Storytelling

Films like Adaptation can give lawyers a window into how to construct compelling narratives in court

, directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, is particularly relevant for lawyers struggling with telling stories effectively both inside and outside the courtroom.

All lawyers are storytellers. And Supreme Court justices are not exceptions. Outcomes in constitutional law are typically predicated upon the stories the justices tellinterpretations of foundational origin storiesthat shape understandings of the law and who we are as a people, writes Philip N. Meyer.

Steve Jobs understood the power of great storytelling. And lawyers cases, like Jobs beloved products, are the embodiments of stories we tell others and ourselves as well. How can we tell those stories better?

Litigation unfolds upon a stage in the theater of the courtroom. And while combative, compulsive and closed litigation stories are constrained and shaped by evidentiary and legal rules and the meticulous presentation of factual evidence, lawyers are nevertheless the producers, directors and set designers of their own theatrical courtroom dramas.

Being a good judge can be lonely and emotionally excruciating. In the remarkable bookTough Cases, 13 trial judges candidly recount their most difficult cases.

For me, the most important law songs, the ones that are closest to my heart, are often not about lawyers at all but instead about themes of justice and injustice. The most remarkable of these songs are by our two greatest folk poets: Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

With winters chill now in full force, I recall sitting in a beach chair in late August on a spit of sand on the rocky Maine coast reading Walter Isaacsons

Jerome Bruner, who died in 2016 at the age of 100, was one of most influential psychologists and interdisciplinary thinkers of the 20th century. Late in his career, Bruner became fascinated with the law. Trial lawyers employ the power of storytelling to, in Bruners words, go beyond the information given.

Bruce Springsteen pares his 500-page autobiography and more than 50 years of songs into three acts with a clear narrative arc.

An appellate prosecutor and a president show how precise timing and use of prolonged silences can enhance presentations and give arguments greater impact.

Civil rights attorney, writer and law professor Bryan Stevenson, author of the best-sellingJust Mercy, employs well-told stories to reveal the plight of people trapped in the criminal justice system.

Storiesin books and in lifeare the ax that cracks open the frozen sea inside us.

Justice requires great artistry. The narrative arc of our constitutional law saga is full of surprise, mystery and plot reversals.

Interrogatories ferret out the facts of an opponents case before giving notice about taking a deposition.

The storylines that capture the popular imagination these days, at least in politics and commercial movies, assuage our losses and momentarily fill our neediness with, at least, the promise of victorious outcomes.

The ABA Journal wants to host and facilitate conversations among lawyers about their profession. We are now accepting thoughtful, non-promotional articles and commentary by unpaid contributors.

Read the Mind Your Business submission guidelines.

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