The Mask in the Courtroom
When recently working on his trial together, my friend and excellent trial lawyer, Eric Penn, made the wonderful observation that the only difference that he could see between the theatrical stage and the courtroom stage is when the audience leaves the theater in the final act of the play, they have the desire to make a difference in the hero’s life. In the courtroom, they get to do something about it.
Because they—the jurors—are the true heroes.
One of the oldest tools of the theater I share with trial lawyers is the use of masks. Masks? What relevance do they have to winning court cases? Working with masks has, in fact, produced great transformations in many lawyers’ abilities to tell stories that win.
These lawyers have learned to reach down and tap into the humanity that lives within their clients, bringing it up through the grimmest circumstances into the light.
That is your job as a lawyer. It is the true calling of your profession, and, without a doubt, a high calling. You must find in each client the spirit and story that speak power through the pain. Then and only then can you communicate it to the jury.
Mel Orchard has a nice way of putting this. An outstanding trial lawyer, Mel will tell you that the goal is to bring the jurors to an emotional convergence.
They have to see the emotional truth of your client’s situation, the beating heart of a story that beats in all of us. They have to see, and feel, how your client embodies the indomitable human spirit—a spirit worth fighting for. When and if they do, the twelve jurors will converge around your cause. They’ll join your fight and win it for you.
You already have within you the power to make this happen.
Unfortunately, if you’re like most lawyers, much of that power has been stifled—in no small part, by years of training geared to mold you into a legal technician rather than a living, breathing storyteller. Now it’s time to break the mold and reclaim that power.
Which is where the masks come in. Working with the masks, you learn to shed the mask of constriction that has kept you from bringing forth your own true human spirit in court. Then you can work on removing the false “mask” that your clients believe they should wear—that of the helpless victim besieged by malignant forces—so the victor can shine on the courtroom stage.