I inherited my love of comedy from my mother. She had two favorites: Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers. My mother’s love for Joan Rivers spawned my love for her. Every Friday night my Tivo records the latest installment of Fashion Police, Joan Rivers’ last platform from which she launched her blue and irreverent assaults on celebrity foolishness.
While couched in terms of fashion and clothing, Joan’s sharp-tongued and absolutely fearless humor was more about people acting out in the public eye. She succeeded by saying what everyone else was thinking. She was at her best when she ventured (as she often did) into the blue, “I don’t think I’m good in bed; my husband never said anything, but after we made love he’d take a piece of chalk and outline my body.”
Continue reading “Joan Rivers’ Greatest Lesson to Us.”
From man’s earliest times, telling stories has been how we entertained each other late at night around the fire, communicated the joy of the hunt, and shared the pain of loss. As trial attorneys, we are the inheritors of the tradition of story.
Rather than sitting around a campfire, weaving tales late into the night to enthrall our friends, we now stand in the killing pit we call a courtroom and talk to twelve silent, supposedly non-responsive members of the public who are there to do their civic duty.
I fear that by and large, we as lawyers do not value the persuasive power of story. I have seen lawyers in trial say,
“This case concerns a two-car motor vehicle accident that occurred on December 13, 2000, at the corner of Bristol Drive and Anton Parkway in Costa Mesa, California. The Plaintiff was the sole occupant of her vehicle that was at rest awaiting a red light at said intersection. Defendant’s vehicle failed to stop and struck Plaintiff’s vehicle from the rear.”
Can you hear the snores? Imagine how much worse it would be if that attorney was giving the opening statement in a partnership dissolution case, or an easement dispute, or a trust litigation.
Attorneys’ stock in trade is story. If that is our tool, shouldn’t we know what a story is? Shouldn’t we know how to create a story? Aren’t we like the director of a movie painting word pictures with scenery, characters, conflict, drama, and resolution? Until we think of ourselves like that, we will never fully understand how to present compelling trials for our clients. Continue reading “Stories: Campfires and Courtrooms”
I received an interesting response to my blog post, “Three Comments About Losing a Trial.” Tony F. Graf, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, American Samoa, sent me a note about the challenges he has persuading juries in American Samoa. I want to share his comments with you to make a point:
Continue reading “Persuading Juries: The Heart vs The Head”