Being a juror is often boring, despite what television dramas show us. You must sit in an uncomfortable chair from the turn of the century, trying to stay awake in a courtroom lacking air conditioning. Your back aches from so much sitting. Sometimes you’ll fall asleep, despite your best efforts. You do your best to follow what each attorney says, but the legal terminology is above your head and impenetrable.
What would help a juror who’s facing that situation?
Some exciting storytelling.
Jurors want to know the who, the what, the how and — most importantly — the why. Who is the defendant? What did he do? How did he do it? Do we know why?
How compelling can you make this story for the jury? Can you use your words to take them through the twists and turns of this specific case? You don’t need to be more likeable than opposing counsel, and you don’t need to be more good-looking. You must use the power of language to reach across to the jury box and say, “I am defending a good person, and here is why.”
There are several tools that attorneys use to achieve this, as nobody but a trained actor knows how to glide into a room and command everyone’s attention. It is a mix of voice, tenor, body language and confidence. If you don’t appear confident in the story you are telling, why should the jury believe you?
Keeping Their Interest
According to Jonathan Van Patten in his journal article, Storytelling for Lawyers, he notes a variety of tools at a lawyer’s disposal. For instance, every story must have an overarching theme. This is “a short statement underlying the principle of a story.” It is a rule, not any fact, and it brings cohesion to what you are telling. His example is “promises should be kept” for a breach of contract case. Every fact must relate to that theme. Again, and again that attorney can drive a point home, because “good people” don’t break promises. You don’t need to shout out the theme, though — it can be an implicit suggestion, since nobody wants to be lectured. It is often more effective when left unsaid. However, determining the theme will help you organize your own thoughts.
Van Patten further suggests appealing to the jury’s sense of fair play, using your theme to highlight a deep residual truth that can apply to anyone. A juror can tell if you don’t believe your own story. They’re not stupid. If you try to swing a tale that doesn’t resonate with you, then why would you expect anyone else to buy it?
Weaving a Narrative
Know your audience, and trust them to believe in your vision. By parsing out the details of your case and finding a firm beginning, middle and end, you can stand before the jury box with confidence. You can say, “I’m here to give you our side of the story,” and really do that.
The power that comes with providing a narrative is that you, as the attorney, get to decide what is said and what is left out. The judge will have made evidentiary rulings, but there is plenty of material for your opposition to use. Don’t just attack opposing counsel by answering to each of their points; build your own narrative, and focus on what you want to say. Pick the facts that work and leave others on the bench, because remember — it is possible to say too much. Don’t throw all the spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
A final note on using storytelling techniques is to remember one important thing: Focus on the story, not the storyteller. What this means is that you shouldn’t editorialize your version of events. Don’t throw in statements that could bias a juror or be taken the wrong way. That could very easily work against you. Instead, let the facts do the talking.
Here is the takeaway:
- What is the who, what, where, when, how and why?
- Find the case’s underlying theme and build your story around it
- Know your audience and don’t patronize them
- Build your own narrative
- Focus on the story, not the storyteller
Looking to weave an intricate and exciting story for your trials? Orange Legal has videographers and trial technicians that can bolster your case as well as your winning percentage! Keep the jury’s eyes on you with customized graphics, presentations, and videos professionally tailored to your case.
Contact us today for a FREE videography and/or trial technology consultation!