“The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book – a book that was a dead language to the uneducated passenger, but which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.”
Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi
I don’t remember the occasion when one of my law school professors read us an excerpt from Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, but it was the best narrative I heard in law school about learning. At 24, Mark Twain realized his boyhood dream of becoming a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. The excerpt is his reflections on learning to read the river and the gains and losses involved in the process.
Sometimes telling a story is the best way to communicate an idea. Businesses use storytelling to convey their values, to deliver their message to customers, to initiate change. Stories are also important to the practice of law. Clients bring their emotional, sometimes disjointed stories to the lawyers’ offices. Lawyers repackage them into restrained, logical and persuasive stories for the court. They throw in some combativeness and flare for the jury. All the while, they are pushing the story of conflict towards its resolution.
Storytelling is an important skill for law students to learn. Often times, this skill is disguised under the legal functions of 'writing a persuasive brief'' or 'preparing for an oral argument,' but in the essence, it is still an art of telling a good story and one of the oldest ways to communicate. Many great people have written about storytelling much better that I ever would, so I am referring you to their narratives on the subject:
What makes a story great? Seth Godin’s blog has the answer in the article How to tell a great story.
How to build a good story? Check out enterRETAINment’s posts on the Story Structure.
Brain Based Business will tell you how Stories Boost the Business Brain.
TrackKnacks has advice on the use of stories for career advancement.
Legal Sanity focuses on telling simple but powerful stories in law and beyond.
Want to discuss the wisdom of storytelling further? Book your trip to London, UK to attend the July 2007 conference Once Upon a Legal Time: developing the skills of storytelling in law, as advised by the Legal Theory Blog.
What story are you telling today?