The Power of Storytelling in Trial Advocacy
In July 2023, Andrew Mishlove will lead a national conference for DUI-OWI defense attorneys on the Art of Storytelling in DUI-OWI cases. Attorney Mishlove, as president of the National College for DUI Defense, has put together this conference with some of the greatest trial advocacy teachers in the world. But, why storytelling?
DUI-OWI trial advocacy is a complex and specialized field in which attorneys use their skills to persuade judges and juries to render favorable verdicts for their clients. While many factors contribute to the success of a trial attorney, storytelling is an essential aspect that cannot be overlooked.
The Art of Storytelling in Trial Advocacy
- Connecting with the jury
Stories have a unique ability to engage and captivate an audience. In a courtroom, a well-crafted story enables attorneys to emotionally connect with the jury. By presenting facts and legal arguments within the framework of a narrative, trial advocates can make the information more relatable and memorable, leading to a more profound impact on the jury's perception of the case.
- Simplifying complex issues
Trials often involve intricate legal concepts and complex factual scenarios that can be difficult for laypersons to grasp. Storytelling helps break down these complexities into digestible and understandable pieces. By weaving facts and legal arguments into a coherent and engaging story, trial attorneys can make it easier for the jury to follow and remember the critical aspects of the case.
- Establishing credibility
A great storyteller is not necessarily a great lawyer, but the storytelling skill will enhance the attorney's credibility. A well-told story demonstrates the attorney's mastery of the case and their ability to convey it effectively. This credibility, in turn, can make the jury more receptive to the attorney's arguments and more likely to render a favorable verdict.
- Humanizing the parties
In legal disputes, it is easy for the parties involved to be seen as faceless and detached entities. Storytelling allows trial advocates to humanize their clients by providing the jury with insight into their lives, emotions, and motivations. This humanization helps the jury empathize with the parties and view the case from their perspectives, which can be instrumental in swaying the outcome in their favor.
- Framing the case
Every trial involves competing narratives. Through storytelling, trial attorneys can frame the case in a way that supports their client's position while casting doubt on the opposing party's version of events. By controlling the narrative, attorneys can guide the jury's interpretation of the evidence and shape their perception of the case.
Tips for Effective Storytelling for Lawyers
- Know your audience
Understanding the jury's background, experiences, and values is crucial for crafting a compelling story. Attorneys should tailor their narrative to resonate with the jury and be mindful of cultural, regional, and social differences that may influence the jurors' perspectives.
- Be authentic and genuine
While crafting a story, it is essential for trial advocates to remain true to the facts and be genuine in their delivery. An inauthentic or exaggerated story can damage an attorney's credibility and harm their client's case. Grand, sweeping statements such as “my client has never lied to person X” may seem to suggest innocence, but speaking in absolutes can cause the jury to question the story’s reliability.
- Use vivid details
Including vivid details can make a story more engaging and memorable. Take the time to paint the picture for the jury; explain the sights, sounds, emotions, and even the smells at the scene when relevant. Descriptions that appeal to the jurors' senses can help them visualize the events and emotions involved, making the story more relatable and persuasive. Take the time to paint the picture for the jury; explain the sights, sounds, emotions, and even the smells at the scene when relevant.
- Keep it simple and focused
It is crucial to maintain a clear and focused narrative. A convoluted or overly complex story can confuse the jury and detract from the case's critical aspects. Trial attorneys should strive for simplicity and clarity in their storytelling. Storytelling is an indispensable tool in the arsenal of trial advocates. By weaving a compelling narrative that resonates with the jury, simplifies complex issues, establishes credibility, humanizes the parties, and frames the case in a favorable light, trial attorneys can significantly influence the outcome of a case.
Storytelling requires expertise in science, law, police procedures, and all of the detailed analytic aspects of an OWI case. Yet, as an art, storytelling must always be practiced and can never be completely mastered. The best lawyers spend their lifetimes constantly honing their art. If you need a lawyer for your DUI-OWI case, try to find one who understands the importance of your story, your narrative, your life, your family, and your dreams. This takes time and a lawyer who is willing to spend the time.
If you are a lawyer who seeks to hone your storytelling craft, come to the NCDD 2023 Summer Session in Chicago. Here is the link: www.NCDD.com