Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law
by DOUGLAS O. LINDER and NANCY LEVIT (Oxford University Press, 2013?)
The Good Lawyer

About The Good Lawyer


Introductory Note

The Good Lawyer is Courageous

The Good Lawyer is Empathetic

The Good Lawyer Has a Passion for Justice

The Good Lawyer Values Others in the Legal Community

The Good Lawyer Uses Both Intuition and Deliberative Thinking

The Good Lawyer Thinks realistically About the Future

The Good Lawyer Serves the True Interests of Clients

The Good Lawyer Has Ample Willpower

Seeking Quality


Random Facts

The Happy Lawyer

Excerpt from Chapter 9:
The Good Lawyer Is Persuasive


            A good story is built around a theme, of course, and themes are best advanced using emotional or visual content that a judge or a jury will remember.  Popular ABA Journal columnist Jim McElhaney says it’s a “basic principle” that “if the judge and jury don’t remember the important parts of your case, they aren’t going to want you to win.” Word pictures, or images are so essential to effective communication that David Ball contends that a “trial attorney without images is like an art book without pictures.”  Competitors in memory championships (yes, there is a circuit of memory competitions around the globe) know that creating unusual and vivid visual images is the best technique for encoding information in their brains.  They frequently employ “memory castles” in which every room is the site of an activity that triggers an association with a thing sought to be remembered.  The point is that images stick in our brains the way free-floating facts or contentions don’t.

            Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her recent memoir, recalls a lesson she learned while working in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.  She came to see the state’s case as “the story of the crime” and saw as her job identifying the “particulars that make a story real.”  Sotomayor writes, “In examining witnesses, I learned to ask general questions to elicit details with powerful sensory associations: the colors, the sounds, the smells that lodge an image in the mind and put the listener in the burning house.” 

            Defense attorney Barry Slotnick, defending Bernhard Goetz, who seriously injured four men in a New York City subway car, compared his client’s actions to that of “a trapped rat,” not a “Rambo.”  Clarence Darrow, defending two teenage killers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, argued against the penalty of death by taking the judge who would decide the fate of the two young men right to their possible execution: “I can picture them, wakened in the gray light of morning, furnished a suit of clothes by the state, led to the scaffold, their feet tied, black caps drawn over their heads, stood on a trap door, the hangman pressing a spring, so that it gives way under them; I can see them fall through spaceand stopped by the rope around their necks.” Gerry Spence once took the unusual approach of filing a brief with the Court of Claims that consisted entirely of a few pages of cartoons drawn for him by his brother.  Even though the brief lacked a single citation to a reported case, he won the case—probably to the amazement of his opponent.  Spence argues lawyer’s papers “should be fun to read.”  (We do not endorse, by the way, reducing every argument to a series of cartoons, but boring judges or jurors out of their minds breeds resentment and cannot be helpful to your case.)