The Advocate, Vol. 19, No. 6 (November 1997)
Shifting Paradigms at Faubush: From the Legal to the Persuasive

The value of Ft. Knox pales in comparison to the value of the 28 coaches and 132 participants who came to the Kentucky Leadership Center October 12-17, 1997 for a week of creative thinking on how to tell the story of our capital client and learning how to make persuasive critical judgments for our capital clients.

There were 72 Kentucky full-time defenders and 11 Kentucky private attorneys, along with 47 attorneys from Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, New York, Kansas, South Carolina, Indiana and 2 attorneys from Russia.

Of the 132 attorneys present, 44 brought their own, actual case to work on for the week. The others used an Institute case problem. Steve Bright, native of Danville and Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia called the participants to present persuasive theories and themes for life throughout their capital cases. According to Bright, "an advocate's job is to always be persuading to everyone." He identified the most important decisionmaker in the capital process as us, "we can't sell what we don't believe." Teaching how to persuade he said, "resist the temptation to shoot at everything that moves, to challenge everything to the point of making jurors sick of us and rendering us with no credibility."

As he taught voir dire skills, Bob Carran of Covington, Kentucky observed that a persuasive "litigator has to have the legal and technical knowledge but in the courtroom, it's common sense and human emotion that win cases."

Steve Rench of Denver, Colorado, told us that we had to think like a juror, not like a lawyer. Everything we think about and do has to be powerful persuasion. Rench observed that winning litigators understand that people make a decision emotionally and then rationalize it. He taught us how to rid ourselves of legalese, abstractions, conclusions and generalities and replace them with sensory language, vivid word pictures that are specific, simple and short. One participant said Rench taught me that I should tell my client's story and Madonna Magee in the Communication's Lab showed me how to do that by visualizing images.

Alma Hall, Ph.D., Chair of the Communications Department at Georgetown College, helped the coaches understand that the week-long Institute was one of helping litigators learn how to make critical judgments. Those making high quality judgments look at the complex problems they face through multiple perspectives, such as the perspective of other litigators, the jurors, judge, public.

The helpfulness of the Institute was characterized by one of the participants, "This is the best legal education I have ever received. It should be a requirement for everyone coming out of law school. I found out that I was doing some good things and that made me feel good but I also learned a better way to do lots of the litigation. I wish I had this help 16 years ago."

The attorneys present continued on their journey to be paradigm pioneers, moving from the legal to the persuasive, telling their client's story.

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