Monthly Archives: October 2011

Hot Coffee – Movies for Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

26 October 2011

From Katherine:

The controversial legal documentary HOT COFFEE is gaining all kinds of momentum and it certainly bears watching by attorneys who try cases for a number of reasons. The McDonald’s Case, which launched a great cultural tidal wave in the way that Americans look at courtroom justice, is the subject matter. If you try cases you know that you deal with this case and the OJ case – and will do so into the future. It really doesn’t matter if you are a proud consumer attorney or loathe them and call them “ambulance chasers”, the movement surrounding this film is growing and real and you need to pay attention to it.

Some facts, counselor — director/producer Susan Saladoff spent 25 years as an attorney. The film was a selection at both Sundance AND at Silverdocs. It has been featured on HBO Documentaries, is coming out on DVD November 1st, and Ms. Saladoff appears on The Colbert Report October 25, 2011 in addition to her many other television and radio appearances.

Now, my opinion, counselor. If you use visuals in the courtroom – and if you don’t, then the jurors believe that you are everything from “cheesy” to “uncaring” to “unprepared” (just to quote a few) – this is the ULTIMATE courtroom storytelling video. As you watch it, please think to yourself from time to time, “I wonder if I could get away with showing something like this in court?” Challenge yourself. This is unrestricted persuasive visual courtroom storytelling. Before you say “no way can I do this with my cases!” ask someone. There are many visual consultants who do trial work – you can find a number of them on the American Society of Trial Consultants website who can help you.

TIP: Are your visuals telling a compelling story?

Father Of The Bride – Movies for Lawyers – The Act Of Communication Point Of View

11 October 2011

From Katherine:

It is happening again. Our second (and last!) child is getting married and part of my mother of the groom preparation involves watching my favorite wedding movie of all time: the 1950 version of FATHER OF THE BRIDE.

I love this movie. I can it watch any time, anywhere. I am not alone – it is considered a beloved classic by many film buffs. It was directed by the great Vincente Minnelli and stars the always brilliant Spencer Tracy and the breathtakingly young Elizabeth Taylor.

I don’t know how in all the times I’ve seen this movie I didn’t think about the fact that Spencer Tracy’s character, Stanley T. Banks, is an attorney. His profession is not important in the film except to establish him as someone who is wealthy enough at the end of the day to pay for the every growing price tag for his daughter’s wedding. But I think that the lesson of that professional choice for a character bears fruit for attorneys who watch it.

When the film was made, the studio system was still in place. Spencer Tracy’s deal was with MGM. He was obligated to make the films that they wanted him to make for the most part. Father Of The Bride was one of those obligations. In fact, the lore is that he loathed the script, the making of the film, everything about it. He thought it was ridiculous, and that his whole career was going down the drain and that he would never be taken seriously as an actor again. A consummate professional, he turned in a spotless performance, even while thinking that it was his acting death knell. Instead, it turned out to be the film and the character for which he is best known and best remembered and best loved.

Sometimes when I work with the real life Stanley T. Banks of the world they feel just that way about the case. More than one time a panicked attorney will say to me, “The reason you are here is so that when this whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket no one can turn around and sue me for not pulling out all the stops.” And, in spite of fear, terror, and the risk that their futures are on the line, they pull themselves together and do their consummate professional best where it counts – in the courtroom. And I am thrilled each and every time. Just as I am when I watch Spencer Tracy’s performance in this film.

Whether watching it for the first or millionth time there is one scene that attorneys should watch with care. It takes place in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor find themselves together, both victims of jittery wedding nightmares. But Tracy puts his terror aside easily and instinctively and comforts his daughter. It is a scene I find played out in preparation rooms all over the country and for all time between attorneys and their clients. When watch this scene, know that I am giving you a standing ovation every time you replicate it in your own practice.

TIP: Never let them see you sweat.