How do lawyers sway jurors in the heat of a trial? Why do the best trial lawyers seem uncannily able to get the verdict they want? In answering these questions, folklorist Sam Schrager vindicatesbut with a twistthe widespread belief that lawyers ...
are actors who manipulate the truth. He shows that attorneys have no choice but to treat the jury trial, from beginning to end, as an artful performance: as storytelling combat in which victory most often goes to the man or woman who has superior control of craft.
Drawn from fieldwork in the Philadelphia courts and at the Smithsonian Institution's American Trial Lawyers program, The Trial Lawyer's Art gives a remarkable, in-depth look at this craft of performance. It examines how lawyers exploit a case's dramatic potential, how they enact mythically potent themes, how they project personal authority, and how they use cultural identitytheir own and opponents' racial, gender, class, and local affiliationsall to make themselves and their stories persuasive to a jury. Schrager depicts the performance styles of some of the nation's most artful criminal and civil advocates: in Philadelphia, prosecutor Roger King, defender Robert Mozenter, and the legendary Cecil B. Moore; from around the country, such litigating stars as Roy Barrera, Penny Cooper, Jo Ann Harris, Tony Serra, and Michael Tigar. These lawyers reflect candidly on their courtroom calculations and share revealing "war stories" about their work.
Integrating performance insights with evocative portrayals of unfolding trials, The Trial Lawyer's Art offers a no-holds-barred analysis of the place of skill versus evidence in the American justice system. In doing so, it raises vital questions about the moral challenges that legal and other professions now face and sheds new light on the role of stories in American life.