lawyer as storyteller

James R. Elkins



The jury—of trial lawyers, clinical teachers, and legal academics—has rendered a verdict: The lawyer is, and has always been, a storyteller. In “Lawyer as Storyteller,” we’ll try to figure out what it means to be a lawyer with story awareness and story sensibilities. We’ll read fragments of the seminal texts associated with narrative jurisprudence and explore what trial lawyers are saying about legal storytelling. We’ll study the basics of stories and how they work, why we can’t live without them, and how they constitute both local knowledge and what Jerome Bruner, in Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life (2002) calls the “coin and currency of culture.”

You’ll be asked to do some writing and try to better see the stories around you—the law’s stories, lawyer stories, stories tell in and about law school, and, your own story.

The Lawyer as Storyteller is a 3 credit hour perspective course.

The assigned texts for the course are:

▪ Jerome Bruner, Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life (Harvard University Press, 2002)

▪ Gerry Spence, Win Your Case (St. Martin’s Press, 2005)

▪ Sam Schrager, The Trial Lawyer’s Art (Temple University Press, 1999)

You’ll be provided with the following texts compiled by the instructor:

▪ Instructions from the World: Story Basics

▪ And Then Came Lawyer Stories: Introductory Notes on Narrative Jurisprudence

▪ Legal Storytelling & Narrative Jurisprudence: A Bibliography

Finally, the course website will point you to various materials and writings that are available on the Internet. [Web Resources] We’ll survey these Internet posted writings and materials and determine which of them are of signficiant value for the student of law.

If, during the course of your reading and web browsing, you find web resources (or other readings) of interest to the class, please pass them along and I'll try to make them available.

Writing for the Course: You’ll be ask to compile a portfolio of writings based on questions posed during the course and on inquiries that you devise in response to the readings and class discussions.

In the background of all your reading and writing for this course: How is this reading and writing about stories to be made a part of my education as a lawyer, as a part of the education that will allow me to be the kind of person I want to be. The fundamental question is this: What am I supposed to do with what I learn, in this course, about stories and my own story sensibilities?

Postscript: I have not tried, as we begin the course, to map out and schedule the entire semester of readings and class discussions. You should be informed that this is the first offering of the course and I’ll be charting our path as we proceed.

If you have questions, concerns, hopes, or fears, concerning the readings, the course, or your grade for the course, you are welcome to consult with me. I will, barring some unforeseen circumstances, promptly reply to your email message. I'll be delighted to meet with you and discuss the course, and your writing, at any time. Drop me a note by email, or see me before or after class, and we'll find a convenient time to meet.