Facts Tell, Stories Sell

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Develop your storytelling skills and you’ll automatically improve your powers of persuasion with judges and juries. Here’s an easy technique for becoming a better storyteller so you can win more cases.

The best and most persuasive lawyers are master storytellers. They develop a theme and weave the facts of their cases through their theme. People listen. And when they hear the facts, they are led to the theme. The theme of the lawyer’s case invariably leads listeners to the lawyer’s conclusion. Whether it is a prosecution ending in a verdict of “guilty,” a defense ending in “not guilty,” a verdict for the plaintiff, or a verdict of “no cause,” the verdict is the result of the jury or judge buying the theme presented by one of the lawyers.

Why storytelling is hard for you

As lawyers, we know this. We have witnessed it. Why is it so hard to DO it? The main reason is because no one has ever taught us how to tell a story, or to make up a theme. All of our training has been to break down a story. To analyze the story into its parts so that we can subject it to our scrutiny. 

If you remember taking your bar exam, you will probably remember ignoring the story and simply spotting the parts of the story that were important. This test was the result of years of training you to ignore the story and to find its parts. Your professors did not ask you about the story in the cases that you studied; he or she asked you about its parts. You had to find parts, and then analyze them. Your training can be summed up as “just the facts, just the facts.” 

I say: Facts tell but stories sell.

If you lose attention, you lose the case

Good stories keep our attention. If we lose the attention of those we are trying to persuade, we lose the case. Your story has to keep the attention of the listener. 

Yet you have not been rewarded for developing and telling stories. Let’s look at what makes a good story and what gives us the power to breathe life into our stories. We have to walk before we can run, so let’s start with an easy, no-pressure way to develop the skill of the great persuaders. We’ll start with a simple exercise.

An easy way to practice storytelling

If you have children, they will be a great help to your play. Have them pick three things. These can be anything. Let them give you three random things. My kids would pick things like: a bike, the moon, and a squirrel. Using these random three things, tell them a story. 

Weave the story. Trust yourself to let the three things show up naturally. Watch them as they wait, poised to jump. Watch their delight when you get around to including the three things in your story. Watch also how they give your story their attention, waiting, while you weave around and around. See their responses as you give life to those three things, the things they picked, as they show up in your story. 

You will find that they will hang on your words, and you will find what it is like to have all of the attention in the room.

If you do not have children, you can find some; kids love to hear a story. If no kids are around, you can play your game with a friend or your spouse. Let them in on your game. You may find that they are more than willing to put their phone down long enough for you to tell them your story, using their three things. 

If you’re alone, grab a pen and a pad; pick three random things. Write them down, then weave your story. Read it after you have written it. You may find a new delight as you see that you can tell stories, beautiful stories.

The more you play, the better you’ll be

If you play with this, you’ll find it improving your work as a lawyer. You will find facts in cases and will find that you have the ability to weave those facts into incredibly persuasive stories. You will find that stories sell.

The more you play, the better storyteller you will be. You’ll become better at writing your own story – one good enough to keep you own attention and the attention of others.

Want more advice for your law career?

If you liked this article and would like more advice on navigating everyday life as a legal professional, consider getting in touch with me via my mentoring program, You-Turn Mentoring, to schedule a free call.