Winning With Stories:
Using the Narrative to Persuade in
Trials, Speeches & Lectures
By Jim M. Perdue
State Bar of Texas, 2006
Reviewed by Janet H. Moore
"Trial advocates achieve the greatest success by approaching a trial as if they were directing a play.” So says Jim M. Perdue in his new information-packed book, Winning with Stories: Using the Narrative to Persuade in Trials, Speeches and Lectures.
Perdue crafts a thorough, detailed and entertaining book full of good analysis and helpful speaking tips.
Plaintiffs’ trial lawyers who handle personal injury cases will clearly benefit most from the book. Perdue peppers the book with examples of plaintiff-oriented trial tactics, including powerful closing summations in personal injury cases. He also dedicates a section of the book to American core values that “work for plaintiffs”; the author explains how various values, such as “Honesty Will Eventually Be Rewarded,” can be developed by trial lawyers to the plaintiffs’ advantage.
Even defense lawyers will learn a lot from the book. Perdue shares general advice about trial tactics, including how to negate a case’s negatives, practice cross-examination storytelling, and inspire juries with trial stories.
As its title promises, the book also provides general tips to help lawyers who give speeches and lectures. Perdue explains how describing colors, sights and sounds can give anyone’s public discourse a powerful punch. Although primarily geared for trial lawyers, Perdue also advises speakers about how to dress appropriately and make meaningful hand gestures.
The author shares many insights on choosing cognitive themes and metaphors. He includes dozens and dozens of sample similes, analogies, quotations, anecdotes, humorous stories, and poems—all of which can be used effectively in public speaking. Multiple indices in the back of the book make it easy to locate quotations and stories by theme.
The book truly celebrates storytelling as a cornerstone of a trial lawyer’s practice. According to Perdue, “The trial lawyer’s commitment and dedication to the rule of law comes from three thousand years of enlightenment as humanity has searched for the meaning of justice. Every benchmark in this quest tells a story.”
Janet H. Moore, JD, provides executive coaching and consulting for lawyers through International Lawyer Coach, Inc. She is a member of the editorial board of The Houston Lawyer.
Classic Movie Review
The War of the Roses
Directed by Danny DeVito, 1989
Starring Michael Douglas,
and Danny DeVito
Based on a novel by Warren Adler
Reviewed by Sharon Cammack
The Roses are getting a divorce—and what a divorce it is. Having decided that the grass is definitely greener on the other side of the street, Barbara Rose announces to her husband of many years, Oliver, that she wants a divorce; and would he please move out of the house. Barbara wants the house, which she so immaculately decorated, so badly that she is willing to forego a claim on the remainder of the couple’s estate. Of course, Oliver refuses to move out, the battle lines are drawn, and the war is on! The couples’ volleys and cutting insults, coupled with increasingly vicious actions toward each other, make clear their relationship is one of hate. This is no “civilized” divorce.
Kathleen Turner, with impeccable comedic timing, is deliciously wicked as Barbara Rose. Michael Douglas plays Oliver Rose, a by-the-book, methodical man, who finds himself swept up in the emotional turmoil that Barbara’s announcement brings. Danny DeVito, who also directed the film, fills the role of Gavin D’Amato, Oliver’s lawyer. Interestingly enough, Gavin, the “divorce” lawyer, is the only rational adult in this entire situation – no lawyer bashing here. Despite Gavin’s admonition that, ‘There is no winning! Only degrees of losing!, the Roses’ are intractable, uncompromising and down-right stubborn – not viable candidates for mediation.
Watching this 1989 classic tale of a divorce gone wrong is like watching a train wreck; you know you should look away, yet you can’t help but watch in horrified fascination, while laughing your way to the movie’s inevitable, tragically funny conclusion. Directed by Danny DeVito, the movie is an often farcical treatment of a serious subject – a long-term marriage now driven entirely by hate. This clever, biting comedy never lets up as it moves at an increasingly manic pace toward the final ‘battle’ in the war of the Roses.
Sharon Cammack practices with the firm of Short Jenkins Kamin LLP, where she focuses exclusively on family law matters. She is the associate editor in charge of Media Reviews for The Houston Lawyer.
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