What do My Cousin Vinny and Atticus Finch have in common? A lot more than you might think.  While Atticus Finch’s closing argument in To Kill a Mockingbird continues to inspire viewers to attend law school, the cross-examinations in My Cousin Vinny—while hilariously funny—offers equally compelling examples of excellent lawyering. With the aid of movies, this book Trial Advocacy Goes to the Movies explores advocacy from pretrial preparation through closing argument.

Why go to the movies to learn trial advocacy strategies, techniques, and skills? First, trial work is theater; movies show trial advocates how to effectively deliver a message to an audience. Second, movies illustrate successful advocacy principles and techniques. Third, movies are a visual medium, showing how to impart to a jury the trial lawyer’s message with visuals. Fourth, movie clips can be used to illustrate ethical and legal boundaries that trial lawyers should not cross. Fifth, some movies are based on actual cases and show how to be successful in trial with a real-life examples. Sixth and lastly, movies are entertaining and that helps the viewer learn winning trial techniques.  

This volume, like a play and most movies, has three acts. Act 1 focuses on the screen play and how to incorporate the elements of a five-star screenplay into your trial story. Act 2 is devoted to casting, rehearsal—how to prepare the actors in the movie—the witnesses. Act 3 deals with the performances—how to perform like a star at each stage of the trial. 

Your role changes as you move from Act to Act. For Act 1—Screen Writer, you are the screen writer and cinematographer. For Act 2—Director, you are the director who casts the parts, rehearses the actors and so on, and you work for the movie studio. And, for Act 3—Actor, you are the principal actor who performs during each phase of the trial. 

Because this is an e-book, you can watch movie clips of trial advocacy (yes, My Cousin Vinny is included) – each clip is just one click away.

This book is an outgrowth of a presentation titled by the same name—Advocacy Goes to the Movies”—that I have had the pleasure of delivering at continuing legal education seminars across the country. Yes, the lawyers got CLE credit for attending. The presentation usually lasted a half-day. Advocacy Goes to the Movies was always a lecture that I enjoyed giving and was received with smiles and engagement by the audience. Hope you enjoy it too.