Trial lessons from church

Trial lessons from church

We are in Scottsdale and today we went to Our Lady of Joy Catholic Church near Cave Creek. A young priest in his late twenties gave the sermon.He is a handsome muscular fellow who is, in fact, aformerstandout high school and college football player. In giving his talk he told a story about two people, one a historical church person of significance who lived in the 1800’s and theother about a middle class family in the 1970’s. He tied the two stories to the fact the parish was celebrating stewardship Sunday looking for volunteers and assistance for parish projects.

I’vewritten, lectured and demonstrated the importance of story telling for trial lawyers, but somehow today was a validation of all that I believe and teach about it. The priest was essentially reading from behind a pulpit. While he did it with great skill we know that trial lawyers should always avoid any physical barrierbetween themselves and their audience. We also know that a spontaneous delivery done less than perfectly is usually better then a written delivery. Yet, so long as he was telling a story I was captivated because the story was well told and interesting. I noticed that when he moved from the story to a general discussion my mind began to drift even though I wanted to concentrate. I was struck by how powerful story telling really is in keeping interest almost involuntarily and often even if the story isn’t perfectly told.

Sometimes we have trouble figuring out how to launch our story. A friend is in trial right now and shared with me his opening outline. I liked the phrase he used to introduce the story. He said something like "Let me take you back to September 2007. We are in Seattle and itis a bright sunny day." He made the transition easy and set the story in the present tense. By theway,his opening was picture perfect David Ball: (1) The rule (2) why the rule is important and the consequence of breaking it (3) what happened (4) why they were suing (5) the defenses (6) why they were invalid and (7) damages.

I have a good friend in New Mexico who has had multi million dollar verdicts. He almost always tells his story by recreating the scene with information about details including sounds and smells. He leadsthe listener through the story as if it were happening then. He describes the setting in a way that makes you picture it in your mind. You do not get bored with that kind of presentation.

I’m not going to bore you with the basics of how to structure a story because a lotof information is available on the concept. However, I do wantto remind you about the power of story telling.Think about it even when you are arguing a motion and can put the facts in a brief story format. Let’s all remember to use story telling as our preferred method of communication.

While I was thumbing through my Sunday missal I came across Paul’s Epistle 1 Corinthians 12:14 where he says in part:

"Now the body is not made up of one part but many….As it is, there are many parts, but one body… there should be no divisionin the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it….

It was the great plaintiff’sNew York advocate MoeLevine who took this passage and create an entire concept he would argue to the jury. Namely that people are a whole and not parts. You can’t have a headache and not have it rob your day of sunshine. You can’t have pain in the neck and not have impact your entireout look on life. This "whole man" argument became an essential part of every case I argued and still use today.

Those are my lessons from church. So, you should go to your place of spiritual worship to be inspired as a trial lawyer!

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