October 27th, 2011

Stanislavski and The Threshold of the Subconscious

Applied to trial work, Stanislavski teaches the key to success is to reach the stage where our subconscious mind functions without interference from our conscious mind. When we reach this state we are relaxed, we have no fear of failure, and we are our uninhibited self. We forget who we are from an ego self conscious standpoint.

To get to this state “we must achieve inner freedom as well as physical relaxation.” Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood)(On the Threshold of the Subconscious). When we reach this state we have real truth and faith in our actions. This is the state Stanislavski calls I am. Id.

When the lawyer reaches this I am state advocacy for his client and his real life merge in the courtroom. The lawyer finds it easy and pleasant to try the case. He has found the ocean of his subconscious. Id.

We get to this level by seeding the truth of our client’s case into our subconscious mind. Our faith in the case naturally follows and we move toward the I am. To get to I am we must first discover our obstacles and learn to deal with them.

We first eliminate the obstacle of fear of the jury. We eliminate this fear by getting in touch with our inner nature. We remember an event in our life where we felt emotions similar to those of our client in dealing with her injury. We relive our emotions to become one with our client. We remember how we dealt with our emotions in our real life experience and recognize this is what we will be doing at trial with the jury.

We next eliminate the obstacle of vagueness which Stanislavski teaches is when we recognize “a part may be worked out wrong, or its objectives may be indefinite.” Id. (Indefinite gaps that must be filled)”The only way to deal with [this] situation is by clearing up all that is lacking in precision.” Id. Meaning we fill the gaps so our story is clear. Through precision we gain confidence.

An opposite obstacle is being too conscientious. We should be able to sense this problem as a feeling of forcing ourself. We are going through motions we do not really feel. Here we remember to be ourself. Swim with the current rather then against the current.

When a lawyer gives himself up to the pursuit of the larger objective of his client’s case, he does it completely. He becomes free to function in accordance with his own needs and desires. Through his own subconscious experience he tries the case as an expression of his own creative subconscious. Id.

    October 19th, 2011

    Stanislavski and The Super-Objective

    When we apply Stanislavski’s Super-Objective to a personal injury trial we introduce the concept of the Theme of the Case. In the words of the Stanislavski edited for trial lawyers we learn:

    Great trial lawyers know a successful trial must have a “larger, vital purpose…the power to draw all of [the lawyer’s] creative faculties and to absorb all the details and smaller units of [the case]. … [A great theme] is human and directed towards the accomplishment of the basic purpose of the [trial]…it will be like a main artery, providing nourishment and life to both [the plaintiff and the jury].” Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood)(The Super-Objective).

    To Stanislavski a great theme is beyond the individual it is “broadly human, and universal in implications.” Id.  Applied to a trial Stanislavski teaches that a lawyer may not be able to come to a conclusion about his trial theme until he conducts several focus groups.  Mock juries help put together the theme;  the lawyer is able to hear how non lawyers see the facts, and what they see as important aspects of the case. This will lead to the theme.

    To Stanislavski  winning themes often involve “questions of freedom, justice, happiness, great joy, great suffering.” Id. “Above all preserve your super-objective and through line of action. Be wary of all extraneous tendencies and purposes foreign to the main theme.” Id.

    Stanislavski also recognizes successful trials involve polarization. “Every action meets with a reaction which in turn intensifies the first. In every [trial], beside the main action we find its opposite counteraction. This is fortunate because its inevitable result is more action. We need that clash of purposes, and all the problems to solve that grow out of them. They cause activity which is the basis of [a great trial].” Id.

    Stanislavski gives us a three part formula for a great trial: 1) inner grasp (meaning the internalization of the theme of the trial); 2) the through line of action (meaning from jury selection through closing we move with and to 3) the super-objective (our theme).

      October 12th, 2011

      Stanislavski and Becoming the Case

      Applied to trial practice, Stanislavski teaches we cannot try a case with natural emotion unless we believe in the our client’s story. Most lawyers like actors fall into habits of artificiality. The lawyer stays on a surface level with the client. He puts on his lawyer costume, and looks the part, but forgets the most important part-inner preparation.

      “Unfortunately, a natural creative mood is seldom spontaneous.” Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood)(The Inner Creative State). On rare occasion the lawyer gets into a natural creative mood and relates with the jury. More often when this does not occur he resorts to mechanical habits.  The lawyer introduces false notes. The truth then becomes a trial lawyer convention which the jury sees as artificial as imagination evaporates. See id.

      According to Stanislavski: “To grasp the spiritual  nature of  [the trial] it is not enough to use one’s mind or any one ‘element’ by itself. It requires a [lawyer’s] whole power and talent, as well as the harmonious cooperation of his inner forces, with those of the [client]. Id.

      Inner preparation requires two things. First we must learn our client’s story. This requires our client reliving the emotions she has dealt with in the initial trauma, her recovery, and dealing with her post injury abilities. Second we must put ourselves into the emotional mindset of our client. Here we internalize as closely as possible the same emotions our client has experienced and is experiencing.

      When this “inner preparation” is complete, and the client and the lawyer are on the same emotional wave length, the case is ready for the jury. Once the trial begins all that is needed is the “the stimulus of the simplest sort of suggestion and… the whole harmonious process of establishing…[the] inner creative [emotional] state [is released in trial].” Id. By this Stanislavski means though a mutual internalization of the emotions of the client’s story the lawyer is able to trigger those emotions at trial. The lawyer’s similar emotions are also released.

      The result is raw emotional honesty. The jury feels this emotion at its subconscious level. The jury will favorably respond. This is because the jury sees “a clear-cut definite objective…[with] a solid and correct inner state.” Id.

        October 5th, 2011

        Stanislavski and The Unbroken Line

        Applied to a trial Stanislavski teaches when the lawyer begins to learn the story of his client he sees it in bits and pieces. It is rare that the lawyer grasps the story instantly and is emotionally touched at a high level. More often he must take the time to internalize the facts and emotions to reach a deep understanding of the story so “a line gradually emerges as a continuous whole.” Stanislaviski, An Actor Prepares, Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood (The Unbroken Line). Not until the line emerges as a whole is the lawyer ready to try the case.

        A trial is like a play in that there are separate actors and interruptions in a play and separate witnesses and interruptions in a trial. To be successful the lawyer must deal with the interruptions by seeing the unbroken line of the trial so the trial “is an integrated whole made up of individual acts and feelings, thoughts and sensations.” Id.

        To illustrate the lawyer has an idea of how the trial will progress from jury selection through closing argument. He should be able to feel how the bits and pieces of the trial will fit together to create one unbroken line that flows from jury selection, to opening though direct and cross into closing. He must see the parts of the trial as fitting together to tell a coherent story. The story of the client from the heart with natural emotion.

        Even though the lawyer’s attention is constantly passing from witness to witness and from  document to document  he must never lose track of the emotional theme or unbroken line. Thus he flows with the pieces of the trial to make them an emotional coherent story to which the jury will relate.

          March 16th, 2011

          Stanislavski and Inner Forces

          To Stanislavski our “inner forces” which we must draw upon to try cases at our highest level begin 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 plastic 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 give an immediate response we feel the tempo-rhythm that underlies our inner emotions and give rise to our external reactions. 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 the 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 and will ourself  into trial. Our mind and emotions will respond as we never quit on ourself.

            March 10th, 2011

            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 “Adaption.”  Constantin Stanislavski, An Actor Prepares (1936)(Routledge -Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood).

            In trial we must  “adapt” to circumstances, to time, and to witnesses.  “Adaption” 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 adaption is to be true to our natural inner feelings. We do this by trusting our inner sense of our theme.

            According to Stanislavski, adaptations are made consciously and unconsciously. Conscious adaption occurs at trial when things do not go as planned. In preparing for trial we plan on the order of witnesses as well as when and how documentary evidence will be introduced. This type of preparation is “plastic” in that it is planned and will 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 adaption cannot be plastic as there is no conscious preparation. 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 discard our plastic preparation. We must be a tuned and focused on 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 there 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 on 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 which will unprepared, natural and powerful.

              March 2nd, 2011

              Stanislavski and Communication at Trial

              StanislavskiConstantin Stanislavski in the first of his acting trilogy An Actor Prepares (Routledge, translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood) calls it “Communion.” To Stanislavski “it is possible to look at and to see or to look at  and not to see.” Id. at 212. On stage the actor can see and feel everything that is going on, or the actor can be some place beyond the auditorium. The same holds true for a trial lawyer. This post takes from the master Constantin Stanislavski’s teachings on communion and applies them to the courtroom.

              The Eye is the Mirror of the Soul. Stanislavski teaches for sincerity the eyes must look and reflect “the deep inner content of the soul.” Id. This means to communicate with our witness at the highest level we must internalize and become identified with our cause before we enter the courtroom. We cannot give ourself wholly to our cause until we become identified with it and are transformed. This allows us to become one with our witnesses and one with our jury. To fail to internalize our cause will lead to a mechanical presentation that lacks sincerity with a resulting failure to communicate with witnesses and the jury.

              Lawyer and Witness. Stanislavski says a quality  playwright presents actors who convey an “inner-communication.” We must do the same with our witnesses. Stanislavski would have the witness take the stand to share her feelings and what she believes with the jury while the lawyer takes in those feeling and thoughts. “When [the jury] is present during such an emotional and intellectual change, [they are] like a witness to a conversation. [The jury] has a silent part in the exchange of feelings, and is excited by their experience.” Id. at 213-14. This only occurs when witness and lawyer “make every effort to maintain an uninterrupted exchange of feelings, thoughts and actions among themselves.” Id. at 214.

              Self-Communion. Before we can communicate at an emotional and intellectual  level we must first engage in self-communion. Self-communion occurs when we get in touch with our inner life energy. The Hindus call this our Prana. The Chinese call this our Chi. According to Stanislavski “in addition to our brain … the nerve and psychic center of our being, we have a similar source near the heart, in the solar plexus.” Id. at 215.  We can establish a connection between these two energy centers. The cerebral center is the seat of our consciousness and the solar plexus is the seat of our emotion. When we make the connection our brain “holds intercourse” with our feelings. When we are at this level in trial we are able to commune with our self “audibly or in silence…with perfect self -possession.” Id. at 217.

              Communion with Witness. Stanislavski explains actors have lines. A mechanical actor memorizes her  lines, waits until the other actor finishes and then says her next line. We can easily slip into this habit concentrating only on the plastic prepared questions that automatically follow after the witness answer. To be in communion with the witness we must engage in an “unbroken flow” with the witness. After asking the question follow the answer so your thoughts penetrate the  consciousness of the witness. Here we need to listen, internalize, and add with our eyes what can not be put into words, but shows in our soul there is communion. Then we ask our next question. This connection which requires “concentrated attention, technique, and artistic discipline,” continues through the examination.

              In our next post we continue this analysis by discussing “adaption.”

                July 29th, 2010

                The Magic of If

                what-ifConstantin Stanislavski teaches the word if has a unique quality- a quailty 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 to place himself  into the emotional mindset of a character faced with a certain problem, condition or event. He teaches the actor to use if to get to the subconscious  mindset the character has in his situation. The use of if has application beyond the theatre.

                For example a lawyer in a paralysis case can use if to relate to the injured client at the subconscious level. To do this the lawyer asks himself : “What would it be like for me if I was paralyzed?” When done as Stanislaviski teaches this results in the lawyer  personally placing himself into the mindset of his injured client.

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

                First, if when used in a Stanislavski supposition “does not use fear or force” or make the lawyer do anything. Rather it reassures the lawyer “through its honesty, and encourages him to have confidence in a supposed situation.” This allows the lawyer to image the if supposition naturally with his own subconscious feeling emerging from the if supposition.

                Second, if brings to the forefront the subconscious through 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 must  not consciously try to invoke feelings when using the if supposition. Rather we concentrate only on the given circumstances of the situation. When doing this we forget our feelings which in turn results  in  “sincerity of emotions.” This means our subconscious  feelings emerge. These are the  true to life emotions we would have in  the given situation.

                Lesson Five-Image with the Magic of If.

                  July 24th, 2010

                  Flow Naturally


                  Conatantin Stanislavski stresses always be true to your natural feelings. By this he means never try to manipulate  feelings. Stanslaviski calls such an attempt “false action.”  In a trial there cannot be under any circumstances testimony or argument directed at arousing a feeling for its own sake. Ignoring this rule will result in artificiality.

                  Testimony and argument must 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 natural internalization of experiences.

                  It is proper to think of the previous experience when preparing for  testimony or argument. This is the natural way to associate the past feeling with the present testimony or fact. When testifying or arguing, however, it is essential to let the result produce itself rather then 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 you trying to invoke the emotion or feeling. This is because true and natural emotion or feeling  produces itself.

                  Lesson Four- Don’t push the river.

                    July 20th, 2010

                    Living the Facts Through Imagination


                    This section of Rudyard Kipling’s poem sets forth the factual areas the jury will want to know which is where we need to concentrate. Constantin Stanislavski teaches us how to live the facts which in turn teaches us how to discuss the facts at the highest level.

                    For every relevant what, why, when, how, where and who we must assimilate the fact so we understand what it stands for, where we are going with it, and what we will do with it. We internalize the fact in a way that it becomes an unbroken series of supposed circumstances which are based on our inner vision. Our inner vision is a combination of the relevant fact and our own similar experience.

                    This creates a conscious reasoned approach to the fact which we have allowed our imagination to personally live so the fact comes to life for us physically as well as mentally. This allows us to discuss the relevant facts at our highest level-a personal level that has a ring of sincerity, a ring 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.

                    If we try the case mechanically, without recognizing who we are, what we want, where we are going, and what we will do when we get there, we try the case without imagination.  This will translate to the jury as being unreal-nothing more than a wound-up machine, an automation.

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

                    Lesson Three-Personally live all relevant facts through your imagination.