Monthly Archives: April 2012

Albert Nobbs — Movies for Lawyers — The Act Of Communication Point Of View

27 April 2012

From Katherine:

Remember when I said back in the Academy Award time of the year that I regretted not seeing Albert Nobbs? Especially not the Oscar Nominated performances of Glenn Close and Janet McTeer?

What a fascinating story. Women living their lives as men in order to work and survive in 19th Century Ireland. Lives of secrecy – lives of hiding. Building prisons of “other” identities in which they feel that they must lock up their true selves – or else they will never make it. Would they? It is hard to know. What is abundantly clear is that any human being trapped in the grand pretense of being another is leading a doomed life.

Glenn Close plays Albert Nobbs, who is “passing” as a manservant in a hotel. Janet McTeer is Hubert, passing as a house painter and living a life as a married man. The performances of the entire cast are wonderful – but – the performances of these two great women of stage and screen are outstanding.

Of course, you might say, an actress would have a lot to learn from two such icons in the world of acting. But what can an attorney learn from watching these performances?

One of the major issues that attorneys who try cases have is that they find themselves building these “other” characters that they play in court. Much like their own private “Albert Nobbs”, they live outside the courtroom as one person, and inside the courtroom as another.

Watch how brilliantly Close and McTeer imitate the opposite sex – but how you are always painfully aware that they are only pretending. That they are painfully inauthentic on some level to themselves and their lives. One of the most touching moments of the film is the image of Close and McTeer, dressed in the clothing of women for an afternoon walk on the beach. Women who live their lives as men dressed as women for a few hours.

That basic awkwardness in one’s own skin is somewhat akin to what I observe in attorneys who are not comfortable in their own skins in court. They have created other personas to inhabit their bodies when in court. Like master actors, they literally turn into someone else as they walk up the courtroom steps. Are you one of these people?

Do you see yourself when you see the transformations of these actresses? Look how subtly Glenn Close’s physical transformation was made by experts in make up and wigs:

You are the one creating your own disguise in court – and you are a master of it. Do you really still need it to survive?

TIP: Are you one person in court and another in real life?

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen — Movies for Lawyers — The Act Of Communication Point Of View

11 April 2012

From Katherine:

When we went to the movies on my birthday, I asked Alan which one on the marquee in front of the small theater in Claremont, California was the best. He said, “Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is going to be a real movie.” That is our code for…well…a real movie. Not only is this romantic comedy a “real movie” with a wonderful message – it is a fabulous movie for one and all to see – especially lawyers.


The brilliance of this amazing cast which is chock full of wonderful British actors offers attorneys who try cases great role models for courtroom demeanor. Pick an actor, any actor from the amazing Emily Blunt to the hilarious Kristin Scott Thomas to the extraordinary Ewan McGregor. Every performance is full, rich, nuanced…and all the emotion is on the inside rather than on the outside of the actor. I am not saying that you don’t know what they are feeling…but…what they are doing IS ALWAYS more important than what they are feeling. The result? The audience is free to relate, emote – and do the majority of feeling. This allows the audience to be moved. Much more important than the actors being moved.

When we teach attorneys, Alan and I often refer to the fact that we were taught by teachers who embraced the Stella Adler interpretation of The Stanislavski System. The question asked is always “what is the actor doing?” In other interpretations of Stanislavski’s work the question asked is “what is the actor feeling?” On stage and on screen this results in lots of hearts on the sleeve kind of indulgence that often does what a great teacher of ours once called “wallowing in the dilemma.”

What can lawyers learn from this? The “show” in the courtroom is not about you and your feelings. We like to think of your role as “the best friend” in a show rather than as “the lead.” The jurors (or whoever else is deciding the case you are trying, mediating or arbitrating) is “the lead.” THEY ARE THE ONES WHO NEED TO BE MOVED. NOT YOU. Lawyers who rant, rave, are the first to cry in the room, etc. put their own need to feel above that of anyone else. If the emotion in the room is all taken up…then whoever is trying your case will step back and turn off their emotions. In other words – NOT BE MOVED.

As you watch this film, imagine it not only with American actors – but with real self indulgent ones. Better yet, imagine it being played by the most outrageous over-the-top lawyers you have ever been in a room with.

TIP: Are you paying more attention to what you are doing than what you are feeling?