On June 11, we celebrated the birth of our first grandchild. A baby girl. We have two sons…a married lawyer, who just had the baby girl, and a rock ‘n roller, about to be married in October. Family has always been a central part of our lives. Our parents all live near us and are in increasing need of our care…3 left and we feel blessed.
During the birth week, the cable channels were playing PARENTHOOD. Now, this film was released in 1989 and has always been a favorite and one that I will almost always stop and watch if I flip by the channel when it is on. But, now with the addition of a new generation in our lives, the film has taken on a new significance.
Bill Moyers, the wonderful journalist, says that the birth of a grandchild has to make you an optimist. You must be convinced that the world will survive and that things will be better in the future. I agree.
This sprawling, multi-generational, multi-plotted film is brilliant in so many ways. But, what lessons does it have for trial lawyers?
Well, I was struck by two things: point of view and theme.
There are many points of view in this story and many stories within the film. In film, switching point of view can be done in many ways – a jump cut, a black out, or simply beginning a new scene in a new place with different people. In live communication, it is a little trickier. You still have many tools at your disposal.
Pause, silence, move to a new physical spot in the room, a new tone of voice, a different pitch or volume. All of these can help the listener understand that you are now switching to a new topic or a new point of view. And as a trial lawyer, you must become a master STORYTELLER and that demands that you master all of the tools above….and more. A fully relaxed and modulated voice, a full range of pitch and a detailed understanding of vocal patterns and inflections. And most especially, when telling a complex story with many characters and more than one point of view it is imperative to clearly mark each change so the listener, judge and/or jury, can follow.
In PARENTHOOD, all the stories were connected by a common theme. This is another important lesson from this film for the trial lawyer. Locating and developing an overriding, overarching theme that connects all stories and all points of view into a unified whole.
Do yourself a favor and watch this film again and keep these two points in mind.
TIP: Are you clearly delineating and marking the changes in the story and the point of view? Find a unifying theme, an overriding theme, that connects all aspects of your story and all the stories of your case.