Narrative Skills and the Law


Course Code:
LAW 669
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


A lawyer who communicates not only in a cerebrally persuasive way, but also in an emotionally gripping way, has an enormous strategic advantage. Judges, jurors, and clients are all human beings, susceptible to compelling stories like everyone else. This course – conducted by a television and film writer who is also a lawyer with experience in all three branches of government, private practice, political campaigns, and a labor union – teaches how to compose an engaging story and how to apply those skills to a variety of legal situations. The first part of the course will cover the art of storytelling on both a theoretical and a practical track. On the theoretical track, students will study story drive; narrative structure; beginnings, middles, and ends; openings; plot and character; exposition; and transitions. The class will have a healthy amount of assigned reading and viewing that illustrate each of these components in literature, drama, and film. On the practical track, students will undertake writing exercises that parallel the theoretical discussion, to develop a first-hand facility with those facets of storytelling. In the second part of the course, students will apply their storytelling insights and skills to specific legal situations: A criminal case. An appellate case. A legislative proposal. A labor negotiation. A public relations crisis. Students will discuss in depth their narrative approaches to these situations, along with those taken by lawyers in other cases in the respective areas. By the end of the course students will have a powerful tool few of their peers will possess, and be able to approach their day-to-day professional challenges in a more effective and confident way.

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