Storytelling for Lawyers

Overview


Good lawyers have an ability to tell stories. Whether they are arguing a murder case or a complex financial securities case, they can capably explain a chain of events to judges and juries so that they understand them. The best lawyers are also able to construct narratives that have an emotional impact on their intended audiences. But what is a narrative, and how can lawyers go about constructing one? How does one transform a cold presentation of facts into a seamless story that clearly and compellingly takes ...
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Storytelling for Lawyers

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Overview


Good lawyers have an ability to tell stories. Whether they are arguing a murder case or a complex financial securities case, they can capably explain a chain of events to judges and juries so that they understand them. The best lawyers are also able to construct narratives that have an emotional impact on their intended audiences. But what is a narrative, and how can lawyers go about constructing one? How does one transform a cold presentation of facts into a seamless story that clearly and compellingly takes readers not only from point A to point B, but to points C, D, E, F, and G as well? In Storytelling for Lawyers, Phil Meyer explains how. He begins with a pragmatic theory of the narrative foundations of litigation practice and then applies it to a range of practical illustrative examples: briefs, judicial opinions and oral arguments. Intended for legal practitioners, teachers, law students, and even interdisciplinary academics, the book offers a basic yet comprehensive explanation of the central role of narrative in litigation. The book also offers a narrative tool kit that supplements the analytical skills traditionally emphasized in law school as well as practical tips for practicing attorneys that will help them craft their own legal stories.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"'Make no mistake about it - lawyers are storytellers. It is how we make our livings,' Philip N. Meyer tells us, and convincingly proves, in his extraordinary Storytelling for Lawyers. Brilliantly exploring how issues of voice, plot, characterization, language, and narrative structure inform every aspect of the practice of law, Meyer tells a story no one in legal scholarship or practice has ever told before. Everyone, in every area of law, from beginning students to the most erudite scholars and accomplished practitioners, will profit substantially from this book." --Lawrence Joseph, author of Lawyerland

"Readers of the book will come away with a deep appreciation of the possibilities for interplay between stories in law and in the broader culture, beyond anything that they can obtain from any other book with which I am familiar." --Neal Feigenson, author of Legal Blame: How Jurors Think and Talk About Accidents

"Breathtaking in its sophistication, Storytelling for Lawyers is an unparalleled introduction to the art of legal storytelling. Meyer leads us through a fascinating and sometimes counterintuitive exploration of the building blocks of a good story - characters, plots, themes, and all the rest. Lawyers and law students everywhere should read this book, mark it up, and keep a battered copy within easy reach." --Linda H. Edwards, author of Legal Writing, Process, Analysis, and Organization and Readings in Persuasion: Briefs that Changed the World

"No one knows the terrain, the feel, and the reach of stories better than Philip N. Meyer. What he tries to do, and does so brilliantly in Storytelling for Lawyers is to take readers 'inside' the story. It's hard to imagine a storytelling lawyer who couldn't benefit from Meyer's book." --James R. Elkins, Editor of Legal Studies Forum and Lawyer Poets and That World We Call Law

"How lawyers tell stories to juries and judges is the subject of Meyer's recently published book, Storytelling for Lawyers. The book is intended not just for law students learning how to craft persuasive arguments, but for lay people simply curious about how popular culture, literature and the canon of case law mesh in the modern legal system." --Valley News

"An excellent primer on narrative theory for lawyer-storytellers has now appeared... Meyer's book is a great story about lawyers telling stories. He brings his lawyer-storytellers to life and critiques their narrative efforts with great delight. I welcomed his reminder that the best lawyers can be and are artists." --MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL FACULTY BLOG

"Philip N. Meyer's splendid book, Storytelling for Lawyers, is both an explanation of this phenomenon and a master class on what makes an effective story and how to construct one." -David R. Dow, Rice University, Vermont Law Review

"For me, the ultimate test of any book that makes recommendations about the practice of law is whether I can use the information it conveys now. This book proved an immediate help for me in working on an appellate brief...I don't know that I'll make to the promised land of the perfect brief, but now I have stronger sense of what it will read like." -greenleafadvocacy.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195396638
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 343,765
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip N. Meyer is Professor of Law at Vermont Law School.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
I. Lawyers are Storytellers 1
II. Legal Arguments are Stories in Disguise 3
III. The Parts of a Story 4
IV. Movies and Closing Arguments 6
Chapter 2 - Plotting I: The Basics 11
I. What is Plot? 11
II. Plot Structure in Two Movies 28
Chapter 3 - Plotting II: Plot Structure in a Closing Argument to a Jury in a
Complex Torts Case 44
I. The "Back Story" 47
II. Annotated Excerpts from Spence's Closing Argument on Behalf of Karen
Silkwood 48
III. Concluding Observations 85
Chapter 4 - Character Lessons: Character, Character Development, and
Characterization 110
I. Introduction: Why Emphasize Movie Characters in Legal Storytelling? 110
II. What is Character, and Why Is It Important to Legal Storytellers? 113
III. Flat and Round Characters and Static and Changing
Characters-High Noon Revisited 119
IV. Techniques of Character Development and Characterization-Excerpts from Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life 131
Chapter 5 - Characters, Character Development, and Characterization in a
Closing Argument to a Jury in a Complex Criminal Case 147
I. The "Back Story" 147
II. Excerpts from the Opening: Act I-"The Setup" and "Confrontation" 151
III. Concluding Observations 173
Chapter 6 - Style Matters: How to Use Voice, Point of View, Details and
Images, Rhythms of Language, Scene and Summary, and Quotations and
Transcripts in Effective Legal Storytelling 185
I. Back Story: Grading Law School Examinations 185
II. Preliminary Note: "Voice" and "Style" 188
III. Voice and Rhythm: "Staying on the Surface" 191
IV. The Use of Scene and Summary: "Showing and Telling" 201
V. Telling in Different Voices 208
VI. Perspective or Point of View 220
VII. Several Functions of Perspective: How Does Perspective (Point of View)
Work, and What Work Does it Do? 225
VIII. Concluding Observations 245
Chapter 7 - A Sense of Place: Settings, Descriptions and Environments 252
I. Introduction 252
II. Dangerous Territory: Contrasting Settings Evoking Danger and Instability in
Joan Didion's "The White Album" and the Judicial Opinion in a Rape Case 255

III. More Dangerous Places Where Bad Things Happen: Use of Physical
Descriptions and Factual Details to Create Complex Environments in W.G.
Sebald's The Emigrants and the Petitioners' Briefs in Two Coerced Confession
Cases 266
IV. Settings and Environment as Villains and Villainy in the Mitigation Stories of Kathryn Harrison's While They Slept and the Petitioner's Brief in
Eddings v. Oklahoma 283
V. Concluding Observations 298
Chapter 8 - Narrative Time: A Brief Exploration 302
I. Introduction 302
II. The Ordering of Discourse Time 305
III. Concluding Observations 325
Chapter 9 - Final Observations: Beginnings and Endings 330

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