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Flourless Chocolate Cake, Guiness Ice Cream and Irish Whiskey Caramel Pecan Sauce

February 26, 2012

Several folks have asked me for the recipe for this dessert. Here it is. Enjoy!

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE (or Brownies)

Yield – 9-12 servings

Preheat Oven to 350

  •  5 oz good quality chocolate chips
  • ½ Vegetable Oil
  • 1 C plus 2 T brown sugar
  • ½ C Almond Meal
  • ¼ C Brown Rice Flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 T Vanilla
  • ¼ T Bourbon

Optional:

  • ½ C chocolate, white chocolate or butterscotch chips to place on top
  • ½ C chopped nuts

Method:

Spray either an 8×8 inch round or square baking pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, melt the dark chocolate and oil over low heat, gently stirring.

In a small mixing bowl, beat together the eggs.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. With a spoon, make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the beaten eggs and the melted dark chocolate mixture. Beat on low to medium speed for two minutes, until the batter begins to come together. Keep beat until the batter becomes smooth and glossy. Stop mixing and add nuts (if adding) by hand.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Lightly tap the pan on the counter to even out the batter. If you are using additional chips as garnish, sprinkle them on top of the batter and lightly press down.

Place the pan in the center of a preheated 350 oven for 30-35 minutes, until the cake is set. The top will crack.

Cool on a wire rack. Remove the cake from the pan. Chill for an hour before cutting.

ICE CREAM BASE

  • 2 C Heavy Cream
  • 2 C Whole Milk
  • ¾ C Sugar
  • 1 Vanilla Bean split in half
  • 6 Egg Yolks

Method

Combine the cream, milk and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk mixture. Add the bean halves. Bring mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat. Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Temper the hot milk and cream mixture gradually into the egg yolks.  Put the mixture into a clean saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and reaches 170 degrees on an instant read thermometer. (Approx. 5 mins.)

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down the plastic against the liquid to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove from the refrigerator and add any garnishes*. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturers instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

*Optional Garnishes:

Guiness Ice Cream – While base is chilling, reduce 12 oz Guiness by ¾ until you have  3 – 4 oz. Cool and chill. Add to base before placing it in ice cream freezer.

Prior to placing base in ice cream freezer, you can add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, chopped toasted nuts, chopped cookies, cookie dough, crushed peppermint candy, etc.

 Irish Whiskey Caramel Pecan Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons Irish Whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans

Method

In a dry heavy saucepan cook sugar over moderately low heat, stirring slowly with a fork (to help sugar melt evenly), until melted and pale golden. Cook caramel, without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Remove pan from heat and carefully add cream, bourbon, lemon juice, and pecans (caramel will steam and harden). Return pan to heat and simmer sauce, stirring, until caramel is dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Pour sauce into a bowl and cool slightly. (Sauce keeps, covered and chilled, 2 weeks.)

TO SERVE

Place a slice of cake on a plate. Place a scoop of ice cream either on top or to the side of the cake. Spoon sauce over top.

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Doubling: Listening With The Third Ear

November 27, 2011

In a continuing effort to share information on psychodrama and the tools trial lawyers use most often to work with clients, prepare for and present their cases at trial, what follows is the next installment on this topic.

Doubling

A double is an auxiliary (a group member asked to play a role in the drama or re-enactment) who speaks the inner life of the protagonist, in whatever role he happens to inhabit in that moment. The job of the double is to tune in to the protagonist’s unexpressed thoughts and feelings and express them, bringing material lodged in the background to the foreground.

The double is the hidden voice, the truest self, the one who helps the protagonist realize and acknowledge what she is thinking and feeling. The double gives voice to the protagonist’s interior reality, helping the protagonist go deeper, strip off the outer socially visible layers, and reach the deeper layers of expression. The double speaks in the first person, as the inner voice of the protagonist, but does not engage in conversation with the protagonist. In essence, the double assists the protagonist in expressing herself more fully. Using a double facilitates expressing a protagonist’s deepest emotions, and is one of the most effective techniques to bring out unexpressed emotions. J. L. Moreno, the creator of psychodrama, described the double as the protagonist’s inside.[1]

As the double expresses the protagonist’s inner thoughts or feelings, it is extremely important to give the protagonist an opportunity to accept, reject, or correct the statements which the double makes, and if accepted, to put them in her own words. For example:

Protagonist: I don’t know what I’m going to do. I wish she would talk to me.

Double: I feel helpless and all alone.

Protagonist: I do feel helpless. I just don’t understand why she won’t talk to me.

Double: I feel angry at her.

Protagonist: [Has a puzzled look on his face.]

Double: If that is right, put it in your own words. If it is wrong, correct it.

Protagonist: It isn’t right. I’m not angry. I am hurt, and I feel betrayed.

Double: I trusted her to talk to me, to tell me what was going on.

Protagonist: Yes, that’s it. I did trust her to talk to me. To let me in. And she betrayed my trust.

Even an incorrect statement is helpful to the protagonist, for in correcting the statement, the protagonist clarifies what is going on inside her.

A good double helps the protagonist to feel seen and understood, and, at the same time, to move into deeper levels of feeling. Often during a traumatic life event, we dissociate or freeze, and may feel helpless or powerless. Through psychodramatic reenactment, a protagonist can revisit that moment in her life and, through the use of a double, stay in her body, and express thoughts and feelings she was too overwhelmed to express at the time. This can be very beneficial to a protagonist as it facilitates feeling and integration of emotions that she split from her consciousness.

A double can also provide support for the protagonist. This helps him take more risks and enter the action more completely. In addition, a double can provide suggestions and interpretations to the protagonist through the role. For example, if your client is having a difficult time expressing sadness over the changes in his life because of an accident, you may want to double by uttering words he cannot: “I am sad. I can no longer lift my little boy to his high chair. I can no longer have sex with my wife. I feel useless and less of a man.” Make sure you give your client the opportunity to accept or reject this doubling statement. If he accepts it, ask him to put it in his own words.

When you wish to act as a double for someone, (for example, a friend, spouse, client, or witness) the process generally is to stand slightly behind and to the side of the protagonist. It is extremely important to abandon your own agenda, to set aside your need to ask questions or solve problems, and tune in and listen without judgment. Listen with your heart, not your head. Let the feelings that come up reverberate in you. You should be aware of the protagonist’s non-verbal communication, and imitate her body language. When you mirror the protagonist’s gestures, posture, body positions, and tone of voice, you will begin to experience the same kinds of body sensations as the protagonist.

Neuroscientists have recently discovered mirror neurons, a class of brain cells that operate similar to radio waves. They explain why we pick up on the feelings and moods of people we are with.

                       Mirror neurons track the emotional flow, move-

                        ment and even intentions of the person we are

                        with, and replicate this sensed state in our own

                        brain by stirring in our brain the same areas active

                        in the other person. Mirror neurons offer a neu-

                        ral mechanism that explains emotional contagion,

                        the tendency of one person to catch the feelings

                        of another, particularly if strongly expressed. This

                        brain-to-brain link may also account for feelings

                        of rapport, which research finds depend in part on

                        extremely rapid synchronization of peoples’ pos-

                        ture, vocal pacing and movements as they interact.

                        In short, these brain cells seem to allow the inter-

                        personal orchestration of shifts in physiology.[2]

A double should not, however, overwhelm or take over for the protagonist. Instead, the double should feel into the protagonist, becoming attuned to the protagonist’s moods, feelings, and rhythm. The double needs to let go of any prior perception she may have had of the protagonist and trust her intuition, being open to the feelings that arise. When the double speaks for the protagonist, the double should speak in the first person: “I feel really angry that . . .”

Learning to be a good double, setting aside your own agenda and tuning in to another person is a powerful experience, not only for the double but for the person being doubled as well. Doubling is essentially the skill of active listening on a very deep level, and connecting to the emotions, the inner life, of the other person.

The skill of listening is one of the most important skills for you to have; you use it in all phases of trial, and you should actively develop it. When a speaker and his double participate in a listening/doubling exercise, the exercise creates a bond between them. The person being doubled feels seen, heard, and most importantly, validated. Validation results in connection and trust.

Once you have significant experience with this tool, you can begin to use it without standing slightly behind and to the side of the person you wish to double, without imitating their non- verbal communication, and without speaking in first person as if an inner voice. You can double jurors as you conduct voir dire, double witnesses in deposition, and even double the judge. This tool can also be used during direct examination to help the witness go deeper and fully express their feelings to the jury. You can use this tool when meeting with clients to ensure your relationship starts out on a good note and to demonstrate that you care about them as people.

You can learn more about psychodrama and how trial lawyers use this method by reading the book – Trial In Action: The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama, (2010 Trial Guides) available at http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

[1] Moreno, Blomkvist and Rutzel, Psychodrama, 69.

[2] Daniel Goleman, Essay—Friends for Life: An Emerging Biology of Emotional Healing (2006).

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Role Reversal – The Engine of Psychodrama

October 26, 2011

Role reversal is the engine of psychodrama and is the most important and difficult technique to master. It is also the tool that trial lawyers familiar with psychodrama use most often.

You go through life with only your set of eyes and your perspective on life’s events. Role reversal is the technique of stepping into the role of another. It requires that you give up your own position and temporarily leave yourself to occupy and experience the role of someone else. Initially, you play the role by imitating what you have heard and seen the other person say and do. Ultimately, you progress to exploring the role itself by bringing your universal life experiences to it.

When you successfully reverse roles with another person, you have an opportunity to see life through that person’s eyes, even if only momentarily. You feel like him, think like him, and act like him. This concretized changing of roles allows you to look at yourself from the perspective of the other and from this vantage point, get a different vision of yourself. You might see how you come across and how others perceive you; at the same time, you gain a greater understanding of the other person. This is the gift of role reversal.

When you are truly able to stand in the shoes of another and see things from that person’s perspective, a role reversal has occurred. It is not a complete or valid role reversal, however, until you do it without judgment. “Playing different roles, allowing a situation to be seen from a variety of perspectives, automatically shifts awareness . . .”[1] In the context of a legal case, being able to see a situation from a variety of perspectives gives you a wealth of information from which to choose when creating a discovery plan, preparing for both direct and cross examination of witnesses, and putting together a persuasive story for trial.

There are several functions role reversal serves. The first is to gain information or insight into the role of the other. “What occurs in role reversal is that your perception of the role of the other begins to change when you shut off your own person.”[2] By standing in the shoes of another, you are able to look at a situation, event, or even yourself through the eyes of the other and form a new perspective. You gain an awareness that you previously didn’t know.

Additionally, by being in the role of the other, you begin to examine and understand that person’s choices and behaviors in the situation you are exploring. Similarly, you will experience great insight into the person’s motives and rationale for that behavior. Such understanding and insight is valuable, not only from a personal perspective, but from a professional one as well. When you are seeking to understand or determine the motivation of people or witnesses in a case, using this tool exposes and makes accessible information you may not be able to obtain from other sources.[3]

The actual physical task of reversing roles is quite simple. The difficulty lies in being able to step outside of yourself and set aside your own ego to truly experience the role of the other person.

Example: Role Reversal in a Discrimination Case

Imagine you are working on a case where your female client, a postal worker, suffered age discrimination at the hands of her supervisor. At some point in your preparation of the case, you may want to reverse roles with the supervisor to better understand his behavior, what motivates him, why he did what he did, who he is, and what he feels about your client. You may also want your client to reverse roles with the supervisor to help her show you her experience of the supervisor with exact language, intonation, and actions that he used. This will give you information about him that would not be available in a simple reporting of what he may have said or done. Role reversal brings the experience alive and makes it three-dimensional—you hear it, see it, and feel it— versus a one-dimensional narrative that is unlikely to provide as much valuable information or detail. Because your client knows the supervisor better than you and has greater knowledge about who this person is and why he behaved as he did, she can become an active participant in preparing the case.

Using the example of the supervisor in an age discrimination case, a step-by-step approach for role reversal follows:

  •           Physically move from the spot where you are standing in

your own role, to another spot where you will take on the

role of the supervisor. Moving to another spot in order

to actually change roles is important. It concretely marks

changing roles.

  •            Allow yourself to take on the role. What is your name?

How old are you? What do you look like? What color

are your hair and eyes? How tall are you? How are you

dressed? What type of shoes are you wearing?

Tyson Spoce [Lawyer is in role reversal with Tyson Spoce, the supervisor]: I am forty-seven years old. I have gray hair that I keep a little long. I am about six feet, three inches tall and in pretty good shape. I am wearing a postal service uniform, navy blue pants with a light blue short sleeve shirt. I am wearing black running shoes. I also have a wedding ring on my left hand and a college football ring on my right hand.

  •           Take a moment and feel yourself physically in the role.

How do you walk? Sit? Stand? What is your posture like?

Walk around in this new body. Do you shuffle or step

firmly? Feel your center of gravity.

Tyson Spoce: I have a bad back from a football injury so sometimes I walk with my left hand on my lower back. When my back is hurting I shift around a bit and I can’t sit in one position for very long. If I stand for long periods of time, I shift my weight back and forth between my feet.

  •           Once you have taken on the physical qualities of the su-

pervisor, continue exploring the role. How long have you

worked for the Postal Service? Why did you go to work

there? How is it that you became a supervisor? Do you like

your job? What are your job duties? What type of problems

do you have on your job? Who do you report to?

Tyson Spoce: I have worked for the postal service since I was  twenty-four years old. It has been my career. The pay is good   and I’m a manager. I worked my way up from postal carrier. I oversee the branch and supervise all the employees at this branch.

  •           As the supervisor, look at the plaintiff. How long have

you known her? When did you first meet? What do you

feel as you look at her? Describe your relationship with

her. How do you feel about your relationship with her?

What type of employee is she? Have you had any prob-

lems with her? What do you want from her? Why? Let us

hear your soliloquy (your inner thoughts that you might

not express aloud to anyone else) about her allegations

that you discriminated against her because of her age. Did

you discriminate against her? Perhaps you are unwilling

to use the word “discriminate.” If so, use the word you

would choose. Why did you behave in this way?

Tyson Spoce: Jenny Jones came to work in our branch about two years ago. She has always had an attitude problem. Maybe it is because she is older, I don’t know. As an older woman she seems to be pretty lonely. I have gone out of my way and have tried to be friendly with her. I even asked her to go to lunch with me on a number of times, but she refused. I also asked her to go out for drinks after work but she got all huffy and told me she didn’t think that would be appropriate. The younger employees love to hang out with me and go the extra mile. She just puts her time in and goes home. Her job here would be easier if she put a little more effort into being friendly with me. After all, I am her boss.

Role reversal need not be limited to exploration of parties and witnesses, although use with both can help you prepare both direct and cross examination questions as well as help you understand the events of the case through their eyes. You can also use this tool to help you gain insight into and understand jurors, opposing counsel, and even the judge.


[1] Tian Dayton, PhD., The Living Stage, A Step by Step Guide to Psychodrama, Sociometry and Experiential Group Therapy (Health Communications, Inc., 2005), 39.

[2] Zerka Moreno, Leif Dag Blomkvist, and Thomas Rutzel, Psychodrama: Sur- plus Reality And The Art Of Healing (Routledge, 2000), 74.

[3] Role Reversal can be used for a variety of purposes: (a) helping a person understand the role of another; (b) learning how one’s interactions affect the roles of others; (c) providing information about the individual’s social system; and, (d) making the subject aware of discrepancies in verbal and nonverbal communications. D. R. Buchanan, “Psychodrama.” In The Psychosocial Therapies: Part II of The Psychiatric Therapies, ed. T. B. Karasu, M.D. (Washington, D.C.,: The American Psychiatric Association, 1984), 792.

To learn more about psychodrama and how lawyers can and do use it to prepare for trial and present their case(s), see Trial In Action:The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama, J. Garcia-Colson, F. Sison, M. Peckham (2010) Trial Guides. http://www.trialguides.com/book/trial-in-action/

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Culinary Musings

July 27, 2011

When I was young, beginning at around age 10 or so, every year my cousin from California would come to Colorado to spend the summer. He and I are about the same age. His family had a home up on Lookout Mountain outside Denver, CO and I would either spend a few weeks up there or he would come to my house in the suburbs. His father was a chef and his parents worked in catering for many years. My parents both worked at IBM; my father as an engineer and my mother, first as an executive secretary and then as a manager. Our mothers are sisters and food was often the focus of summer family gatherings.

I began cooking at a young age. My parents both worked and I was the oldest of three girls. One of my chores was to assist my mother by getting dinner started before she and my father arrived home from work. Initially, I would do simple tasks, like preparing the salad and getting the ingredients ready for whatever meal had been planned for the evening. Over time, I voluntarily took on more and more responsibility for evening meals and soon began cooking dinner on a regular basis. Almost from the beginning I experimented with recipes, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. One evening I prepared a casserole for the family. Upon taking that first bite, it became obvious to everyone that I overdid it with spices, in particular cayenne and chili powder. The dish was overwhelmingly hot. My mother tried to salvage my creation to no avail. This failure, however, did not deter me from exploring my culinary curiosity.

One of my regular entrees was meatloaf and this soon became a family favorite. When I first started making this dish, my parents would ask me what ingredients I included in the meatloaf. Sometimes the ingredients I used surprised them. Because my meatloaf was so good, they eventually stopped asking what was in it and just ate it.

When I was in junior high school, I was required to take home economics. At some point during the course all the students were required to make something at home and bring it to class for a baking contest. I read through all the cookbooks we had and eventually choose a coffee cake recipe – “Kaffe Kuchen” – that sounded good. Much to my surprise, and at the time embarrassment, I won the baking contest.

During the summer months, my cousin from California and I did all sorts of fun and adventurous things. But some of my favorite memories are of playing restaurant. After pouring through all the cookbooks we could find and developing our menu, we spent the day preparing a meal for our parents, siblings and extended family. We hand made menus and place cards and set the table like a fancy restaurant. When she was alive, our grandmother would supervise and teach us about cooking. I remember calling her long distance one summer morning to ask her to what temperature we needed to set the oven to get the “very hot oven” the recipe we were working on called for. Our dishes were not always a success, like the time we tried to make donuts and thought that baking soda would be a fine substitute for baking power, but I loved every minute of our time in the kitchen. One day, after making an incredible carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, we made a pact; when we grew up we would open our own restaurant. Alas, that isn’t quite how our lives turned out…yet anyway.

I have always had a passion for food, cooking, and all things culinary. Throughout my life, I have held many jobs in the food service industry at a wide variety of restaurants. I have been a short order cook, food server, hostess, cocktail waitress and bartender. My friends tell me I have a knack for cooking and for turning ordinary recipes into extraordinary dishes. I enjoy cooking for friends and family. It is something that gives me great pleasure. I love planning the menu, shopping for ingredients and preparing a variety of dishes.

Entertaining and having friends over for dinner excites me and always stimulates my creativity. Just last year I catered my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary party, planned the menu and cooked all the food for approximately 100 guests (with the exception of the cake.) It was a huge success and I received rave reviews both about the celebration and about the food. I totally enjoyed planning the party but had the most fun planning the menu and preparing the food.

When it comes to family holiday gatherings, you will find me in the kitchen. My favorite holiday meal is Christmas dinner. I spend months searching for recipes and creating the menu for an unforgettable meal. Generally, we have several courses — appetizer, soup and/or salad, two entrees to choose from, several side dishes and always a delectable desert or two. For me, dinner is a highlight of this holiday. One memorable meal began with lobster bisque, followed by crab cakes with jalapeño aioli; a green salad with champagne vinaigrette; beef tenderloin with red wine and morel mushroom sauce; garlic mashed potatoes; and, grilled asparagus. Dessert was a white chocolate espresso mouse torte or gingerbread roll with cinnamon crème fraiche cream cheese filling.

While I have had a successful career in the field of law – graduating with honors from law school, winning a number of large cases and in December 2010 having my first book published – it never afforded me the kind of passion and creativity that I want in my life. I often wonder if I have cheated myself by not pursuing my passion, or at least devoting more time to it.

But, as I like to say, life is a journey, not a destination. And who knows where the road I am on will lead me.

 

 

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The Power Of Story In The Courtroom

May 10, 2011

Story is the portal through which we enter other people’s lives, connect with them and discover our similarities. Stories are the source of human connection; and, storytelling is, perhaps, the most important component of effective communication. And, effective communication is the means to achieving your goal as a trial attorney: justice for your client.

A hunger to hear stories is ingrained in every human being. From the time that our ancestors sat around fires in caves, up through today, human beings seek out and thrive on stories and storytelling, in order to connect with their fellow man, to pass down history and to teach. Story is the currency of human contact. As Annette Simmons (storytelling expert) writes in her book, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling: “Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence.”

Our insatiable appetite for stories is fed daily through movies, cable television and the internet. Stories permeate our everyday lives, from the moment we wake, to the moment we fall asleep. Stories even inhabit and invade our dreams. Stories are everywhere, because more than anything else in our culture, stories move us.

But, some stories draw us in and move us more than do others. In the courtroom, we need to grab the jury’s attention, to hold it and, ultimately, to move the jury to action on behalf of our clients. This is not an easy task.

One of the most difficult tasks that you face as a lawyer is finding out about, or, rather, discovering, your client’s story, the one that you must tell at trial. What parts of the story are important? Where do you begin? Who are the characters, or important players? What facts do you need to prove the client’s claims? And, most importantly, what story will move a jury to deliver justice?

You cannot give jurors the actual experience of your client; but, you can provide them with the next best thing. According to Annette Simmons, “Stories interpret raw facts and proofs to create reality.” You can bring your client’s experience to jurors through story; by weaving a story that is so vivid and detailed that jurors feel as if they are actually there to experience the events of the story as they are happening. Simmons goes on to say that, “Story is a re-imagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.” Even though the jurors cannot be witnesses to the actual event, they can, through the use of psychodramatic tools, bear witness to the re-imagining of the experience.

One of the first things that you must do to fully explore your client’s story is to abandon your agenda: to focus not only on the elements of the cause of action asserted in the case, but to, instead, look at all of the facts, all the points of view expressed and the perspectives of each witness, including the opposition’s. In this way, only, will you get the whole story. You need to take a first look at the story as a human being, not just as a lawyer, so that you can relate to another group of human beings: jurors.

The case may be about an automobile accident, but the story is about much more than the accident itself. If all you do is focus on the actual event giving rise to the cause of action (the accident), you will miss critical parts of the story. Those other parts of the story will help a jury to understand, not only the accident itself, but also how the accident had an impact on your client’s life, and, ultimately, how not holding the defendant responsible could have an impact on each of the jurors’ lives. (This is not, incidentally, about violating the Golden Rule; rather, it is recognition of the universal truths that are part of our lives. Many of us share similar life experiences, albeit with slight variations; this means that our stories are largely the same.)

Traditionally, you begin to explore a new client’s case through an initial interview. Unfortunately, most lawyers limit themselves to looking for facts that fit into various boxes tending to prove the elements of a particular cause of action. This is, after all, what you were taught in law school. This stock-type of analysis, though, will not serve you well when it comes to finding the story that will result in the successful outcome of your client’s case, because this sort of baseline work-up does not take into account emotions, or the universal story, or stories, that have arisen out of the events. A story, to be effective, must evoke feelings in the listener or observer.

In a trial, human beings, not automatons, are the decision makers. These human beings are the people whom you want to convince that your client has been wronged, and is now deserving of redress. Despite what many law professors teach, people make decisions based on their gut, on their instincts, and their feelings, rather than on rationality and the application of intellect. As human beings, our feelings play a large role in our decision-making. After all, a verdict really reflects the decision of human beings who use their intellect and rational analysis to support the decision that they “feel” is right.

Limiting yourself to a cold analysis of facts, and pigeonholing those facts into neat cause of action checklists, is far too limiting. It may result in your missing powerful and persuasive aspects of your client’s story, specifically, feelings and emotions that will lead a jury to mete out justice on behalf of your client. Annette Simmons says that, “[F]acts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts, at least the impact of facts.” The most effective way to elicit an emotional response from people is through psychodramatic methods, that is, the “show me, don’t tell me” method.

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A Rare and Precious Gift

March 4, 2011

On my way home from a client appointment yesterday, I stopped at a local store to buy a birthday present for the love of my life. The store is quiet and there are more salespeople than customers filling the aisles. I take my time, browsing in various departments for that perfect gift. I am not in a rush like I usually am, having finished my work for the day, and feel satisfied that my time with the client was extremely productive. I am happy and content. My life may not be perfect, but it is pretty damn good.

After selecting a gift that I hope will be a big hit, and picking up a new cd for myself, I pay for my items and exit the store. I can’t wait to get in my car, open the cd, and insert it into the car’s stereo and crank the volume on the soundtrack for my drive home. As the first notes explode from my car’s speakers, I head for the exit to the parking lot. Sitting on a mound of grass to the right of the exit is a woman holding up a cardboard sign. From the distance I can’t make out the words on the sign. But as I approach, the handwritten words come into focus. “Single Unemployed mom needs help.” Sadness overcomes me. I look at the sign holder. She appears to be in her 30’s, is clean and neatly dressed in black jeans and a t-shirt. Her shoulder length auburn hair is neatly combed and she is wearing a defeated and sad expression. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, being so desperate and hopeless, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Her eyes catch mine for a moment. She looks away and lowers her sign.

About a-week-and-a-half ago I was in New Orleans, finishing up a seminar on the persuasive power of psychodrama. For four days my dearest friends and I worked with trial lawyers from all over the country, teaching them the basic tools of psychodrama and how to apply them to their practices. After finishing our last session and packing up our materials, we decide to spend some time exploring the French Quarter, a place we had little time to enjoy during the program.

Now if you ever go to New Orleans, you must visit the world famous Café DuMonde and sample the delicious, addictive and thigh destroying beignets. On this Sunday afternoon of a three-day weekend, I need a beignet fix. My friends and I arrive at this landmark establishment and discover a huge line snaking down the block.  Even the line for take out is enormous. After a wait, which isn’t too bad since one of the busboys is taking orders from those of us at the back of the line so we don’t have to waste too much time, and beignets in hand, my friends and I head out of the bustling Quarter to walk along the riverfront towards our hotel.

As we near the holocaust memorial, a man comes running from the side path waving his arms and pointing behind him, “please, someone call 911. She is having a seizure. Give me a cell phone so I can call 911.” Most of the people strolling along the riverfront ignore his pleas and pass by.

“I need a cell phone. Please. We need to call 911. She is having a seizure.” People continue walking past, as if they are deaf and the frantic man invisible. He is dirty and thin, wearing jeans and a jacket over a t-shirt with a dirty baseball cap on his head. I look in the direction he is pointing and see two other people, a black woman, short, chubby and shabbily dressed. She is staggering around near the park bench from where the man came. When she tries to stand, she staggers a few steps and then falls down on the bench. Across from her is an elderly man with long stringy hair and a wild, unkempt beard. He tries to help the woman sit, but isn’t too steady himself. Again the man in the cap calls out, “she is having a seizure, I need a cell phone to call 911.”

My friends and I stop and look again in the direction he is pointing. “Please, someone call 911.” I pull my cell phone from my pocket and shout to him, “I will call 911.” I dial 911 and a dispatcher answers. “What is your emergency?”

“We need paramedics on the riverfront walk, a woman is having a seizure.”

“Where are you?”

“On the riverfront walk, right near the holocaust memorial. Between the holocaust memorial and the IMAX.”

“Holo what?”

“The holocaust memorial.”

“Hotel, what hotel?” I pull my phone away from my ear and look incredulously at my friends.

I put the phone back to my ear, “No! The HOLOCAUST memorial. H-O-L-O-C-A-U-S-T.”

“What is happening?”

“A woman is having a seizure.”

“Oh, O.K. You need an ambulance, not the police. What is your number and I will have them call you.”  I can’t believe this. Here we are with an emergency and they can’t figure out where we are and then they tell us we have called the wrong place. I give the dispatcher my number.

Within seconds, my phone rings. A male voice is on the other end. “What is your emergency?” I repeat the information and tell him where we are. He starts asking questions about cross streets and addresses.

“I’m not from here. I don’t know the cross streets.” Getting help for a woman having a seizure should really not be this hard.

By this time, a couple walking by stops near us and is watching the homeless woman, who by now, is being held tightly by the man in the baseball cap. “I’ve got you Martha. I’m right here. I am not going to let you get hurt.” She is struggling to free herself. Her speech is slurred and one side of her face droops. At times she seems to convulse slightly. He holds her on his lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her.  She struggles to get free, “I want to go.”

“Martha, you are having a seizure. I am not letting you go.”

The couple overhears me trying to give our location to the ambulance dispatcher and approaches us. “I’m from here,” the male member of the couple says as he reaches out for me to give him my phone. I hand it over and he gives the information the dispatcher needs to send help. He hands back the phone and the dispatcher tells me to please watch for the ambulance and to flag them down when they arrive.

I call out to the man in the baseball cap, “They are sending an ambulance.”

“Thank you.” I hear the relief in his voice and see it in his eyes.

My friends and I stay nearby waiting for the ambulance to arrive. We want to make sure they come, and when they arrive that they help this woman. We watch the man in the cap hold Martha and try to soothe her. “You are my best friend Martha. You need help. I am not going to let you go.” She is struggling and appears a little out of it.

“I’m ok.” She whines.

“No, your not. You are having a seizure. You were seizing for 3 minutes. You need to go to the hospital.”

“No! I don’t want to go.” Her agitation increases as she tries to escape his hold.

“They hurt me.” She holds up her arm and her soiled sleeve slips down toward her elbow revealing a large swollen area on her forearm.

“They hurt me with the needle. I don’t want to go!”

“I promised Martha. You are my best friend. I love you. I promised. I am not letting you go. You need help.” He tries to calm her and keep her still.

“Yes Maatha. Yo haf ta gota the hospital.” Slurs the old man who is with them. He looks at the man in the cap. “You goin wif heh?”

“I will be with you Martha. I am not going to leave you. You are my best friend. I love you.”

“They hurt me. See, they hurt me.” Again she holds up her arm.

“I am airborne and I will go with you. You are my best friend.”

We watch, in silence, each of us deep in our own thoughts.

A siren in the distance breaks the spell.

The man who gave directions to the ambulance dispatcher calls to us, “We’ll go flag down the ambulance and direct them over here.” They head off towards the street.

Other than the four of us, and the couple who head off to flag down the ambulance, no one else has stopped. No one has even noticed what is happening. In fact, people are purposely avoiding the area where we are all gathered.

A man in a golf cart, who appears to be some sort of security patrol, drives over to the park bench where the man in the ball cap is holding Martha.

“You people need to leave.” He starts to get out of the golf cart to chase them off.

“She is having a seizure. We have called an ambulance and they are on their way,” we tell him. He gets in his golf cart and drives away.

The ambulance finally arrives and paramedics along with a gurney join us. Martha is still struggling and resisting help. The man in the ball cap stays right by her side, talking to her calmly, promising not to leave.

Eventually the paramedics succeed in lifting Martha on to the gurney and strap her down. She continues to struggle as they wheel her down the grassy hill towards the ambulance, all while her best friend, the man in the ball cap stays by her side.

The four of us stand there together watching, Martha’s cries fading away. None of us have words. We leave the riverfront walk behind us, and slowly head back into the French Quarter. I look at my three friends and am filled with immense love and gratitude. Martha may be homeless, but she has something truly rare, a real friend who is there for her and doesn’t leave her side when she needs him most. And that is a precious and rare gift.

I look at the women I am with. Amazing, kind, loving women. I know in my heart that each of them is my man in the baseball cap.

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Psychodrama And The Power of Story

February 3, 2011

Story is the portal through which we enter other people’s lives, connect with them, and discover our similarities. Stories are the source of human connection and perhaps the most important component to effective communication. Effective communication is a means to achieve your goal: justice for your client.

The hunger for story is ingrained in every human being. From the time our ancestors sat around fires in caves until today, humans seek and thrive on story to connect with their fellow man, pass down history and to teach. Story is the currency of human contact. “Telling stories and being curious about the stories of others is a way of life as much as it is a technique of influence.”[1]

Our insatiable appetite for stories is fed daily via movies, cable TV, and the Internet. Stories permeate our everyday lives, from the moment we wake to the moment we sleep. They even inhabit and invade our dreams. Stories are everywhere because more than anything else in culture, stories move us.

But some draw and move us more than others. In the courtroom, we need to grab the jury’s attention, hold it, and move them to action on behalf of our clients. This is not an easy task.

One of the most difficult tasks you face as a lawyer is finding or discovering your client’s story, the one that you must tell at trial. What parts of the story are important? Where do you begin? Who are the characters or important players? What facts do you need to prove the client’s claims? And most importantly, what story will move a jury to deliver justice?

You cannot give jurors the actual experience of your client, but you can provide them with the next best thing. According to storytelling expert Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor and Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, “Stories interpret raw facts and proofs to create reality.”[2] You can bring your client’s experience to jurors through story, one that is so vivid and detailed the jurors feel as if they are actually there to experience the event as it is happening. “Story is a re-imagined experience narrated with enough detail and feeling to cause your listener’s imaginations to experience it as real.”[3] While they cannot be witnesses to the actual event, through the use of psychodramatic tools, they can bear witness to the re-imagining of the experience.

One of the first things that must happen in order to fully explore a client’s story is for you to abandon your agenda that focuses only on the elements of the cause of action asserted in the case, and instead, to look at all of the facts, the points of view and perspectives of each witness (including the opposition’s) and explore the story as a whole. You need to look at the story first as a human being, not just as a lawyer, so you can relate to and tell it to a group of human beings, the jurors.

The case may be about an automobile accident but the story is about much more than the accident itself. If all you do is focus on the actual event giving rise to the cause of action—the accident—you will miss critical parts of the story. These parts of the story help a jury understand not only the accident itself, but how the accident had an impact on your client’s life, and ultimately, how not holding the defendant responsible could have an impact on each of the jurors’ lives.[4]

Traditionally, you begin by interviewing the client. Unfortunately, most lawyers limit themselves to looking for facts that fit into various boxes that prove the elements of a particular cause of action. This is, after all, what you were taught in law school.

But this type of analysis will not serve you well when it comes to finding and exploring the story that will result in a successful outcome of the case. It does not take into consideration emotions or the universal story or stories that may arise from the events. A story, to be effective, must evoke feelings in the listener or the observer.

In a trial, human beings, not automatons, are the decision makers; they are the people you want to convince that your client has been wronged and deserves redress. Despite what many law professors would have us think, people make decisions based on their gut, their instincts, and their feelings, rather than rationality and intellect. As human beings, our feelings play a huge role in our decision-making. After all, a verdict reflects the decision of human beings who use their intellect and rational analysis to support the decision they “feel” is right.

Limiting yourself to a cold analysis of facts, pigeon-holing those facts into causes of action is too limiting. It may result in your missing powerful and persuasive aspects of the story, specifically feelings and emotions that will lead a jury to justice on behalf of your client. “[F]acts aren’t as powerful as human emotions. Feelings alter facts, at least the impact of facts.”4 The most effective way to elicit an emotional response from people is through psychodramatic methods, that is, the “show me, don’t tell me” way.

You can learn more about Psychodrama and how lawyers are using it by reading the book – Trial In Action:The Persuasive Power of Psychodrama available from Trial Guides. For information on programs that train lawyers in the use of psychodrama and its application to trial practice, visit The 3 Sisters, LLP web site. To learn more about the power of Story in the courtroom, attend The Art of Telling Our Client’s Story – Aug. 11 – 14, 2011 in Portland, OR.


[1] Annette Simmons, The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence, and Persuasion Through the Art of Storytelling (Basis Books, 2001), 189.

[2] Annette Simmons, Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins, (AMACOM, 2007), 3.

[3] Id. 19.

[4] This is not about violating the Golden Rule but a recognition of the universal truths that are part of our lives. Many of us share similar life experiences, albeit with slight variations; this means our stories are largely the same.

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