I admit it. I was hoping I would draw you in with the title of this post. I toyed with how I could tie the popular book, Fifty Shades of Grey, into an article on advocacy. The more I considered it the more I recognized there probably was nothing I could truly connect. Then I realized the connection was the error that many lawyers make when stretching to put a theme to their case.
So much of the current literature on trials talks about telling a story. The literature is right. Trials should tell your client’s story, explain the wrong that was done, and suggest how to make things right. That is not always easy.
Cases where there is real human suffering offer vehicles that pull on sympathies and offer obvious means to ease the pain. But not every case provides facts that make for these well-crafted case stories. Putting the sizzle into a dispute between two large corporations that will keep the attention of a jury may take creativity. Turning thousands of exhibits into must-read story details can challenge anyone faced with these types of cases.
This post will not attempt to teach you how to create an engaging case story. There are books that do a far better job in far more space than we can devote in this short piece. For those who have not studied any of these texts, I recommend you review one or two of your own selected choices.
What I do hope to impart is the avoidance of shortcuts that employ another’s story, parable, or allegory. Why? Why shouldn’t someone take a popular story and adapt it to their client’s case? Perhaps the most simplistic answer is because every case is unique and your client’s story deserves to stand on its own. More importantly, the facts of your case do tell a story and should show how your client has been injured. Even if the client is a huge corporation there are individuals involved who can humanize the events and turn paper damages into real injury. By sharing actual facts in a story the jury can relate to common experiences. An actual story humanizes your client and builds your credibility.
Perhaps the most important reason to not rely upon the ideas of others is that your opponent is most likely as clever as you. The story you bend to fit your case can also be turned on you. There is almost nothing worse than having your words turned back on yourself. Telling the true story of what happened to your client is the most direct way of preventing words being turned around.
When it comes to trials – tell your own story.
We invite you to comment below with your thoughts on this post.
On January 2nd, we launched a new feature for The Legal Advocate. We have initiated a monthly series of posts, with each month focusing on a single topic. The topics chosen will encourage readers to think critically about their practice and skill sets. Each series will feature three to four written posts on the topic, as well as a conclusion to the series. There will also be one interview for each topic, conducted in studio71 and hosted by Travis Caldwell. Each post is authored by NITA faculty and friends.
For the inaugural topic we chose Alternative Dispute Resolution, and while our scope was broad our focus was precise as we have been answering the question: Can ADR practitioners excel without honing their trial skills?
- Part 1 – Introducing ADR month! written by Travis Caldwell
- Part 2 – Mediation and Endless Curiosity written by Shahrad Milanfar
- Part 3 – Negotiation and the Insecurities over Losing Control written by Bill Jack and Behka Sitterly
- Part 4 – Arbitration and the Art of Witness Examination written by Christina Habas, scheduled to be published on January, 23rd.
- Part 5 – ADR in studio71: An Interview with Karen M. Lockwood, scheduled to be published on January, 30th.
We are very excited to announce the next two months’ topics:
- February – Diversity in the Courtroom, in Honor of Black History Month
- March – Gender in the Courtroom, in Honor of Women’s History Month
As we look ahead to the rest of 2013 we are eager to explore a myriad of topics in an effort to continue our mission to provide the best legal advocacy training possible.
If you are interested in writing for any of the upcoming topics, or have an idea or suggestion for a month-long theme, please contact Travis Caldwell.