I enjoy reading books about many different subjects, not just law. And occassionally I come across an idea or concept that originates outside law but applies well to the practice of law. I did just that recently after reading a book called Start With Why–How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action written by Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek is not a lawyer and he did not write his book for lawyers. His book is bigger than that. Sinek’s purpose is to inspire and he has developed a method that anyone can use to stay on purpose and thereby become (and remain) inspirational.
Simon Sinek talks about starting with the “why” or purpose of what you do. For example, you may be a lawyer and know what kind of law you practice, but why do you do it? Why do you get out of bed day after day? It’s not to make money, Simon explains that is just a result of what you do. The “why” is bigger than that. For us (meaning myself and my law partner, Stewart), we are lawyers because we believe in helping people resolve their problems, we like to think differently to resolve those problems and we beleive in fighting for justice and fairness. This then forms the basis of how we help our clients and eventually the things we do in practice.
What I like about Sinek’s book is that it applies equally well to my legal cases. When I present a case to a judge or jury I must be able to tell them the “why” of the case. Why are we here in Court and why should my client prevail? I am not referring to all the legal rationale–that is important and needs to be included of course–I am talking about the human rationale: why is my side favorable from a practical perspective?
This same concept is discussed by Rick Friedman, a well known trial attorney, in his book Polarizing the Case. Freedman beleives that we should tell the jury why we are before them and he uses a simple statement to do it: “we are here because….” It is up to the lawyer to fill in the blank. For example, we are here because the insurance company defendant refuses to fairly compensate my client for her harms and losses. Or we are here because the Trustee beleives he has unlimited power to do whatever he likes with the Trust assets. Or we are here because the decedent was manipulated to change his Will at a time when he was mentally and physically weak.
You get the idea. By looking at the legal case and detecting, with clarity, the “why” of that case, we can build a strong argument that is not only legally sound, but morally and humanly compelling so people want to side with us because we have the fair outcome on our side.