People remember stories, not facts. As children, we are enthralled by stories. The same holds true for adults. A gifted story-teller captures your imagination and takes you places where you have never been.
I learned this when I attended a month-long program for trial lawyers at the Spence Trial Lawyers College in September 2016. The training is multi-faceted but storytelling is a crucial element. The College teaches that we need to know our own stories so we can effectively tell the stories of others. Lawyers are fundamentally mouth-pieces, we speak for and on behalf of our clients, whether they are injured in an accident or the criminally accused. Learning how to tell their stories is a fundamental part of our role as advocates.
There are many ways to learn the story: At Trial Lawyers College we use a variety of techniques such as role-reversal, scene-setting, chair back (learning the real emotion behind the feelings), and psychodrama. Our goal is to get beyond “facts” to the layers of feeling underneath. By understanding the feelings and emotions, we are in the best position to tell a jury the truth about what happened and how it impacted our clients. But first, the lawyer needs to go to that place with her client.
Take for example a simple car crash. Many years ago, shortly after my second child was born, I was on my way home from an errand. I was relieved to have an hour or two to myself with two young children at home. For some reason, I borrowed my dad’s car probably because I needed to leave my car with car seats in case he needed to go out. While I waited at a traffic light to turn onto the freeway, I was struck suddenly from behind by a large commercial truck. He must have been going about 25 mph because the force of the impact pushed my car into the car ahead of me. I swear he was on his cell phone since there was no other explanation for his utter carelessness and inattention.
During my recovery, I could not hold my infant son. Nor could I pick up and play with my almost-four-year-old daughter. But there was more to this story. Just a few short months before, I had been on bed rest because of complications of pregnancy with my son. For four months, I could not pick up my daughter, who desperately wanted and needed my attention. I had to arrange for other parents to take care of her every day, as I could not. I could not cook or clean for my family. I was not allowed to leave the house, other than to go to the doctor. Needless to say, it was a stressful and depressing time, one I would not wish on anyone. Finally, after our son was born, I was able to get back to my life, that of being a present and loving mother and wife. But because of this young man’s carelessness, I was right back where I had been, unable to be a caregiver and instead needing care myself. I was angry, sad and frustrated. I wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted to be.
I learned the emotion behind this crash and how it impacted me during a session at the Trial Lawyers College. It was more than just an unpleasant “accident” but had a profound and lasting effect on me and my parenting. Through these techniques of understanding the “real” story, we can learn our clients’ stories. This is what makes us human. It builds connection, trust, and empathy. Through this process, we can show a jury the truth behind what happened to our client and the profound ways their injuries affect them.
I am proud to be a lawyer and proud to represent people who have been injured through no fault of their own. I love learning my client’s stories and getting to know each and every one. I am grateful for the trust my clients have given me. Each client is an opportunity to connect on a deeper, more fundamental level. I hope to be able to portray that to a jury.
Whether you have been injured in a car crash, from medical negligence, or injured on someone else’s property, the lawyers at Maxwell Graham, P. S. are here to help you. Give our office a call at 206-527-2000.