Bringing the

Life Back to
the Law

  • How to Find the Artist Inside of Yourself

    Good stories are not remembered for the tales they tell of struggling characters who eventually find unknown abilities and use them to triumph over adversity. Good stories are remembered for how they are told. I’ve walked out of enough second-hand performances of Tennessee Williams’ plays feeling empty to know the difference. This is why I am obsessed with helping my fellow trial lawyers find their inner truth so that they can bring all of who they are to their work. How do you know what is unique and different about you; that which separates you from every other person in the world? This question is as deeply profound as, “What is the meaning of life?” After all, the only thing you have to offer this world is you – your individual stories, your individual perception, and your individual humanity. If you want to be a singer, there’s no point trying t Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • Day Trading Concentration

    Give the beginner actor a script, put him on stage and something all too familiar happens. Instantly, the actor’s attention turns inward and he begins to hear a voice inside his head – the insidious voice of the inner critic. As an actor, I’ve learned that there is one place that you never want your attention to be. On yourself. An actor who makes himself the focus of his attention might just as well have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Consciousness of self is as toxic to the actor as venom is to the cobra. When we are in our heads, we become judgmental, critical, and doubtful. We become our own worst enemies, beating ourselves up mercilessly with cruel, harsh, and unkind words. It’s as if we’ve become spectators watching ourselves from the sidelines with intense scrutiny, judging our every move. Shaming ourselves into becoming better people is a ter Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • Harnessing the Power of Empathy for Your Client

    As schmaltzy as this might sound, caring is at the core of every case. The first thing to ask yourself is, “do I really care?” We have to find the humanity in our client before we can ask the jurors to see it. This is the first step in transforming the client from a “defendant” to a human being. I didn’t set out in life to dedicate myself to walking around in someone else’s skin and seeing the world from their point of view. I arrived at this destination when I began training as an actor. The acting profession is a humanizing profession. I’m forced by the very nature of my job to step into someone else’s shoes, to wander around in someone Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • The ‘Arc’ of Telling a Great Story

    Below are the five beats (or sections) through which a story usually moves. Asking yourself these five questions will remind you of the five beats. In parentheses, I’ve included a typical fairy tale transition line: Set The Scene. (Once upon a time…) Where were you in life when this began? What should we know about you in those days that helps explain the choices you made? What Got the Ball Rolling? (Until one day…) What incident made taking action necessary? What set the wheels into motion? What Was At Stake? (But just when things seemed to be going well…) What hope or fear drove you? What did you stand to gain or lose? What was your emotional connection to what you were experiencing? How did things escalate in intensity or complication? How I Turned the Corner. (Then, at the last minute…)

  • Waking Up The Instrument

    Let’s begin at the simplest place: the physical presence of the lawyer. By this, I’m referring to the lawyer standing before the judge or jury. What is true about this is that the lawyer is occupying space, either filling it with energy or not. If there is sufficient energy, then there is an interest on the other side. If not, then boredom or disinterest looms up. This is demonstrated by the amusing yet profound words of acting legend, Michael Chekhov: “The moment you are not alive on the stage, you are dead.” This is a statement that an actor can understand, because every actor knows the immense pleasure of feeling alive on stage, and the profound pain of losing the audience due to a lack of energy. The conception of a human being as an energetic force is no longer an idea that needs defending. The mind-body connection is common. Think Yoga and meditation. Energy is a Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • Emphasis & Impact Devices Are Your Palette

    As lawyers, we are very good at emphasizing the written word in our briefs through a variety of literary and stylistic devices such as italics, bold-faced font, and underlining. However, we sometimes struggle to do with the spoken word what we do with the written word. We must emphasize important points orally in the same way that we emphasize written words. Emphasis is what allows your points to “stick” and dominate the conversation during jury deliberations. Cases are lost because the jury does not know how important something is and does not remember the point. The challenge is, “How do we do this without a keyboard and without a neon highlighter?” From day one of my acting training, I learned that an actor is like a composer: that what you read in the script is only the merest indication of what you have to do when you really act the pa Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • Opening Statement is a Speech

    Let me take you back to April 3, 1968, the day before Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. That evening, he delivered one of my favorite speeches of all-time. In it, he talks about surviving an assassination attempt where a mentally ill woman stabbed him with a letter opener. It almost pierced his heart. Doctors told MLK that if he had sneezed, he would have died. The media caught wind of it and MLK received a letter from a nine year-old Caucasian girl that said, “I’m glad you didn’t sneeze.” Martin Luther King then delivered his speech about all of the progress made by the civil rights movement since that time. He prefaces everything by saying, “I too am glad I didn’t sneeze because If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been able to tell you all about a dream that I had.” MLK is connecting a mundane and nettlesome part of our existence – a sneeze – to something t Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • The Eye of the Tiger

    “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exists and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.” As You Like It, Act II, ii, 139. Okay. This may not be the showdown between Rocky and Apollo Creed in Rocky I. I hope that I didn’t raise false expectations. Perhaps this blog is more appropriately called, “The Eye of the Director.” I view each new witness who comes into court like a different scene in a play. Each scene has a specific purpose. In other words, there is a reason why the writer wrote it. In one short sentence, what does the writer want the audience to learn when the lights come up in the theater? Examples would be, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or “Love conquers all.” Here’s an example from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. There was a zoo in Surrey where the Dursleys took their Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • Movement in Court

    We plan our movements and gestures when we are in front of a jury with uncanny precision. Herein lies the problem. Strategies or plans to move around the courtroom can lack the fluid motion of natural movement. As a result, it becomes artificial and contrived. Let’s take a short digression. Michael Chekhov analogized the body to that of an instrument. Our instrument is the same body that carries on a life: it eats; it sleeps; it laughs and cries; it experiences pain and anguish; it dies. Experience comes to us through our bodies as sensations. Our bodies record this as knowledge. We speak a language of experience that we are comfortable with, using word pictures that are absolutely connected to movement. Sadly, we seem to have lost a connection to the original statements. What do we mean when we say, “she fell into despair,” or “fell in Share on Facebook Share Share on TwitterTweet Share on Google Plus Share Share on LinkedIn Share

  • Empowering the Jury to Return a Favorable Verdict

    The following is an excerpt from one of my closing arguments. I have changed the defendant’s name in order to protect both his privacy and that of others that were involved in some way: “If Michael is guilty of anything, he’s guilty of using poor judgment and of caring so much for Beth; but that doesn’t make him guilty of any one of the crimes. It only makes him a criminal if he violates the law.” … “Michael is the one who stands in judgment before you. Michael’s fate – the fate of a fellow human being – lies in your hands. You may not have thought the way Michael thought, believed what he believed, or did what he did, but that doesn’t make him guilty. We’re all guilty of using poor judgment.” …

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