Monthly Archives: September 2011

Salvation Boulevard – Movies for Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

22 September 2011

From Katherine:

I don’t know how we missed SALVATION BOULEVARD when it came out this summer – but was surely glad we found it in a hotel room this week. Filmmaker George Ratliff offers up a dark comedy exploring the modern day phenomenon of mega churches. It’s clear from reading the reviews of others that many didn’t get as big a kick out of the plot of this one as I did…but what we all agree on is that the cast is not only amazing, but individually and collectively they shine brighter than the sun. In fact, I think that it is for one and all one of the highlight performances of an already stellar career. And that’s a lot to say of a cast that includes, among others, Pierce Brosnan, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kinnear, Ciáran Hinds and Jennifer Connelley.


They are clearly having the best time of their lives doing this film. We’ve seen each and every one of these stars in other films. We know that each is brilliant and can be pretty darned funny. BUT it is one thing to be funny.  It is another to have fun while doing a project – so much fun that it spills over into your performance. So much so that each performance sparkles with delight.

What can attorneys learn from this?

Clearly George Ratliff, when he was directing this show, made the set a pleasure. Each actor was given just what she or he needed in order to feel confident, secure, and free to simply have a blast. Take it as far as possible while keeping it real. Allow each individual to soar – and thereby – making the whole even greater than the sum of its parts.

How often have I worked on trial teams that operated just this way? Always when I have this experience there is a leader at the helm who truly wants each member to shine, and fosters an atmosphere that allows “magic” to happen.  Is there a greater joy or pleasure?

As you watch this film, the “best work” of everyone is clearly evident. It is as good a measure of leadership for any trial lawyer as I have seen in a film recently. Oh – and enjoy!

TIP: Are you getting sparkling performances from your trial team?

Freck Point Trial and Garage Movie – Movies For Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

14 September 2011

From Katherine:

When Ron Clark, A Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Seattle University School of Law asked us to blog about his “movie” for Legal Stage we were intrigued. He said, “Write about Freck Point Trial and Garage Movie – you’ll find it in the back of the third edition of the law school textbook I co-authored, Trial Advocacy: Planning, Analysis and Strategy.”

What a great education tool for law professors and law students!

You know how in most trial advocacy courses, you have a professor lecturing about various aspects of trial advocacy and students learning by doing? Can you imagine if you added to this, students also getting to watch a whole trial, conducted by top notch trial attorneys, demonstrating everything from style, to substance, strategy and to how to use up to the minute technology in the courtroom? Can you imagine as a law school professor, getting to comment on all the aspects of trial as demonstrated by this great repertory company of your colleagues? From Voire Dire through Closing Argument, students and professors can watch and discuss every aspect of this “Trial Demonstration Movie.”

I was clearly impressed by many things about this great educational tool. For example, The Voire Dire demonstration showed many commonly asked courtroom Voire Dire questions. But what I really enjoyed was the true to life facial responses of the jurors when thinking about the questions. Most attorneys I know say that the first time they really understood that jurors need to be “read” was the first time they struck a jury.

I also was really impressed by the attorneys “outside the courtroom” discussing their strategy, their feelings about the judge, etc. with the “interviewer.” Again, this gives the student a real life experience and the professor the opportunity to comment on that real life experience.

Finally, I want to point out that every single attorney doing the demonstrations during this “mega” trial had a completely different style and demeanor. How great is this both for the student to learn that there are “many” ways to be a great lawyer, and for a professor to be able to comment on various styles. We meet every stripe of trial lawyer from one who loves being an intense demonstrative storyteller, to another who is just friendly and relaxed and a “best friend”, to another who is respectful and business like, to yet another who is the essence of “reason.” Brilliant.

It is clear that this isn’t a movie made by professionals from Hollywood. But it is more than abundantly clear that this is a film made by legal professionals who want students to get a leg up on what the real world is all about. I highly recommend it.

TIP: If you are teaching trial advocacy, think way outside the box!




The Debt – Movies For Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

6 September 2011

From Alan:

THE DEBT is an adult, intelligent and captivating thriller. International intrigue and WWII and Nazis and Israeli agents from Mosad…the pace, the cutting, the music, the plot and the extraordinary acting all combine to make this a film for thinking people. And it is a continuous build of suspense. Which brings me to my point…what can lawyers learn from this film?

Of course there is a great story, that is essential. But it is the SEQUENCING in the telling of the story that is what you should look to, if you can remember while being propelled and sucked in to this remarkable journey.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end. And, in court, as we have always advocated, the end should instruct the jury, arbitrator, mediator or judge. But the question always arises as to, where do you begin the story?

We have always suggested starting at the juiciest place…the “sexiest” part…a grabber. And one classic way to do this is how THE DEBT begins…with what seems like the end. This is a tried and true and very effective way of having a narrative unfold. Begin at the end. And in the case of this film, a very dramatic, action-filled and gripping end. Then, rewind, as it were, and tell the story leading up to that first image/section. The audience/listeners will have a sense of familiarity, of being in on it, and there is a lot to be gained by this.

Another complication in this particular narrative is that the story takes place in two different times…with the same group of characters. During WWII and in 1997. So, there are two simultaneous narratives developing. And both of these employ this same principle of moving back through time. From the end to the beginning. And eventually, some of that conflates in the contemporary plot. By then, we are so taken in and caught up that we rejoice, or at least Katherine and I did, in knowing and hoping and wondering and being surprised by what is happening.

Often, in your cases, there are complex, interweaving narratives. When telling a story live, in court, it is essential to have some physical anchor, a place where you stand in the room, for each of these narratives. With this physical anchor clear and secure, it is possible to have multiple narratives unfold, intercut and happen at the same time. In film, of course, the editing, the cutting, allows the filmmaker to move us in place and time. In court, you have the burden of doing that yourself. Of course if you try it and become adept you will feel the power and synergy of building the narrative and suspense of multiple stories simultaneously. Try it. Rehearse. It will be hard at first, but it will get to be fun. And it is very effective.

TIP: Try telling your story from the end first, then rewind back to the start. And, try telling multiple narratives simultaneously. Rehearse, practice. Choose a case that benefits from these techniques. You will gain so much.