Haywood County Officials Circa 1909
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Brad H. Ferguson

Attorney at Law
Criminal Defense | Family Law | Personal Injury Lawyer

Lawyers Are Skilled Storytellers

Image Credit: Haywood County Officials Circa 1909 Source: North Carolina DigitalNC

What do you think of when you hear the word story? A book or news article, perhaps? The ability to narrate a story is an integral part of everyone’s lives. Take the time to observe others while out in public, and you will quickly see how important stories are to us. We share them in various ways, from face-to-face conversations to using social media, for example.  Although anyone can tell a story, not everyone can communicate them effectively. We immediately recognize a masterful tale when we read or hear it because it captures our attention. On the flip side, we dismiss those that don’t enthrall us. Have you ever stopped to consider that lawyers are storytellers? As a lawyer in Waynesville, NC, I can testify that part of my work is to tell my client’s stories for them.

Legal Storytelling

While storytelling may conjure images of fairytales, mystery, or legends within the mind’s eye, it is a useful tool to improve focus and direct thought.

Storytelling is as old as human culture itself. It started as oral traditions shared around campfires to teach and direct communities and eventually evolved to being written down. Stories help us to connect and relate to varying situations that arise.

As children, we are taught to love stories being read aloud to us, and we never outgrow this fascination. Narratives are an effective way to teach. Take, for example, Aesop’s fables which are morality tales. How many of us can recall the story of The Tortoise and the Hare?

The moral of the story above is simple, “slow and steady wins the race.” However, it was made more memorable by using the illustration of animal characters. 

Attorneys use the same skills to explain complex themes of the law in the courtroom. Facts and evidence that may appear dry or dull come alive when presented in a narrative form.

It is imperative to note that licensed attorneys have to adhere to professional rules of conduct in the courtroom when it comes to storytelling.

Components of Narrative for Lawyers

In preparing for a case, lawyers have to ask the same questions that anyone else does when writing. Who? What? When? Where? How? And Why? The answers to these questions form the skeleton of the client’s narrative to be presented in the courtroom. 

A skilled attorney will know how to take this information and construct a relatable storyline and central theme with the characters and setting being introduced with the conflict unfolding.

The story’s plot will reveal itself through testimony and evidence, much like a screenplay’s dialogue. The setting, of course, will be the legal issue(s). Finally, the conclusion will be the requested resolution of the case.

Effective Storytelling Requires Skill

The plot of any case may twist and turn as it is presented, but it will always come back to the central theme. However, skill is involved in keeping listeners attention.

Gifted storytellers know that there is a delicate balance between giving too much information and not providing enough. For a lawyer, this is accomplished by weaving the theme throughout their legal argument and factual presentations.

If too much information is provided, it can have the opposite effect and leave the presiding judge or courtroom distracted. The goal is to give a brief that will resonate with the court on both an emotional and intellectual level.

Nevertheless, the court does not want to feel as though they have been overtly swayed with emotion. That is why experienced attorneys know how to craft their arguments artfully.

The Aspect of Human Controversy

At its core, legal disputes are based on the fallibility of human nature and controversy. In other words, in the end, the court wants to know what led to the legal dispute and how it should be resolved.

As a society, we are intrigued by controversies and true crime. Flip through cable network channels on any given night, and examples will be waiting for you. However, the day-to-day activities of a lawyer and criminal behavior are generally not covered by the media. Those features are reserved for more sensational tales that capture our imaginations which we will discuss in our next article.

If you are facing a legal dispute I welcome you to contact me and schedule a consultation.

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Legal Disclaimer: The information provided on this site does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship and is for general informational purposes only. Attorney Brad H. Ferguson has not been involved in any cases mentioned on this blog. Content provided does not constitute legal advice and may not represent the most up-to-date information. No reader of this site should act or refrain according to the information given without first seeking legal counsel in their jurisdiction. If you have a pressing legal matter that needs attention, please contact our office via phone to schedule a consultation at 828-452-1655.