Problems are needed

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin. A story about a man summoned back to Zimbabwe for his father’s death at a time when the nation is spiraling downward due to a dictator. No current political parallel is intended. Rather I pulled this book off the shelf to study different book liner notes. It was a moment of insight into how lawyers can better approach describing our cases. Not just for a jury, but for a judge or the opposition. How do you describe your case? Is it like someone who has just read a wonderful book and excitedly proclaims it is great? Or do you simply state it is an “auto case”, a “wrongful death case”, or maybe a “breach of contract” case? Really? Typically, we all fall into a lifeless legal description. Consider alternatively a description that pulls one in and excites their imagination while stimulating action and a desire to learn more. Lawyers are typically quite busy following the path learned in law school. That is primarily how to do discovery and file motions in an endless effort to gain an advantage in litigation. Is it fair to suggest that lawyers are essentially trained to be emotionless and their communications reflect that commitment? Take for example a “breach of contract” case where a product is not supplied, and the company is forced out of business. Is there consideration of the sleepless nights of the company owner who is losing everything? The jobless employees? The notices of foreclosure? Can you picture putting in a brief to the court insight about how the owner pulls out a gun every night and places it at the temple from the stress and depression of the events? Likely not, nor would I suggest it. However, being real and beyond lifeless facts is important, and how to do it the art. How to be discreet but present and quickly and to the point. Liner notes offer insight. Books are typically complex with many facts and details. A liner note effectively gets you involved and you buy into the product. Like any tool, knowing when and how to use the idea is important. Here is the first paragraph of this liner note. “Peter Godwin is living a comfortable first-world life when he is summoned by his mother to Zimbabwe, his birthplace. His father has suffered a heart attack, and she fears he will soon die. When Godwin returns to his homeland, he finds that his father is not the only thing failing. The country of Godwin’s youth-once one of Africa’s great hopes—is struggling under the power of an embattled dictator, spiraling downward into a vortex of brutality and hatred” What you see in the example is part of a formula. The back story introduces you to the lead character, the problem, and then the surprise which is a problem that invests you in the story, so you care and want to know more. It is an art. I do little justice stating it so simply. I am just learning too. Perhaps it is also your “problem” in your story as a trial lawyer. The problem you overcome, win the big case and change our world to be a better place. Yes, I am talking to you. Good luck let us learn more.

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