Of all professionals, lawyers should be the very best storytellers. @LegalShapiro
After all, we begin with enormous advantages. Other storytellers must face the blank page and must choose their subject. Some must create their characters out of whole cloth and imagine their motives and desires. They must plot their actions then steer things toward a resolution.
Lawyers have great material handed to them every single day.
If one is in search of stories of fraud, deceit, cruelty, broken promises, blasted homes, there is no better place to learn them than a law office.” Edward Herndon, Herndon’s Life of Lincoln (New York: De Capo Press, 1983), 268.
Character, motive, conflict, and resolution are the key elements of all stories. They are also at the heart of every legal dispute and case controversy.
Cognizant of the power of words, in all their complex meanings, we are trained not only to edit our narratives, but to pick apart our opponent’s counter-narrative, to find its weaknesses, to expose what is wrong with that story.
#Storytelling – what it is, why it matters, how to do it—is not, therefore, a metaphor for legal advocacy. It is legal advocacy itself.
Storytelling should be a comfortable fit for lawyers. But recognizing the centrality of storytelling to the legal profession is not enough.
Lawyers should also study the elements and structure of stories, how they work and why. And they should learn the principles that have guided great storytellers for thousands of years.
What lawyers actually do — all of them — is gather information and then share it with others in the most efective way possible. They do this to persuade others to do or not do something or to make a certain decision.
The remarkable thing is how few lawyers seem to realize they are supposed to be storytellers at all.
If you doubt it, ask a lawyer what they do for a living.
They will say they do transactional work or business law, criminal defense or prosecution. They might tell you where they work and name the firm or an o’ce or business.
Or they will describe their clients (“I work with high-tech start-ups”) or cases (“I do immigration cases”).
Nobody ever says that they serve justice for a living, or spend their working days protecting the rights of others, or get up every morning to ensure America remains a nation of laws.
There is a reason they don’t say this: they would sound insane if they did.
Share my book with your lawyer.