were still shut down. 

The native of Guernsey, an island off the coast of northern France that’s part of the United Kingdom, had just one year left on her Optional Practical Training visa, which made her job search even more difficult. 

But then she saw it – a graphic design position with local law firm Morris and Dewett, which handles personal injury cases. 

What started as a position managing the firm’s social media while designing graphics and flyers has morphed into creating visuals for use at trial. 

Her job is to visually animate her attorney’s argument, cutting through legal jargon with easy-to-understand graphics that connect with the jury. 

“Images are worth a thousand words,” Bianco said. “The visuals help jurors navigate through the trial, to understand the concepts that the attorneys are talking about. 

“Jurors may have a lot of education or very little, so you want graphics that everybody understands and that help jurors retain and comprehend the main points. People are a lot more receptive to images, but you’ve also got to capture their attention within the first five seconds of seeing that image.” 

Bianco developed a reputation as one of the best in the state in her field – in fact, she’s met only one person in her field, and they are based out of South Louisiana. 

In an effort to improve as a visual storyteller, Bianco researched the field as part of her master’s degree of liberal arts, which she completed from LSUS this December. 

Her thesis “Visual Rhetoric in the Courtroom” allowed her to formally study how visual presentations are used by lawyers from across the region. 

“I wrote about the trials I was working on, what I saw and the results of those trials,” Bianco said. “Our firm does cases through Louisiana and Texas, and I was able to conduct focus groups all across these two states. 

“Conducting this research with the help of my professors and lawyers was an incredibly valuable part of the master’s degree. I also read a lot of books about visual storytelling, which allowed me to advocate for our client in the most effective way possible. 

“I also wouldn’t be where I am without (founding partner) Trey Morris, who paved the way for me in this career.” 

Bianco was spurred to start the master’s program by her motivation to understand how people absorb information, particularly how jurors interpret legal arguments and the impact on their decisions in cases. 

“I would sit in these trials, and I wondered why jurors awarded big verdicts for certain things,” Bianco said. “I wanted to learn about and dig into the minds of jurors, why they think certain ways or react in certain ways. 

“We did a study on a group of jurors at a Bossier trial, and we learned a lot. I also wanted to better myself as a visual storyteller.” 

Bianco has paired her visual skills from her fine arts degree with an insatiable thirst for knowledge boosted by her liberal arts master’s degree into a niche profession that hadn’t really existed in the area until now. 

“I had no idea that this is the type of job I would be doing, even when I came to Morris and Dewett nearly four years ago,” Bianco said. “Other firms are coming to us for help with the visuals they present at trial.” 

So how does she handle the pressure cooker of the courtroom or planning sessions in boardrooms? 

Her experience in soccer helps. 

Bianco made her way to the U.S. as a soccer player, finishing her collegiate career at LSUS where she was a co-captain of an up-and-coming program. 

While she’s hung up her own soccer cleats, the 27-year-old still coaches and hosts private individual sessions with local youth. 

It’s the primary way she connects with the community in a place she knew she didn’t want to leave after landing a job. 

“I love coaching – the soccer community is so nice here and receptive to an international coming in,” Bianco said. “I’ve gotten to know so many people in the community – soccer brings people together.” 

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