A trial lawyer is thus the producer, director, screenwriter and narrator of her case. She is not the protagonist: that is the client.
She is responsible for the budgeting, scheduling, and presentation of her case, which must:
- tell the client’s story;
- tell the client’s story coherently;
- tell the client’s story concisely;
- tell the client’s story persuasively; and,
- introduce all evidence necessary to the claim or defense in compliance with the rules of evidence;
One witness at a time.
It’s theater, with limitations. Imagine Hamlet as a series of question-and-answer sessions with the characters.
Television dramas, too, have their limitations. How do you give the audience all the information they need to know without making the show boring and unwatchable?
TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT
AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.
THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.
THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.
QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, ACUTE GOAL.
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF [THEY] DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.
IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.
EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.
THIS NEED IS WHY THEY CAME. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET WILL LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO FAILURE – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS OVER. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE NEXT SCENE.
ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE PLOT.
ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.
YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”
AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT”…
A good read for trial lawyers — the jury must see all of the evidence necessary to the case, but if the testimony is not propelling the jury forward with a simple, straightforward purpose, then it is either superfluous or incorrectly prepared.
The trial lawyer’s job is to "figure out" how to make all this happen within the constraints of the trial.