August 17th, 2023

Being A Humble Trial Lawyer

According to Thomas Merton “[t]rue humility excludes self-consciousness… .” Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation at 112 (New Directions 1949).

A  humble trial lawyer is beyond thinking of themself. Their focus is with their client, the pursuit of justice and accomplishing this at trial. In this state  there are no illusions to defend. The humble trial lawyer’s movement is free.

The humble trial  lawyer “can do great things with an uncommon perfection because [they are] no longer concerned about incidentals, like their interests and reputation, and therefore they no longer need to waste effort in defending them.” Id. at 113. A humble lawyer is not afraid of failure. They are not afraid of anything, even themself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of … [believing in themself and their client’s case] … so there is no such thing as an obstacle.”Id.




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July 2nd, 2022

The Trial Lawyer-With The Method

In the words of Stella Adler a first generation student of Stanislavski: A great Trial   Lawyer is their own material. They learn to control it so they can use it at will. When trained in the fundamentals of ACTION, IMAGINATION, IMPROVISATION and CHARACTERIZATION they are ready. They are prepared to proceed with the study of the case. They analyze the trial as a whole. The trial’s line of action. In trial they focus on the given circumstance, the problem, and action over emotion.              

The trial is a collective creation that expresses in visible, audible and rhythmic images. This means real manifestations of imaginary life, places and people. This is done with clear, precise and natural feelings and emotions of the soul. A trial lawyer is a citizen of the world. They have three qualities: Confidence, Knowledge of Tradition, and a Capacity for Growth. Their goal is to experience in the present moment.

If Stella Adler is asked to describe The Method she says: The Method evolved from the first generation of Stanislavski’s Students. It has to do with psychology, remembering past experiences, and the self. The Method uses exterior means to show the interior reality of the self. The Method represents a kind of naturalism, with its chief concern being truth. The internal always relates to the external, with the whole machine powered by action.

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June 2nd, 2022

Method Lawyering-Post Stanislavski

For The Method:

 Show Less. Always establish the mood within you and do not show more than you have for to do so will look false.So always show less and the jury will magnify it. To illustrate, in a medical case: “By pulling back they painted a realistic portrait of the medical profession creating the right emotional landscape where the [the jury] does the feeling.”

Stay Together. Speak to the times and to the spiritual needs of the jury. Have the feeling of being one with the jury by expressing their experience of past and present in common language. Problems, Action, the Given Circumstances, and Imagination are the keys to Stanislavski’s System.

Practice makes Perfect. One cannot swim without going into water. One cannot feel then do the problem. First act the problem for physical action action then you be able to feel. All you have to do is move from action to action within the given circumstances. Remember the line of psycho-physical actions-that is the memories of emotion, the lines and the physical action all intermingling. In trial speak and act with an authentic feeling using affective emotional memory.

The Method Trial Lawyer. The [Trial Lawyer] is their own material. They must learn to control it as they use it at will. When the trial lawyer has trained themself in the fundamentals of Action, Imagination, Improvisation, Characterization etc. they have done their work, and is prepared to proceed with the study of the trial, to analyze it from the standpoint of the trial as a whole and its line of action.

A Trial. A trial is a collective creation that expresses in visible, audible and rhythmic images which are real manifestations of imaginary life, places and people, by means of clear, precise and natural feelings and emotions of the soul. We try the case moment by moment allowing ourself to look and listen, we trust ourself to try the case and let things happen.



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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  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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