Storytelling: A Powerful Tool for Winning Your Case

Posted on 06-23-2017 by
Tags: litigation , story , storytelling

story quote from Plato

Storytelling: Master it, and you’ll have the jury hanging on your every word. 

Storytelling is a powerful tool of influence.  

Think back to Netflix’s Making a Murderer. If you watched it, you probably developed an opinion based on the story. And likely, your opinion started and ended with how (and how well) the story was told to you.

Or what about the movie Spotlight, which won an Oscar for Best Picture?

When you finished the movie (i.e., the story), did you round out the facts with more research?

Or was your opinion set before the credits started rolling?

Stories: Where They Get Their Influential Power

In the Fast Company article, Why Storytelling Is The Ultimate Weapon, storytelling is lauded as:

“…more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.”

Good stories are powerful tools of influence because they’re absorbing and emotionally moving. Weave a good story and you weaponize your words.  You cause listeners to drop their guard and leave them defenseless. The Fast Company article goes on to say that:

“Master storytellers want us drunk on emotion so we will lose track of rational considerations, relax our skepticism, and yield to their agenda.”

But stories aren’t just for storytellers.

Stories are for lawyers too; stories are a litigator’s weapon of influence.

words have power quote 

Swaying Juries: The Story-Method 

Preeminent litigator James Wagstaffe, of Kerr & Wagstaffe, used storytelling to win a wrongful termination lawsuit against Bio-Rad Laboratories. Through storytelling, Wagstaffe persuaded the jury, resulting in a multi-million dollar verdict for his client.

Speaking to The Recorder, Wagstaffe noted that the “need to tell and hear stories is primal” and that “[t]rial lawyering is part of that primal need.”

Good stories speak to a jury’s desires—jurors want to hear a good story.

emotional jury

So, what makes a good story?

The Recorder offers some clues, mentioning Wagstaffe’s tendency to cite historical and cultural references. It also has this to say:

“Wagstaffe also attempts self-deprecation when talking to the jury, he said. He tells jokes, he apologizes for the ones that don't land, he teases himself for talking too fast ("J-I-M stands for 'jaws in motion' he said) and, because of an old superstition, he doesn't get a haircut as long as the trial is in session.”

To Tell A Good Story, Hear A Good Story

Need a deeper dive into the power of storytelling? Like Netflix’s Making a Murderer (which I mentioned earlier), the famous NPR podcast, Serial, tells a mesmerizing story. When Serial first broadcast, it captivated the world by dissecting a murder and telling the story surrounding Adnan Syed’s questionable guilt/conviction.

To enhance your storytelling, listen to this episodic story ... not once but several times. Don't have time to listen to all 12 episodes? Then check out these 4 storytelling tips from the co-creator of this blockbuster podcast.

And from this well-told podcast story, there's also an evidence story. To understand this story, consider these 4 evidence lessons from the Serial podcast:

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