This post is somewhat of a departure from my "usual" posts about liens and other important (but dry )material and it is also a huge departure from my normal practice of completely ignoring "friend spam." What's "friend spam"? Well, you know how you get those "chain emails" from Friends or Friends of Friends about a "Thought for the Day" or other inspirational material? That's "friend spam".
At any rate, the 3 minute video below came through my email from a friend and I dared to click on it. It's a little cheesy, potentially apocryphal, and it ends with an advertisement for what may even be a pseudo-religious employee training service. And yet, I'm reposting it even though it violates many of my cardinal rules for reposting. So why? Why would I re-post this?
First if all, even trial hardened lawyers need to be a little mushy from time to time, right?
But more importantly, I think this video reminds us about how to effectively try a case and prepare witnesses. In the story, Johnny the Bagger manges to break through the mundane world of grocery shopping by connecting with his customers on an emotional level with a simple but genuine gesture.
How does this apply to jury trials? First off, most jurors come into the courtroom with a deep set of unrealistic expectations about trials and often a mindset that is "anti-plaintiff." After decades of insurance company propaganda, Jurors often start out by thinking they can not trust the plaintiff or their lawyer because they "want something." The Plaintiff's lawyer has a monumental task of overcoming these perceptions while also juggling a long "to do" list of minimum evidence requirements.
In the pressure of trial, making sure we cross off our "to do" list, we often forget that we MUST connect on some visceral level with our jurors. Our clients can not simply clinically spout off a list of symptoms and economic losses. It is our job to find a subject that breaks through the perceptions and connects the jurors and the plaintiff on an emotional level.
I find that when I prep even the most stoic witness, there is usually one subject or another that can get them emotionally stirred up. I wish I could say it was always the same subject, but it never seems to be. Often it is how the Plaintiff perceives the emotional impact of the injury on the family. But that "a-ha" testimony never seems to come in the abstract. It only comes in story telling. It happens when I say, "Look, I hear you when you say this injury has impacted your family, but tell me one story, give me one example of how you figured that out."
Once I hear that story, the story that makes my client get misty eyed, I never ask about it again, until trial. I don't tell my client I am going to ask about it. I want my client to be raw for a moment, I want them to be emotional, I even want them to be (emotionally) messy and uncomfortable.
I want them to be real.
The video I watched this morning reminded me that being real is so important in what we do. How do you "stay real"? When do you let your guard down? As lawyers, we have so many roles to fulfill in trial that it is very easy to become mechanistic. What gets you out of that non-emotional role and shows the jury that this is not just another case for you, but a real person with real injuries?
If you can't answer the question easily, watch this video, see if it makes you feel something, and then take a moment to figure out how you can translate that feeling.
The video link