by Ken Lopez
We recently had the opportunity to interview three top trial lawyers. We asked them for their views about the practice of law and about what really works at trial.
Collectively, more than 100 years of wisdom are speaking in these interviews. I couldn't agree more with these trial lawyers’ positions, and over the coming weeks, we will share some of these interviews, edited for clear and quick messages and understanding.
These three lawyers, Patrick Coyne, Rob Cary, and Bobby Burchfield, are at the top of their field. Let's hear what they have to say about storytelling at trial.
Finnegan partner Patrick Coyne, an intellectual property litigator, said: “I think a lot of lawyers approach IP cases with the idea that all I have to do is convince them that I’m right. Wrong. People make their decisions based on their values and beliefs. What the story does is give the jurors a narrative that you can tie in to their values and beliefs, and they can then fill in the gaps themselves. It makes sense to them based on their perspective.”
Rob Cary, a litigation partner at Williams & Connolly, said, “Being a litigator is about storytelling, making a narrative that makes sense and that is credible and reasonable. So much of what is taught in law school is so complicated and so nuanced that it inhibits good storytelling. So I think all lawyers when they get out there, and especially if they practice before jurors, need to be good storytellers. It is crucial to stick to the truth, and of course you need to be able to show as well as to tell.”
Said Bobby Burchfield, a litigation partner at King & Spalding, “I think of a trial in terms of putting together a comprehensible and comprehensive story in terms of what I can get people to remember and what I can get people to believe. That’s when you really mature as a lawyer, when you understand it really that is the narrative that decides the case and not whether you think you’re right.”
As is clear from the interviews with these top trial lawyers, building a narrative is essential to the consulting work that A2L does, because developing a persuasive narrative is essential in the modern trial. All too often it's overlooked or only considered at the eleventh hour.
We've written about storytelling extensively in articles like 5 Essential Elements of Storytelling and Persuasion, Storytelling Proven to be Scientifically More Persuasive, $300 Million of Litigation Consulting and Storytelling Validation, and Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 3 - Storytelling for Lawyers. And we've even created a compendium-style book of articles related to storytelling - it's a free download.
Finally, if you happen to miss last week’s A2L Consulting storytelling webinar delivered by A2L's Managing Director of Litigation Consulting, Tony Klapper, and attended by nearly 500 of your peers, you can now watch a recorded version here.