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The Social Network – Movies For Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

11 February 2011

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a brilliant must-see movie for every attorney. This is what award winning filmmaking looks like. And, like so many films, it has great learning points for lawyers.


THE SOCIAL NETWORK is a remarkable achievement.

What a brilliant pairing of writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher. I agree with Aaron Sorkin’s comment at the Golden Globes that director David Fincher was able to make typing or talking about typing dramatic. What can attorneys, who most often are pairing with themselves as both writer and director learn from this duo?

When the pairing of these two enormous talents was first announced it was greeted with some skepticism. Sorkin is best known for his extraordinary gifts with language —-rhythm, pace, syntax and the idiosyncratic and rapid exchange in dialogue. Fincher is best known for his intense, dark and brilliant images. Two different kinds of storytellers. One a verbal, intellectual who tells stories with language. And one a master of visual sequencing and someone who tells stories with the camera and the image. How might this marriage work out? Well, of course quite brilliantly.

This is the lesson, I believe, that THE SOCIAL NETWORK offers for lawyers, lawyers as storytellers.

It is essential to have both. Both a keen, clear, active use of language—language based not only in the law but also in the well of human emotion and experience—AND images. Graphics, pictures, symbols. And way of unfolding the narrative that both supports the language and enhances it. Not words blown up in power point or on posters, but non-verbal IMAGES that speak to the unconscious, intuitive reptilian brain of the jury/listeners.

Alan’s Tip: When telling your story in court it is essential to have both a keen, clear, active use of language—language based not only in the law but also in the well of human emotion and experience—AND images.


For every trial lawyer who prepares a witness for deposition, here is a whole new tool. From now on, I am recommending THE SOCIAL NETWORK as required viewing by all witnesses who are getting ready to be deposed.

Why? Let’s start with the most obvious reason. This is actually a legal film whose major through line takes place in a deposition room. Characters are either deposed, are interested parties in the room, or are attorneys in the deposition process.

We are used to legal dramas on stage, big screen and little screen being courtroom dramas. The stars are the attorneys. Not here. The attorneys are secondary characters. The deponents are the stars. Here’s the beauty of using THE SOCIAL NETWORK as a teaching tool…

In real life, the deponents ALWAYS believe that they are the stars. How hard do we have to work to get them to understand that they are NOT the stars? That they should NOT have “all the lines”?

Look at all the great way that director David Fincher and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth shoot those deposition room scenes. The camera’s point of view is that of a deponent. Moreover, everyone in the room seems equal – all characters look like they have equal power in the room. When advising witnesses I often say, “The room is going to feel like you are sitting at a table as an equal. But you aren’t. Imagine you are sitting at the kids’ table at a family gathering. The adults are the lawyers. You are just a kid here. And if you try to take over and run things, you will screw up. You will spill more than just your milk.”

Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenplay gives you so much to teach from. Don’t want a witness volunteering? The character of Eduardo Saverin, played by Andrew Garfield talks and talks and talks and talks. Just what NOT to do when you are deposed. The character of Mark Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg mouths off and fights with whichever lawyer is in his way – whether it is opposing counsel or his own. Just what NOT to do to a lawyer. The brothers Winklevoss, played by Armie Hammer interrupt and argue when they are not being deposed. Just exactly what NOT to do if you are in the room during someone else’s deposition.

There are actually more examples of bad witness behavior than could be recounted here. How perfect. Find your favorites, and point them out to the client you are preparing for deposition. Better yet, once you have your list, assign the client to see the movie and ask the client to make a list of all the “bad witness behavior” and then compare it to your master list.

Thank you, Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher for giving us a brilliantly written and directed deposition teaching tool that we can use for decades to come!

Katherine’s Tip: Make sure that your witness understands that he or she is not the “star” of the deposition – just a bit player.

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