And then, suddenly, it changed everything! The 'it' moment.

Byline: Bridgetower Media Newswires

The art of storytelling is the primary skill of a trial lawyer. The old paradigm that we argue cases in court is misleading. The adversarial system is a storytelling contest. Facts, science and logic inform our stories, but the story is the thing. So, what is a story?

A story is a narrative that resonates with the listener because of common experience, even common DNA. A story may move a listener to change if that change is consistent with the listener's existing mindset.

A story has scenes. Scenes are narratives invoking the physical senses, that occur at a specific time in a specific place. A lawyer should try to present key parts of the case in scenes, with vivid descriptive language.

Don't just say, for example, "On Sept. 1, the defendant wrongfully fired the plaintiff."

Instead, set a scene, "Billy Bates works in a dusty old brick building. He walks in coughing, smelling the dirt in the air, seeing it in the sun shining through grimy windows. Joe Snide calls Billy into his office, up flight of stairs, through a door that keeps out the dust, and into the wood paneled, thick green carpeted room. Snide sits at his desk, smoking a cigar."

When the jury visualizes the scene, it becomes real to them. They smell the dirt and cigar smoke. Present tense may be grammatically inelegant, but it is effective.

A story has characters and it reveals character. It is unpersuasive to say, "Joe Snide was a greedy, dishonest man." Facts, not arguments, drive a narrative. It's better to say, "Billy walks up the flight of stairs, opens the office door, smells the clean air. He hears the quiet and smells the cigar."

Snide says, "Bates, I'm telling you for the last time to quit complaining about the dust and your damn cough. I won't warn you again."

The jury visualizes the scene, draws its own conclusions and is wedded to those conclusions far more fiercely than if you had simply told them what to believe.

How do we structure a story? Do real-life scenarios have plots in the same manner as fiction? I still struggle with this concept. I have, however, had wonderful teachers. Not the least of these is Maren Chaloupka, a Nebraska lawyer who introduced me to The Moth. The Moth is a storytelling organization whose method revealed for me a key component of the structure of a story.

Stories have phases. The introduction is where we meet the characters, and the conflicts are first suggested. The middle phase of rising conflict is...

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