May 7th, 2022

Method Lawyering-Living The Truth

Living the truth occurs when the lawyer is so connected to the truth and their client they have entered into the reality of their client. The lawyer feels what the client feels and thinks like the client thinks. This is short of losing the self. Rather the lawyer’s  consciousness and the client’s consciousness meet. (Butler, The Method at xiv). To Stanislavski living the truth is the highest level, the artistic mountaintop that all lawyers should strive to reach.

Stanislavski instilled in his acting students to serve the truth. The truth is neither philosophical nor political. To Stanislavski the truth is internal. It is the real feeling demanded of the situation. The truth leads to a sense of lived truth to the jury.

Stanislavski taught that concentration and attention help focus the lawyer’s complete physical and spiritual nature on what is going on in the soul. This in turn creates an appearance of not realizing being watched. This is powerful for the jury to see and feel as the lawyer is seen to be immersed in the truth. The secret is to present as real and present experiencing actual emotion. The lawyer introduces themself into the circle of the jury as their world is here with the jury. When the lawyer has belief in their case they have a purpose which makes natural behavior easier to create. 

By speaking the truth the lawyer speaks to the needs of the jury because the truth is what we naturally want. The truth is what we see as our common language. The keys to Stanislavski’s system are ACTION, in the given CIRCUMSTANCES, and IMAGINATION. The best trials move from action to action within the given circumstances. Trials deal with problems. To resolve a problem we need action, an object, adjustment and connection. Great trials require the lawyer to do something (action) to something (the object) in a way that takes into account the circumstances (adjustment) made by the scene partner the jury through (connection) and (imagination).

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April 19th, 2022

Method Lawyering

Method lawyering  in the words of Constantine Sanislavski is “Living the Truth.” Living the truth as a trial requires me to connect with my client to discover my client’s story. When done methodically I am able to convey from my heart what my client has gone through and how their future holds. My first step in living the truth is  to internalize the feelings my client experienced and continues to experience to the point I feel and think like my client.

The Oscar winning actor Frances McDormand in Blood Simple used the Living the Truth technique to authentically experience the emotions and psychology of her character in a frightening and terrorizing  scene. To do this she went to her well of experience to an experience as close as possible to the character.  She found an emotional memory of a traumatic experience to bring back her feelings. This allowed McDormand to authentically play her part for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress. See The Method at xiii.

Like a Method actor as a trial lawyer I want to get to the emotion and action of my client. I must have a deep sensitivity and experience to call upon to convey to the feelings, emotions and action of my client. According to Stanislavski getting to the level of living the part leads to the power and potential of improvisation which brings a sense of living the truth. With concentration and attention I align my physical and spiritual nature with my heart. This creates a true to life realistic ability to convey my client’s case at a level the jury can feel and relate to with their emotional memory.

This allows me to get to the level of Stanislavski’s Secret. The secret is to be real and present experiencing emotion. I am then able to be in the circle of emotions the jurors are experiencing. This allows for connection at the highest level. I must make sure in living the truth that I do not show more than what I have. To do this makes me look false. So I try to dial back and let  the jury magnify the emotion and the action so it becomes theirs and not mine.


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March 27th, 2022

Stanislavski and The Method

I recently read The Method by Isaac Butler. The Method was developed by Constantine Stanislavski the great Russian acting philosopher. The book takes Stanislavski from Russia in the early 20th century into the United States where his Method Acting catches fire and Butler continues to discuss American acting into the late 20th century.

As all trials are plays studying  Stanislavski helps to grow as a trial lawyer. The Stanislavski Method reminds me of Trial Lawyer’s College(TLC), where we learn to take off our mask and try cases with authenticity and without pretense.

The Method is often discussed as an exercise in Interiority. Like psychodrama at TLC the Method’s Interiority goes to my emotional memory. When working with my client I connect as best I can with what they have been through by going to my own emotional experience as similar as possible to my client’s emotional experience. This allows me to feel like my client and naturally reflect this feeling with the jury.

In The Method we learn  from Stella Adler, a student of Stanislavski and a great acting teacher, that her students must go beyond themself. We cannot expect the world to come to us so we must expand to meet the world. Adler teaches Life is beyond me so it is also outside of me, Thus, I must also go outside myself to the world. The essential thing to remember as a trial lawyer is life is in front of me and in front of the jury. This means I must go to life and take the jury with me.

To Stanislavski “Living the part” through emotional memory in line with the emotional action is the ideal to reach. To Adler moving forward  creates action and action is what we want. The best trial lawyers have sensitivity and the capacity to connect past emotional experience. This leads to a true to life natural action to moving forward with the jury.



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August 3rd, 2019

Truthful Feelings

actor-prepares-cover-200x305-2 I discovered Stanislavaki years ago reading an article in Litigation Magazine titled “Stanislavski in the Courtroom.The article introduced me to the great acting instructor and how his “Method Acting” is applicable to the courtroom. This led me to study Stanislavski.

From studying  Stanislavaki’s “method” I see how it applies to trials, particularly jury trials. It also applies to sincerity and the elimination of a fake persona. It applies to  getting in touch with emotions and living in the moment.

Stanislavski’s first rule is truthfulness, meaning  honesty at all times. Do away with phoniness, pretense, and the desire to act in a way to please others. Truthful expression comes from the heart. With honest expression there is no doubt. Honest expression results in sincerity in voice, facial expression, and body language. The listener connects.

Truth, which is usually simple and straightforward, is inviting to the listener. When truth embraces our whole being it has a way of sinking deeper into the mind of the listener reaching the subconscious mind. This invokes positive emotions in the listener. This creates an unconsciousness bond between speaker and listener.

The opposite occurs when an agenda, pretense, or phoniness is involved- a rehearsed from the mind alone message. Here tone of voice, facial expression and body language tell the listener this is a surface message, a message calculated to convince, and it is not the truth. A gut reaction against the message occurs, as it is processed as “phony.”

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May 10th, 2019

Flow Naturally

Constantin Stanislavski teaches to be true to our feelings. We trust our feelings without trying  to manipulate  them, which brings “false action.”

 In a trial we stay away from testimony or argument directed at arousing a feeling for its own sake. Following this rule prevents artificiality. Testimony and argument stand on its own. We must never seek to add emotion in a calculated way.  As taught by Stanislavski all true  feelings and emotions are the result of the internalization of the feeling of the experience.

It is proper to think of the previous experience when preparing for  testimony or argument. This is the way to associate the past feeling with the present testimony or fact. When testifying or arguing,  let the result produce itself rather than consciously trying to bring the feeling to the fore front- like trying to push the river.

This may seem like a subtle distinction, but it is significant.  Thus for testimony use the feeling at the time of the experience when preparing to testify. For argument use a past similar experience and reaction when preparing for the argument.

At the time of testimony or argument, never consciously try to invoke feeling. Rather just testify or argue and allow the feeling to rise to the surface  on its own; it will rise and flow with the testimony or argument without  trying to invoke the emotion and feeling. This is because true emotion and feeling  reproduces itself.

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December 10th, 2018

Stanislavski on Adaptation

Every trial lawyer knows a trial takes a life of its own with unexpected twits and turns. Preparation is essential, yet to succeed the lawyer must keep readjusting so the jury accepts and feels the changing circumstances and emotions. This ability which actors and trial lawyers must have is called “Adaptation.” Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (1936)(Routledge -Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood).

In trial we must “adapt” to circumstances, to time, and to witnesses.  “Adaptation” means the inner and outer ways we use to adjust to the variety of witnesses, court rulings, surprises and breakdown of plans that occur in any trial. As taught by Stanislavski the key to successful adaptation is to be true to our inner feelings. We do this by trusting our inner sense of our theme.

According to Stanislavski, adaptations are made consciously and unconsciously. Conscious adaptation occurs when things do not go as planned. In preparing for trial we plan on the order of witnesses and when and how documentary evidence will be introduced. With planned preparation we go forward as planned unless something happens to prevent the plan. For example when a witness is unavailable, conscious adaptation is necessary to continue the trial without a gap. A different witness is called or a DVD witness is played. When this is done it is important to “practice law like a duck.” On the surface the jury sees an unfazed, cool, calm and collected lawyer continuing the case uninterrupted. Below the surface the lawyer is furiously paddling to stay afloat.

Unconscious adaptation is what Stanislavsi concerns himself with. The highest level a trial lawyer reaches is during unconscious adaptation. Unconscious adaptation is not planned. It occurs during direct and cross examination as we “are in unending contact” with the witness. To reach this level we must trust our preparation. We must be a connected and focused with the witness. We must allow our  emotions to emerge in our voice and reaction to the testimony. “The only approach is through intuition and the subconscious.” Id. Our response is then “created naturally, spontaneously, unconsciously, at the very moment when emotions are at their height.” Id. In trusting our unconscious adaptation we make “an ineradicable impression… on the memories of the [jury].” Id.

The only way we can reach this level is through an internalization of the facts before trial. An internalization so deep it is in our subconscious at an emotional level. This allows us to forget who we are, forget about the possibility of failure, live in the trial moment and project our unconscious reaction unprepared, natural and powerful.


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June 22nd, 2018

Imaging the Case

Constantin Stanislavski taught his actors to image their part, and the circumstances of the play. In his method the actor has imaged his part  and how it will play prior to taking the stage. This imaging concept also holds true for for trials. Edited for trials Stanislavski teaches:

First, we must have an unbroken series of supposed circumstances in which our trial will develop. Second, we must have a solid line of inner visions bound up with the supposed circumstances, so we have a picture in our mind of the trial playing out. During every moment of the development of the trial, we must be aware of either the external circumstances  which surround the trial, or of the inner chain of circumstances which we have imagined to illustrate the case.

Through imaging we arrive at an unbroken series of pictures of the trial- our personal movie. As long as we trust ourself the trial will unfold similar to our inner vision. As the trial unfolds our  inner vision creates a corresponding mood which arouses emotion in the jury.

Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares, (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood) (1936).

What this means is  before the trial begins, we image every phase of the trial. This includes pre-trial motions,  jury selection, opening statement, direct and cross examination, introduction of documentary evidence and closing argument. By doing this we internalize each phase of the trial. We feel each phase  of the trial because we create the inner vision (personal movie) of  the trial.

We know from experience the trial may take turns different from our inner vision. Stanislavski recognizes this when he teaches we must always be aware of the external circumstances of the trial. Here we must trust our case preparation, believe in ourself, accept the turns the trial takes, roll with the turns, and never quit on our inner vision.

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May 26th, 2018

Stanislavski and Inner Forces

To Stanislavski  the “inner forces” which we must draw upon to try a case at the highest level begins with our feelings. But our feelings must be directed and the master for proper direction of our feelings is our mind. Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares, (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood).

According to Stanislavski there is a third force that must accompany our feelings and our mind to create our “psychic” trial life. This third force is our “will.” To try our case “freely” these three forces must cooperate harmoniously. Id. at 268.

In acting and in trial there is a danger of falling into a pattern of reading lines. For the actor this means repeating the script. For the trial lawyer this means repeating pre-written questions. To Stanislavski this is seen all to often in theatre, and it is fatal. The lawyer must “speak in his own right as one placed in the circumstances created by [the trial].” On good days we are naturally harmonious meaning our feelings mind and will are coordinated. Id. at 269.

At times there is a lack of feeling for the case, and/or a kind of dread. This may cause us to struggle with imaging the case, preparing with enthusiasm, and/or trying the case naturally. Stanislavski recognizes these times exist. He teaches two steps to jump start our inner forces.

Feelings. To Stanislavski our feelings is the most important member of the triumvirate of feelings, mind and will. The first step to jump start our inner psychic is to call upon our feelings. Here we go inside ourself and remember how we felt in a similar situation as presented in our trial. When our emotions respond we feel the tempo-rhythm that underlies our emotions and gives rise to our external reaction. When this happens we are back on track.

Mind. When we are stagnant we may be unable  to draw on feeling to jump start the triumvirate. The next step is to call on our mind. Here we use our mind to contemplate the facts and circumstances at issue in our case. In calling upon the mind we read depositions and review exhibits as we imagine the factual circumstances. Ideally this will jump starts our feelings and the emotions flow.

Will. Stanislavski does not teach calling on the will to jump start the psychic triumvirate. This is because the actor does not create the script. The actor is at the mercy of the play writer, but we as the trial lawyer are the play writer. Our will is seen in our preparation for trial. Our will is evident in our immersion into the facts. Our will manifests in the initial plastic drafting of the lines for trial. After total immersion and completion of drafting we are able to believe in ourself and our cause. Once this is done we can trust ourself as our mind and emotions respond and we try our case freely and naturally.

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April 20th, 2018

Living the Facts Through Imagination


Constantin Stanislavski teaches how to live the facts which in turn teaches how to discuss the facts. In discussing facts this Rudyard Kipling poem quoted, by Paul Luvera, reminds me of factual areas to cover in a deposition and in trial examination, especially cross examination.  

If we try our case mechanically, without recognizing who we are, where the emotional component lies, and how this effects decision making, we try the case without imagination.  This will translate to the jury as being unreal-nothing more than a wound-up machine, an automation.

According to Stanislavsky, to appreciate the relevant what, why, when, how, where and who we must assimilate the facts so we understand what they stand for, where the emotional component lies, and how this impacts us and the decision making process. To do this we internalize the facts so they become an unbroken series of supposed circumstances which are based on our inner vision. Our inner vision is a combination of the relevant facts and our similar experiences.

This creates a conscious reasoned approach to the facts which we have allowed our imagination to personally live so they come to life for us physically as well as mentally. This allows us to discuss the facts at a personal level that has and shows sincerity, the sincerity of who we are.

Every moment we are in trial, every word we speak then is the result of the right life of our imagination. These inner visions create a corresponding mood that arouses our emotions and in turn the emotions of the jury.

See Stanislavski,  An Actor Prepares -Imagination (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood)

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March 2nd, 2018

The Magic of If

what-ifConstantin Stanislavski teaches the word if  has a unique quality that produces “an instantaneous, inner stimulus.” Stanislavski,  An Actor Prepares, (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood). From an acting standpoint Stanislavski says the imaginary use of  if allows the actor to place herself  into the emotional mindset of her character’s problem, condition or event. He teaches the actor to use if  to get to the subconscious mindset of her character. The use of if  has application beyond the theatre.

For example as trial lawyers we can use if  to relate to our client at our subconscious level. To do this we role reverse with our client and ask: What is it like if  I am in the situation of my client. When done as Stanislaviski teaches this results in personally placing ourself into the shoes of our client.

Stanislavski says this works because if  becomes what he calls a “supposition.” He explains if does not demand we believe or not believe. Rather the use of if presents a magical hypothetical that causes us to answer the hypothetical “sincerely and definitely.” When used properly if  has three consequences:

First, if  “does not use fear or force” or make us do anything. Rather it reassures us “through its honesty, and encourages [us] to have confidence in a supposed situation.” This allows us to image the if supposition naturally with our subconscious feelings emerging.

Second, if  brings to the forefront of the subconscious an “inner and real activity” –meaning to answer the if supposition we must imagine ourselves in action. This according to Stanislavski leads to mental activity that results in subconscious creativity. Subconscious creativity gets us to our highest emotional level of thought and being.

Third and most important  when used correctly we do not try to invoke our feelings when using the if supposition. Rather we concentrate on the given circumstance of the situation. When doing this we reach a “sincerity of emotions.” This is because our subconscious  feelings emerge. These are our true to life emotions in the given situation.


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