Tuesday, November 7, 2006
Posted by Alan Childress
Last week, I posted Nancy Rapoport's abstract on Hollywood's effect on the behavior of young lawyers, as well as our comments after it on movie role models like Atticus Finch and Whiplash Willie. Jeff's weekly Top Ten list includes a SSRN-posted article by Ruth Anne Robbins (Rutgers-Camden, right ) called "Harry Potter, Ruby Slippers and Merlin: Telling the Client's Story using the Characters and Paradigm of the Archetypal Hero's Journey." It is really about the flip-side to Professor Rapoport's piece because it is more about how Hollywood images affect judges in processing and deciding trials and appeals. It is more in the nature of a skills lesson, beyond the usual storytelling how-to advice. Its abstract:
This article focuses on the relationship of mythology and folklore heroes to everyday lawyering decisions regarding case theory when the audience is a judge or panel of judges rather than a jury. It proposes the thesis that because people respond - instinctively and intuitively - to certain recurring story patterns and character archetypes, lawyers should systematically and deliberately integrate into their storytelling the larger picture of their clients' goals by subtly portraying their individual clients as heroes on a particular life path. This strategy is not merely a device to make the story more interesting but provides a scaffold to influence the judge at the unconscious level by providing a metaphor for universal themes of struggle and growth.
Sounds interesting, though one must assume that she does not specifically recommend arguing to the panel of Judges Posner, Easterbrook, and Woods that your client is the Good Witch Glenda and therefore deserves to win. (Actually, to be fair, one of the reasons Posner's opinions are often interesting and much-quoted in casebooks may be that his writing style -- especially in laying out the facts -- can be at times more like Hollywood screenwriting than was Cardozo's style; his writing may be consistent with this rhetorical strategy [Posner seems to set up the players as archetypes too].) At any rate, her paper follows a 2001 article coauthored with Brian Foley, on a skills-training model based on novels, "Fiction 101: A Primer for Lawyers on How to Use Fiction Writing Techniques to Write Persuasive Facts Sections." This was recently noted and made downloadable on the Idealawg blog by lawyer Stephanie West Allen, and is linked here in full text format from a different website (and here is its SSRN site).