Lawyers: How to Win Cases with Storytelling

 

Remember being a child and having your favorite book read to you by a parent? Or hearing someone tell a funny family story that is often repeated? How about telling your friends about something great that happened over the weekend?

Storytelling is the oldest form of narrative communication by humans. It’s wired into our DNA. Every human culture uses stories in an attempt to explain and make sense of the universe.

The fastest way to connect to a jury when presenting your case is to use stories. When you talk with friends, you don’t use big legal words or complicated concepts. It should be no different when talking to a jury. Tell the story of your client and case in a way that jurors can relate to.

As author and keynote speaker Carmine Gallo said, “Storytelling is not something we do, storytelling is who we are.” His book The Storyteller’s Secret is a seminal book on how to win the hearts and minds of listeners through stories.

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How To Find Your Story

The most successful lawyers focus the jury’s minds on one idea.  They don’t just give out information and facts, but draw in the listeners by telling a story. The idea/story should take no longer than  30 seconds and use profound verbal imagery to forge an emotional connection.

Here is an example: The Plaintiff is a man who lost his arms in an accident.  The closing argument by his attorney was short and sweet, not hours. The lawyer, Moe Levine, explained that he and his client went to lunch like the jurors and everyone in the courtroom. However, because his client had no arms, he had to eat like a dog. This resulted in one of the largest settlements in New York’s history at the time.

 If you’re going to be a top trial attorney, you need to choreograph your whole case like a play and work on your own communication skills. Life happens in narratives, and you need a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.

Think about how you felt when you first took the case. What part of the client’s story gave you an emotional reaction? Start making notes about your feelings, not just your legal arguments, and condense them to one line. That will be the essence of your case. Expand that into a 30 second story and practice it on friends or focus juries.

Remember what John Steinbeck wrote in East of Eden:

“If a story is not about the hearer he [or she] will not listen . . . A great lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”

Make your case into a story with a universal and heartfelt message, and great results will follow.

 

 

WWBD- What Would Batman Do?

Do you remember when you were little and people would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was 5 years old someone asked me that question and there was only one answer.

BATMAN.

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Watching cartoons, I’d learned about Batman. He’s the secret identity of Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire who witnessed the murder of his parents as a child and swore revenge on criminals. His vengeance is tempered with the great ideal of justice.

I was captivated. Being the Caped Crusader fighting crime was the perfect job….and he had a butler.

Nearing Halloween my mom asked me who I wanted to be.

I planted my feet, put my hands on my hips and said “I want to be Batman!”

“Don’t you mean Batgirl?” She asked, buying into gender roles.

“NO, Mom. I want to be Batman.”

She wasn’t happy. She looked like she had a row of pins clasped in between her lips.

She’d always wanted a little girl to dress up and have tea parties. Instead, she got a girl who wanted to be a superhero and, not just any superhero, a male superhero.

But I stayed true to my Batman self.  I begged until I got the costume for Halloween.

I patrolled the neighborhood to keep it safe…for a year.

I endured a lot of teasing from other kids:

Where’s your bat cave?

Where’s your bat mobile?

Aren’t you a girl?

I learned something about life. Being Batman was hard.

After awhile, I didn’t wear my costume around anymore, but inside I still wanted to be like my superhero.

In 4th grade, I joined the band program to learn to play an instrument.

I wanted to play the trombone, but my parents couldn’t afford one. My dad handed me a beat up instrument case. “Here. You’re playing this,” he said. It was a trumpet.

When I arrived at band class, I sat with all the other kids who played the trumpet.

They were all boys.

The band teacher looked at me, sitting in the row with all those boys, and said “You need to play the bells.”

He took me over and gave me this big silver instrument you tap at with little wooden hammers. “Girls play the bells,” he said.

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Plink- Plank- PLUNK.

This was really boring!  I didn’t like playing the bells at all.

Then, I thought “What would Batman do?”

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At the end of class, I told my music teacher “I’m playing my trumpet and that’s how it is.”

And I did from then on, earning 1st chair — the best player position–my sophomore year of high school, beating a senior boy.  Actually, the whole trumpet section was still all boys.

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After law school, I became a prosecutor at age 24. I was now involved in the real justice system.

But I also looked like something straight out of Legally Blonde.  I had Farrah Fawcett blonde hair wore short skirts and 4 inch heels.  When I walked to court one day, I heard someone say “She isn’t that smart.”

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After awhile, I convinced myself I should dye my hair darker so I would be taken more seriously. To maximize my IQ, I went all the way and dyed it black. People instantly thought I was smart.

But it wasn’t me.

I thought “WWBD?” Would he change his life to conform to what other people think he should be? No.

So I dyed it back and I won plenty of cases being Legally Blonde.

It doesn’t matter what people think of you.
Be your own superhero

Because in the end, the most important thing to be in life is yourself.

Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.

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