Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail--Every Place, Every Time

Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail--Every Place, Every Time

by Gerry Spence

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312360672
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/28/2006
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 130,078
Product dimensions: 5.49(w) x 8.23(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Gerry Spence has been a trial attorney for more than five decades and proudly represents "the little people." He has fought and won for the family of Karen Silkwood, defended Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, and represented hundreds of others in some of the most notable trials of our time. He is the founder of Trial Lawyer's College, a nonprofit school where, pro bono, he teaches attorneys for the people how to present their cases and win against powerful corporate and government interests. He is the author of fifteen books, including The New York Times bestseller How to Argue and Win Every Time, From Freedom to Slavery, Give Me Liberty, and The Making of a Country Lawyer, and is a nationally known television commentator on the famous trials of our time. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Read an Excerpt

Win Your Case

How to Present, Persuade, Preveil â" Every Place, Every Time

By Gerry Spence

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2005 Gerry Spence
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0901-3



THE WISDOM OF UNCLE SLIM. Uncle Slim, my father's oldest brother, was a cowboy. Grandpa Spence said he was the smartest of his three sons. Uncle Slim was the kind of a man who thought that if it couldn't be done from the back of a horse it wasn't worth doing at all. He had those thin bowed legs that looked like they'd been molded around a barrel, and he wore an old Stetson that came together with four finger creases at the peak. A leather tong that extended from the hat's crown, down to the back of his head, and up again on the other side, held his hat against the wind — not that string dudes wear tied around their chins. His face below the hat line was ruddy and his hide tough, and above his hat line his skin was white and his hair thin. Both summer and winter he wore long cotton underwear buttoned up high. Claimed he wore it in the winter against the cold and in the summer as insulation against the heat. The one thing he valued most of all was a good horse.

One day I was standing at the corral with Uncle Slim. He was leaning on the top rail and laughing his high-pitched laugh that sounded like the end note of a bull elk's bugle.

"Look at that dude over there trying ta saddle his horse. And look at that saddle. It's one of them thousand-dollar kind." It was a pretty thing — shiny black leather with silver spangles and silver braid around the cantle. "And look at that nag he's tryin' ta put it on." Then he turned to me and, almost serious, he said, "Ya can't get nowhere with a thousand-dollar saddle on a ten-dollar horse."

Our thousand-dollar saddles. Back then I was a young lawyer living in the town of Riverton, Wyoming, population probably five thousand isolated souls. I'd tried quite a few jury cases — if a case is worth trying it ought to be tried before twelve good citizens — and I thought I knew a lot. I'd been to law school and I'd been the prosecuting attorney in Fremont County for eight years, a county that covered endless prairies and towering mountains, and that included the Wind River Indian Reservation with its tribes of Shoshone and Arapaho Native Americans. The county was nearly as large as some eastern states, with the small cow town of Shoshoni at one end and another small cow town called Dubois at the other. The people were spread out as sparsely as the land itself. You could probably match the county's population in a single block in Chicago or New York. And although I thought I knew how to try a case, what Uncle Slim said got me to thinking. We lawyers were like that dude with the fancy saddle and the old nag. We thought that the saddle was more important than the horse we put it on.

Our education, our experience, and the endless tricks and techniques we've been taught in order to make our sale to the jury, the board, the customer, or the boss have become our saddles. And they are heavy. We attend motivational seminars put on by gurus, training sessions about how to speak, how to organize our presentations, how to supplement them with graphics — and, especially, how to be like the guru. We put the fancy spangles on our saddles by learning the tricks of others, the big boys, the famous ones with those towering reputations who, in the process of telling us how to do it, line their pockets. But after decades of applying these so-called tricks of the trade, we still don't win — not often enough. Something is wrong and we suspect it's something wrong with us, something at the core, something we don't want to look at, think about, or admit. If we could only find the right role model to follow perhaps we too could become a winner.

So we attend more seminars, read more how-to books, and at last, having imitated the best of them, we still come up short. Sometimes the tricks we've learned work. But not often enough. Life's entire potpourri of tricks, techniques, procedures, and processes have become the saddle we've been taughtto mount in order to win. That saddle is expensive and covered with glittery stuff. But in the end it doesn't seem to do much good.

But what about the horse? We've never been taught the wisdom of Uncle Slim — "Ya can't get nowhere with a thousand-dollar saddle on a ten-dollar horse." Let us call ourselves the presenters, those who face the jury, the board, the boss, and the customer, and try to win our cases. We presenters can absorb all the law the professors can pound into us. We can learn all the courtroom techniques and nifty tricks the big-time lawyers teach; we can be the most intelligent, the cutest, the cleverest, intellectually ambidextrous swashbucklers ever to swagger into a courtroom or a city council meeting, but what if we know nothing about becoming a person? We're the ten-dollar horse.

After fifty years making my presentations in and out of the courtroom I've learned one thing for certain: It all begins with the person, with who each of us is. If we have no knowledge of who we are, if we have no insight into the self, if we have never heeded the admonition of the sages — "Know thyself" — we walk before the power persons (the jury, the board, the boss, the administrator) as a stranger to the self. And all of the participants at the presentation will remain as strangers to us as well.

If the lawyer is blind to the composition of the self, how can he know anything of the persons who compose the jury? If the executive knows nothing of herself, how can she know anything of her governing board? How can the lawyer know what compels the witnesses' testimony or the judge's rulings? How can the worker know what goes on in the mind of the boss if he has entered that place of war — the boss's office — as only the ten-dollar horse? As Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird, said to his young daughter who had a penchant to do battle with her fists, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." We cannot understand human conduct without understanding others, and we cannot understand others without first becoming acquainted with ourselves.

Life in the chicken house. It is easier for me to think and teach with metaphors. Uncle Slim's ten-dollar horse is one. Let me engage another — life in the chicken house. Most of us assume we know ourselves. Haven't we lived intimately with this person for all of these years? But we live inside our own self- constructed chicken house, and we've locked the door against our fear of some mythical, marauding coyote that will surely do us in if we throw open the door and venture out. As a consequence we trudge though our lives within those four bleak walls, and over and over bounce against the walls until we have grown used to our self-imposed boundaries.

It's taken a lifetime to build our chicken house. The walls are composed of images of who we are, or the equally inaccurate visuals of ourselves imposed on us by our parents, teachers, and peers. The walls are the defenses we impose against our fear of experiencing the self. We've constructed the walls against the pains of childhood from various forms of injury — the parent who physically or psychologically abused us, or spawned feelings of rejection or abandonment, the teacher who told us we are stupid, that we couldn't draw a tree that looked like a tree, or a bullying brother or the beautiful sister who got all of the attention. Whatever the pain, that tender organism known as the self takes on such defenses as are available — denial of the self, a mythological reconstruction of the self, shallow rationalizations that excuse the self, a closure against feeling — and once the walls are constructed we live our lives within them believing we are safely ensconced against harm.

Within the four walls of the chicken house most of us have become walking, talking conglomerations of habits, a monumental psychic pile composed of habitual thoughts and feelings, the same old ideas and beliefs, predictable responses and brittle attitudes, so that if we are encountered once, either by ourselves or others, we need not be experienced again. To know us once is to know us forever. When we say we know ourselves, all we really know are the few square feet of the chicken house and nothing of the endless expanse of the landscape beyond. Yet, I say it is more dangerous to live within those walls than to live free, for the risk of living in the chicken house is that one may never have lived at all.

Escaping the chicken house. Discovering the self. Erich Fromm, the great psychoanalyst, said, "Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become who he potentially is." So how do we discover the self?

The discovery of the self is a lifetime adventure. It begins when we recognize how frightened we are to venture beyond the door. This lifelong business of self-discovery can take many forms. I've experienced counseling and gone the route of the once stylish "encounter sessions." I've been trained as a leader in "sensitivity groups," trained lawyers in the psychodramatic technique, and like a starving child at a smorgasbord, I've read voraciously. I've spent years discussing my loves, my pains, my fears, my guilt, my agonies, and my hang ups with friends who would listen, especially with my wife, Imaging. I've painted, written poetry, and become a professional photographer because these art forms are roads to secret places in the self that cannot otherwise be visited. I've authored fifteen books, including two novels, mostly to discover what I know and how I feel, and, in the end, to help me identify the self to myself. I've traveled in distant, primitive cultures and talked to every man, woman, child, dog, tree, and posy I thought might possess any insight into this journey called life. I've visited the happy homeless wretches on the streets, the old boy who lives under the bridge, and the recluse who hides out in a hut in the wilderness of Wyoming. Perfectly endowed, we possess all the knowledge necessary to complete this journey. Such knowledge does not come from the guru in the cave, but from the guru within. We are psychic archeologists engaged in an archeological dig of the self.

At Trial Lawyer's College, where we teach lawyers how to win for the ordinary person against mammoth odds — against gigantic government and monstrous corporations — the first days are spent in assisting lawyers to become better acquainted with themselves. They experience themselves in exercises known as psychodrama, a group process that has been described as a play created spontaneously, with neither script nor rehearsal, for the purpose of gaining an understanding of the self that can be achieved only through action.

To know oneself empowers the presenter to crawl inside the hide of the participants in the trial, and such self-knowledge becomes the foundation of his conduct and strategy in every phase of the war he will engage in. If he knows himself, he will best be able to acquire that critical knowledge of those he encounters in the trial or presentation.

What is true for the training of successful trial lawyers is also true for the winning presenter. We all carry with us certain issues that hang us up like old laundry on a sagging clothes line. Some is deep, furtive stuff that we've so thoroughly tromped down that we've transformed ourselves into disadvantaged persons with crippled psyches, no longer free to run and jump and dance and create.

We can begin breaking out of the chicken house in many ways. At Trial Lawyer's College we require the participants to get up one morning before sunrise. They're instructed to go out into the wilderness that surrounds the ranch where we conduct the school and to find a place in sight of no one, a place that becomes their place. Then in their solitude, as they await the sun to come bursting over the mountain, they are to ask themselves two simple questions: "Who am I, and what am I going to do with the rest of my life?" Several hours later they come down for breakfast, but they remain silent until they meet in the barn and share with each other what they've discovered about themselves.

The silence and aloneness, the total focus on the self, is the magic. And it's available to all of us, whether we're driving to work in our cars or sitting in an afternoon under a fir tree in the park. How can we hear the quiet inner voice of the self over the blare of TV, the mindless jabbering of the car radio, the beat and blast of the workplace, and the shouting demons of fear and frustration that howl constantly at our eardrums?

When one asks the self, "Who am I?" something powerful and lasting will be revealed as if the mirror of the universe is at work. One woman said her experience was like taking off a hard-boiled eggshell. "I never knew the softness inside." Another said, "I'm screwed up. But if I weren't, I wouldn't be able to feel the pain of others. My scars are beautiful." Still another said, "I met someone I'd never known before and I think I'm going to like him, namely me." Strange, I thought, how such simple life-giving experiences are denied us — by us.

The opportunity to discover the self — to experience life while we are alive, as opposed to dying before we are dead — includes every aspect of discovery and creativity. To the casual observer it must seem patently ridiculous for lawyers at a trial lawyer's college to be painting — something they have not done since grade school. Equally unrelated to the image of the powerful courtroom advocate is the lawyer standing on a table before his fellow students, embarrassed, not carrying a tune very well, but singing a solo, his favorite song, from the heart. Grizzled veteran lawyers find themselves writing poetry and sharing it unabashedly with their fellow students. Such exercises are available to all of us. No patent or copyright protects their use. By learning to listen to ourselves, to fearlessly experience ourselves, we learn to listen to and discover others.

The scope of this book is not to teach us how to know ourselves. Such is not a teachable skill. There are no "How to Know Thyself" courses offered in college. Self-knowledge always remains a work in progress, a different one for each of us, one that reveals a changing landscape as we travel through our lives.

To grab another metaphor: I think of my life as a trip down the river in a canoe. I am on the river. I can't get off. I must take each day's trip one day at a time. There can be no plan, for how can one plan when there is no map and the river is always changing? My furious paddling in the river seems foolish. It doesn't alter the course of the river. Yet paddling is my work. I am engaged with the river. The river and I are together in this thing, whatever it is, and, in that way, the river and I are the same, for neither of us can stop the flow. At last, I do not wish to stop it. I wish only to take the trip with a sharp awareness, with a deep gratitude, and a raw joy that I have the chance.

My own struggle to discover the self. Because I have preached to you about self-discovery I should not present myself as above the fray. As I will later argue, credibility is the key to winning. One cannot be credible without first being honest about the self. If I ask you to accept my teachings, it seems appropriate that you know something of the teacher, and that the teacher is willing to be as open with you as he will ask you to be with others when you present your case.

I was born of an extremely religious mother who found God in church and a father who found God at the end of a fishing rod or a hunting rifle. I grew up in the mountains of Wyoming and was in all ways exposed to the church God, as my mother saw him, and to the nature God as my father saw him. In the depression era I enjoyed a poor but protected childhood. As I grew into adolescence I was a pimple-faced kid who wanted badly to be accepted by his peers and who always tried too hard. I had little going for me — no great looks, no family with a social position, no money, no car, no sports letter to wear on my sweater, and I wasn't a particularly brainy child either. When I entered college I longed to join a fraternity, because in those unenlightened days, any boy who was anything at all pledged to a fraternity. I was never so much as invited for a look by a single house on campus. And how, pray tell, could I ever make it with a girl if I didn't have a frat pin to pin on her pretty sweater? Besides, I was working on the railroad to put myself though school and I often came to class covered with soot from the old coal-burning engines and looked more like a black-faced minstrel than a potential frat boy who would bring honor and glory to the brotherhood. In short, I was a nothing. Today those feelings still squirm around at my core like worms in the soul, and they frequently come popping out in ways that cause me to be shy in groups, or sometimes to annoyingly overplay my hand.


Excerpted from Win Your Case by Gerry Spence. Copyright © 2005 Gerry Spence. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Who Needs This Book?     1
Where I'm Coming From     3
Gathering the Power to Win: (Preparing Ourselves for War)
The Power of Discovering the Self     9
The Indomitable Power of Our Uniqueness     19
The Magical Power of Feeling     25
The Power of Listening     34
The Power of Fear-Ours and Theirs     47
The Dangerous Power of Anger     60
Understanding Power     66
The Power of Helping Ourselves     73
Winning: (Waging the War-Presenting the Winning Case)
Discovering the Story     85
Discovering the Story Through Psychodrama     102
Preparing the Decision Makers to Embrace Us-The Voir Dire     112
Telling Our Story-The Opening Statement     127
Telling Our Story Through Witnesses-Direct Examination     149
Exposing the Hidden Truth-Cross-Examination     168
Closing the Deal-The Final Argument     223
Acknowledgments     279
Index     281

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Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail--Every Place, Every Time 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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All of Mr.Spence book are good
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