ABA Journal


39 ABA Journal Storytelling articles.

A Tale of Two Careers: Bestselling author advises lawyers who want to also write novels

When my first novel hit bookstores, there was one question my lawyer friends couldn’t help but ask: “Are you going to keep practicing law?” I told them I loved being a lawyer and saw no reason to quit, to which the typical response was something along the lines of “Gee, I’m really sorry, I hope your next book does better.”

‘Show the Brief’: Lawyers can be better communicators by bringing visuals to their briefs

My decision to teach law more than 40 years ago has had the single biggest impact on my professional development. I made the move after working as a public defender in Seattle and as an assistant attorney general. I wanted to deepen my trial skills and thought teaching could help me.

6 storytelling do’s and don’ts for lawyers

Lawyers all over the world struggle with storytelling. To become better storytellers, lawyers need to leave the insulated world of legal practitioners and study what makes other professional storytellers—like novelists, journalists, advertisers and filmmakers—effective.

What’s wrong with legal writing?

By diminishing law students’ belief in the power of storytelling, we rob them of the creativity and legal imagination crucial for effective lawyering, writes Philip N. Meyer, a professor at Vermont Law School and the author of Storytelling for Lawyers.

Films like ‘Adaptation’ can give lawyers a window into how to construct compelling narratives in court

The film Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, is particularly relevant for lawyers struggling with telling stories effectively both inside and outside the courtroom.

Do origin stories define or help refine constitutional interpretation?

All lawyers are storytellers. And Supreme Court justices are not exceptions. Outcomes in constitutional law are typically predicated upon the stories the justices tell—interpretations of foundational “origin stories”—that shape understandings of the law and who we are as a people, writes Philip N. Meyer.

Lessons for lawyers from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs understood the power of great storytelling. And lawyers’ cases, like Jobs’ beloved products, are the embodiments of stories we tell others and ourselves as well. How can we tell those stories better?

Lawyers are the directors and set designers of their courtroom dramas

Litigation unfolds upon a stage in the theater of the courtroom. And while combative, compulsive and closed litigation stories are constrained and shaped by evidentiary and legal rules and the meticulous presentation of factual evidence, lawyers are nevertheless the producers, directors and set designers of their own theatrical courtroom dramas.

Removing the judicial mask: Judges tell the stories behind their most trying decisions

Being a good judge can be lonely and emotionally excruciating. In the remarkable book Tough Cases, 13 trial judges candidly recount their most difficult cases.

Take a note from how Bob Dylan cleverly retrofits traditional melodies to craft a story

For me, the most important law songs, the ones that are closest to my heart, are often not about lawyers at all but instead about themes of justice and injustice. The most remarkable of these songs are by our two greatest folk poets: Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

Da Vinci’s code: Lawyers can draw valuable lessons from Walter Isaacson’s ‘Leonardo da Vinci’

With winter’s chill now in full force, I recall sitting in a beach chair in late August on a spit of sand on the rocky Maine coast reading Walter Isaacson’s…

For Jerome Bruner, the law was made of stories

Jerome Bruner, who died in 2016 at the age of 100, was one of most influential psychologists and interdisciplinary thinkers of the 20th century. Late in his career, Bruner became fascinated with the law. Trial lawyers employ the power of storytelling to, in Bruner’s words, go beyond the information given.

‘Springsteen on Broadway’ gives lawyers 3 storytelling lessons

Bruce Springsteen pares his 500-page autobiography and more than 50 years of songs into three acts with a clear narrative arc.

Eloquent silence teaches lawyers about power of the pause

An appellate prosecutor and a president show how precise timing and use of prolonged silences can enhance presentations and give arguments greater impact.

‘Just Mercy’ author Bryan Stevenson tells stories to change the world

Civil rights attorney, writer and law professor Bryan Stevenson, author of the best-selling Just Mercy, employs well-told stories to reveal the plight of people trapped in the criminal justice system.

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