If you are or aspire to be a trial lawyer, David Ball’s Theater Tips and Strategies for Jury Trials is a book you simply must own and consult often.
I’m done messing around. I’ve found so much fatastic advice in this book and passed it along on Lawyerist that I feel compelled to stop stealing and just do my best to convince you to buy a copy for yourself.
You: Master Thespian
Trial lawyers are actors. You might try to deny it, but it’s the truth, and if you can’t get your head around that fact, you need to stay out of court. Good intentions don’t matter. Honesty is required, but you don’t have an advantage if you are “more honest” than opposing counsel. In a trial, you have to tell your client’s story more effectively than your opponent. And storytelling is a form of acting. This book will not take you from (insert name of actor you hate) to (insert name of actor you love), but you’ll get better. And you’ll be a better trial lawyer for it.
Why should you buy this book?
This book was not written by a lawyer. (I just felt your interest level go up). Ball has a Ph.D in Speech and Theater Arts. He’s been an actor, director, professor, and is now a jury consultant. He’s the anti-lawyer, in that he knows that in a trial, the story is as important as (and often more important) than the law or the facts.
This book is not a tome, a treatise, a hornbook, or a textbook. This book is 341 pages in trade paperback. It’s expensive, but it would be a value at twice the price. And if you are honestly excited to be a trial lawyer, you’ll enjoy reading it. It’s written in a straightforward, pithy, common-sense style. You’ll come back to it again and again (and not just for blog post ideas). Most of the advice in the book is not jury-trial specific, so if you spend any time in court, this book is of great value.
What this book will teach you
Pretty much everything about being effective in court. If every lawyer in the U.S. read just the first chapter of this book and tried, hard, to follow its advice, the quality of courtroom lawyering in this country would improve by 50 percent. These 40 pages of gold will stop you from committing the following courtroom sins:
- Repeating things over and over (thus making everyone want to duct-tape your mouth shut)
- Making speeches instead of just talking
- Using legalese, which will confuse the jury and make them hate you
- Reading from notes
- Ignoring the jury (or judge)
- Slouching, fidgeting, walking around aimlessly, bouncing, rocking back and forth, etc.
- Speaking too softly or too fast or too slow
- Botching your cross examination
And that’s just the first chapter. Ball will also will tell you what you should do while not doing the above. If you go to court often, or aspire to, or are in law school and want to ace Trial Advocacy, get this book. If you can’t afford it, ask your mom or dad to get it for you as a gift. It’s that good.
And being effective in trial is that important.
h/t to Chris Carlson, who introduced me to this book.