Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Iron Lady — Movies for Lawyers — The Act Of Communication Point Of View

25 January 2012

From Katherine:

Oh, dear. Well – you know how I love Meryl Streep. So you won’t mind my asking….what was she thinking when she agreed to do THE IRON LADY? You can’t say I wasn’t warned that it was not a great piece of filmmaking. But, I assure you that you needn’t see this one. I have seen it for all of the people of the village.

What can you, as an attorney, learn from my experience of seeing it (since you yourself are now off the hook)?

Specificity of story. This is a film about Margaret Thatcher. Okay, I don’t like Margaret Thatcher as much as the next person…but…I assumed that by watching this film I was going to be learn all about her and why I should change my mind. Or at least learn what made her who she was and why she ticked.

It was basically a film about an old woman with dementia. That was all we really ever knew about her – that she was some sort of generic old woman with dementia. Now I am not saying that Streep wasn’t brilliant (she was, of course, how could she not be?) and that the make up wasn’t sensational (it was amazing) but The Story. The Story. The Story was missing.

When you look at the trial story of the case you have in front of you – what is it that makes this story unique? Special? One of a kind? Have you done the same case so many times that nothing is interesting or special about this one? Only the name of the plaintiff or defendant has changed?

I’m here to tell you, you can have Meryl Streep as your plaintiff or defendant…your “star” witness…but if you aren’t tuned into the unique details of this case it really won’t matter.

TIP: What is the story that makes this case unique?

A Dangerous Method — Movies for Lawyers — The Act Of Communication Point Of View

11 January 2012

From Katherine:

How I missed Christopher Hampton’s stage play The Talking Cure is beyond me – but luckily I didn’t miss A DANGEROUS METHOD, his screenplay adaptation. Actually, it is a double adaptation, I guess, since he adapted John Kerr’s The Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein.

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. That’s one for each of the three wonderful actors in this piece – Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as Spielrein, Freud and Jung respectively. The story of the foreparents of modern psychology is captivating and filled with pride, envy, love, fear – oh – yes — and the lust is not for the faint of heart. It’s told in these beautifully rendered two person scenes that appear to be completely pristine – perhaps because whenever two people are talking together there is complete silence. No soundtrack. Life flows along at the pace of another time – early twentieth century Europe.

This is a must see for all attorneys and trial consultants. We are all the descendants of Freud and Jung as we wend our way through preparing witnesses, figuring out judges, analyzing jurors, getting into the minds of the other side. Why not get a fabulous glimpse into how it all began? It is the Psychology 101 class I thought I was signing up for freshman year at Illinois Wesleyan. Instead, we made rats bar press for a semester. What can I say? What I learned from this “living history” in two hours is much more valuable a lesson to me both as a theatre artist and as a trial consultant than all those days with Pink Eye (of course I named our team’s rat) could ever have been.

TIP: When do you NOT use psychology when you try a case?

The Artist — Movies for Lawyers — The Act Of Communication Point Of View

4 January 2012

From Alan:

THE ARTIST is that rare gem of a film universally lauded by both critics and the public. And the praise is well deserved. The translucent expression of the lead actors and the powerful support of the entire cast offers a glimpse into the human soul. ALL WITHOUT WORDS.

When we teach attorneys, one of the points we always make is that in the evolution of human communication language is the last piece. Impulse, expression and then language. So, the challenge for the attorney is always to learn to ignite and access the full range of vocal, physical and emotional expression, ALWAYS IN THE SERVICE OF THE LEGAL THEORY AND FACTS OF THE CASE.

Legal education is based upon understanding, evaluating, parsing and specifically using language. And of course we agree that language is important. Often, however what we see are attorneys who have cut themselves off from most other expression except language. Not consciously, but often completely. There is an incorrect fear that other expression is somehow “not appropriate” in the courtroom. Well, that is just wrong. Full human expression is not only welcome, it is essential.

There is much talk lately about the Reptile. Among others, David Ball offers workshops on this concept. The idea that our more primitive brain is what lawyers want to reach….the part of us that reacts, recoils, protects and punishes. The part of us that is, in a sense, pre-verbal.

As you watch this film, feel and see how much is communicated and conveyed WITHOUT ANY LANGUAGE. Even the subtitles are sparse and sometimes, I felt, were an interruption. Watch the full array of human emotion, the full impact of STORY, powerfully given to us without words.

I admit that the music helps a lot.

TIP: Are you accessing your full range of communication? Are you using your heart, your emotions, your body and your mind…or are you trapped in only language?