Legal Advocacy as Interactive Storytelling. An advocate employs similar techniques to those used to tell interactive stories in a totally different medium: video games

AuthorMark Yohalem
Pages5-8
Appellate Practice
American Bar Association Litigation Section
Winter 2022, Vol. 41 No. 2
© 2021 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be
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of the American Bar Association.
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December 21, 2021
Legal Advocacy as Interactive Storytelling
An advocate employs similar techniques to those used to tell
interactive stories in a totally different medium: video
games.
By Mark Yohalem
It is by now a familiar adage that an effective litigator must be a skillful storyteller. Like all
storytellers, litigators must take the chaotic, tedious, confusing material of life and weave it
into a tale well toldthematic, exciting, and clear. The tale needs a compelling beginning, a
satisfying ending, and a logical through line running between them. It needs a moral. And it
needs a protagonist.
But who is the protagonist? For many years, the advice I received was that sometimes the
protagonist is one’s client (in a traditional heroic story) and sometimes the party on the
other side (in an antiheroic story). In this article, I propose that the best protagonist of a
legal story is the decision maker: the panel, judge, or jury. The decision makers’ act of
deciding takes them from outside the story to inside it. Because their decisions drive the
story’s course and resolve its conflict, the purpose of the story is to give those decisions a
context that leads inexorably to the resolution that the advocate wants.
To effectively tell this kind of interactive story, in which the audience is also the
protagonist, an advocate employs similar techniques to those used to tell interactive stories
in a totally different medium: video games. Examining the parallels can help us hone our
legal advocacy.
Law and Video Games: Interactive Narratives
Interactive stories are fluid precisely because the audience is active. The author of a book
or screenplay decides how the story proceeds; the audience’s only job is to read and watch.
But the audience in a legal dispute or a video game is not passive. The audience decides.
And each choice changes the trajectory of the story. Said another way, lawyers, or video
game writers, act as storytellers for a story that is still unfolding. To bring that story to a

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