Winning Cases by Telling a Story

Once upon a time, long ago but not too far away, there was a law firm associate who was working up a case for a senior trial partner with the hope of delivering a well-prepared pre-trial and trial plan.

The associate proudly presented all the miscellaneous supporting legal authorities and the various favorable facts. But what was the senior trial partner’s response? “Stop!”

That’s right. While the case had been researched and assembled in great detail, the senior trial partner said more fully — “Stop! Where is my story?”

The associate was stunned and meekly asked, “Story?”

The senior trial partner replied: “Go away, and do not come back until you have developed a story that I can tell to the judge and jury.”

This was a powerful revelation for the associate. He realized for the first time that the art of trying to win a legal case was not simply being the most detailed and well-organized attorney in the courtroom. Far from it. Judges and jurors are human beings and a case, to be successful, must be relatable. Presenting a case as a coherent story makes a case relatable.

The associate went back to all of his prior case workup. He developed an overarching theme from the bits and pieces of laws and facts that ultimately told a compelling and winning story.

A week after the initial conversation with the senior trial partner, the associate came back to the partner’s office. The partner sat back in his chair, and the associate told the story for the trial. When the associate was done, the senior trial partner was silent. After a long pause, he clapped his hands with happy applause and he said, “There is one more thing for you to do — your mission will be complete when you find for me the best pastrami sandwich near the courthouse.”

The associate fulfilled this last task, the trial was won, and the associate went on over the years to try his own victorious cases — always telling relatable stories.

And now that you have successfully reached the end of this blog, yes, that associate was none other than your very own blogger.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is of counsel in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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