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.

 

 

Beta Traps and Crocodile Brains

Are you job interviewing in this down economy? Pitching a book idea?  Picking a jury? Trying to convince a loved one they really need to go to that football game with you? Raising venture capital?

Life’s about sales, no matter if it’s business or personal relationships. 

I recently read a book by Oren Klaff called Pitch Anything! Klaff chased down every useable theory in the field of Neuroeconomics and formulated an answer to both how he could better forge a connection with the people he was pitching to, which led to multi-million dollar deals in venture capital.

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Klaff says that for more than 40 years, sales trainers have been teaching techniques and methods that help “situationally disadvantaged” salespeople (low social status) get an appointment, build rapport, package a business transaction in a thin and fragile emotional wrapper and, if they’re lucky or doggedly persistent, close a sale.  But it’s all WRONG. 

He talks about how people preparing to pitch ideas have several things to overcome:

1. Beta Traps

2. Crocodile Brains 

You’ve all sat in lobbies or conference rooms before being interviewed, pitching a product or giving a presentation. The moldy magazines, the indifferent receptionist, the bored audiences…you’re stuck in a Beta Trap. Klaf discusses how to change the situation and become an Alpha. It’s crucial in order for people to give attention to you and/or your ideas. 

Then, all the ideas you’re sharing that have been developed in the neurocortex of your brain are being heard by Crocodiles. Their brain says:

1. If it’s not dangerous, IGNORE IT.

2. If it’s not new and exciting, IGNORE IT.

3. Crocodiles will NOT send anything up to the neocortex for problem solving unless they see         
a)  a situation that’s unexpected and out of the ordinary or

          
  b) you have a product as sexy as the iPhone when it first came out that triggered dopamine and sent the brain a reward about pleasure. 

After reading his book, I saw the ideas he discusses can be applied to a wider audience. When I began my career as a prosecutor, the first thing I focused on learning was how to pick juries. I thought, if I didn’t have twelve people who would listen to my case, I might as well pack up before I started. 

Jurors might initially excited to be there, so that helps get around their crocodile brains, but if you can’t sustain their attention they’re going to SHUT DOWN.

If you’re interviewing for a job, if you don’t change up the situation and make them view you as an alpha and keep their attention, you might not get hired.

I highly recommend reading Oren Klaff’s book with a mind to how it can be applied on a broader basis in your life. http://pitchanything.com/book/