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.
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.