lawyer as storyteller
One way you might think about your writing for the course is by asking a rather basic question: What am I doing here? . . . in this course? . . . in law school? . . . trying to think about stories and how they can be put to use in my education as a lawyer?
There is no required structure for your portfolio writings. And there is no maximum page limit for the writings. Commonsense and experience suggests that those who write more tend to have more to say, and in saying it, present a broader, deeper engagement with the ideas advanced in the course.
By inviting you to create a portfolio of writings, I do not mean to suggest or want to in any way imply that anything goes, and that simply anything you write will get an A in the course. I take my own efforts at writing quite seriously; I expect you to do so as well.
If you have any questionsany questions at allabout your course writing, my expectations, and how this kind of writing can be done well and how it will be evaluated, then you should meet with me to discuss your concerns.
You can make your writing available for me to read at anytime during the course of the semester. I will not assign grades to your writings until the end of the semester. I will, however, be more than willing to talk with you about what I find as strengths and weaknesses in your work.
All of the portofolio writings I suggest during the course of the semester are just that--suggestions. I suggest things that I think might be of interest to read and to write, and might, in ways difficult to calculate or evaluate, be of value to you in both tangible and intangible ways. [For an essay exploring what the value and difficulties your colleagues found in introspective writing, see James R. Elkins, Writing Our Lives: Making Introspective Writing a Part of Legal Education, 29 Willamette L. Rev. 45 (1993) -- on-line text]
The following suggestions are not assigned writings; I leave to your discretion what you will write for the course.
Portfolio Writing2: Tell the story of how you found your way to law school.
Portfolio Writing3: What do you find in Jerome Bruner's Making Stories about how you might use stories as a lawyer?
Portfolio Writing4: One way you might want to write about "the lawyer as storyteller" is by reflecting on how legal education engages (or fails to engage) your story sensibilities and imagination.
As background for this portfolio writing, you might want to read:
Portfolio Writing5: With so much attention to stories and narratives in the academic disciplines and in the professions, one would expect opposition. In this writing you might try to use what you've learned from Jerome Bruner and what you already know about stories to respond to the critics.
Portfolio Writing6: An Introduction to Stories
We must, in a course like The Lawyer as Storyteller, begin somewhere. But where? I asked you to read Jerome Bruner's Making Stories because he's an elegant writer, an eminent psychologist, and in recent years, has worked with Tony Amsterdam at NYU School of Law. He authored, with Amsterdam, a book titled Minding the Law (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2000) that the dustjacket summarizes as focusing on "how courts rely on storytelling, and how their stories change the ways we understand the law--and ourselves." Minding the Law is a magisterial work on narrative jurisprudence, and carries with it enough of Bruner's notions of story to itself be a candidate for a beginning text.
We might think about still other candidates for "beginning texts," and I'd like you to consider the essays I provided you by Ken Sanes in this context. I stumbled on to Ken Sanes website, Transparency, some years ago and I've found Sanes's essays useful and instructive.
I knew nothing about Sanes until I returned to his website (2.3.2010) and learned that he lives in the Boston area and that he worked in the newspaper business for over 10 years, where he was an editorial writer and columnist. He created Transparency in 1997 to present his writings on media, popular culture, ethics, politics and human nature. Sanes takes pride in the fact that his website has been used in various college courses.
The essays I've asked you to read are as follows:
In this Portfolio Writing, you are presented an alternative introduction to your work with stories. How does this introduction work in comparison to what you found in your reading of Bruner's Making Stories?
Portfolio Writing7: Drawing on Dr. Rita Charon's idea of a "parallel chart" for a patient, prepare such a chart for one of your law school classes. You will, of course, be assuming that the class is a "patient" and that the patient is now in your presence to speak of illness, an occasion for concern and for speaking out, even if the patient is for the most part silent about the exact nature of the problem.
To carry out this writing, you may want to review Charon's three movements in narrative medicine: attention, representation, and affiliation. How will you give attention to the class (and its operations)? How will you represent what you hear and what you see? What affiliation--with whom and for what purposes--will follow from your attention and representation?
Note1 (Rita Charon): "I began to write stories about patients who troubled or baffled me. The more I wrote about my patients and myself, the more confident I became that the act of narrative writing granted me access to knowledge--about the patient and about myself--that would otherwise have remained out of reach. I also realized that writing about patients changed my relationships with them. I became more invested in them, more curious, more engaged, more on their side." ~ Rita Charon, Narrative Medicine: Form, Function, and Ethics [Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 134 (1), pp. 83-87, 2001)]
Note2: On the writing of medical students and the preparation of what, Dr. Charon calls the "parallel chart":
Charon notes in a different article:
PortfolioWriting8: Drawing on what you have learned about narrative medicine, design a series of law school courses on narrative law and legal storytelling that would introduce students of law to narrative concepts and practices. You might begin with law school orientation, giving particular focus to first year courses, and then determine what kind of advanced courses you would offer in the 2nd and 3rd years of law school.
Portfolio Writing9: I venture the following speculative bet: Gerry Spence knows nothing of Dr. Rita Charon's work. Dr. Charon in turn may never have heard of Gerry Spence. And yet, we find striking similiaries and shared deep roots in the narrative medicine of Dr. Charon and the know yourself story-based trial advocacy of Gerry Spence. Trace the work of these two seminal advocates and chart the overlapping conceptual basis for their work. You will, of course, find differences in their work, in particular their presentation, and you might want to try to explore these as well.
Portfolio Writing10: Drawing on Gerry Spence's Win Your Case, design a series of law school courses--a law school curriculum--based on Spence's concepts and practices. You might begin with an introduction to Spence's work during law school orientation, then focus on Spence-based courses for the first year curriculum, and then determine what advanced courses you would offer in the 2nd and 3rd years of law school.
Portfolio Writing11: As we focus our attention on the story-based trial advocacy of Gerry Spence, you may find it helpful to compare Spence's perspective with that of other story-oriented trial lawyers and legal scholars. Of particular interest is the work of Philip Meyer, especially Meyer's article on closing arguments, "Desperate for Love: Analysis of a Defendant's Closing Argument to a Jury,"18 Vt. L. Rev. 721 (1994). [Meyer continued to explore his thesis in "Desperate for Love" in Desperate for Love II: Further Reflections on the Interpretation of Legal and Popular Storytelling in Closing Arguments to a Jury in a Complex Criminal Case, 30 U.S.F. L. Rev. 931 (1996) and Desperate for Love III: Rethinking Closing Arguments as Stories, 50 S.C. L. Rev. 715 (1999)][See also: Philip N. Meyer, Making the Narrative Move: Observations Based Upon Reading Gerry Spence's Closing Argument in The Estate of Karen Silkwood v. Kerr McGee, Inc., 9 Clinical Law Rev. 229 (2002). You will also find of interest two additional articles by Meyer: Why a Jury Trial Is More Like a Movie Than a Novel, 28 J.L. Soc'y 133 (2001); Will You Please Be Quiet, Please: Lawyers Learning to Listen to Stories, 18 Vt. L. Rev. 567 (1994)]