Rhetoric and Law

What about narratives that makes them persuasive in law?

The value of Rhetoric

"Although rhetoric does not promise certain answers, it can promise results that are, in Karl Llewllyn’s term, reckonable—they are certain enough that lawyers can make judgments about their likelihood and appellate lawyers can feel comfortable charging clients for their work" (Berger 8). The power of rhetoric can't be overvalued because there is always something that needs to be evaluated better.


--- Communication theorist Walter Fisher said, "Humans are essentially storytellers"

---"It is through narrative, rather than through some impeccable, impersonal argument from first precepts, that we show how or why the plaintiffs or the defendant's case is to be judged as we judge it" (Rideout 73).

---awash in a sea of diametrically opposed stories, conflicting eyewitness accounts, contradictory evidence, incongruous precedents, unclear controlling laws, incompatible expert reports, ambiguous legal documents, and so forth" (Henderson 91).

---, "a story may be internally consistent, but important facts may be omitted, counterarguments ignored, and relevant issues overlooked." (Rideout 65).

---“Hence, narratives, relative to rhetoric, are more likely to produce persuasive traction in situations where recipients hold prior beliefs and attitudes that may be inconsistent with the communication stance” (Mazzocco 1).

----Cicero spoke about lawyers by saying that they should, "discuss trivial matters in a plain style, matters of moderate significance in the tempered style, and weighty affairs in the grand manner" (Garner 93).

----" A judge articulates her understanding of a text, and as a result, somebody could lose his freedom, his property, his children, even his life" (Cover 1).

---"I think it is safe to say, that the more coherent the story a party presents at trial, the more likely it is that jurors will accept that party's story independent of the informational content of the evidence. A trier presented with a jumble of facts is, in other words, less likely to find for the party presenting those facts than a trier who receives the same factual information presented not as a jumble but as a coherent story." (Rideout).

---"Lawyers must imaginatively organize facts and interpret them, express facts in an original way so that one's statement of one's own version of things can stand the test of comparison with another version, so that it will be taken as the right one" (Santa Clara Law 521).

---Judges, officials, resisters, martyrs, wardens, convicts, may or may not share common texts; they may or may not share a common vocabulary, a common cultural store of gestures and rituals; they may or may not share a common philosophical framework" (Cover 1629).

---“All big companies are liars” (Maccocco)

----"People are emotional beings, characters have emotions Emotions help explain why a party acted in way did Client emotions are complex, as are emotional response of audience" (University of Denver 6).

Research Questions

1.) What is it about narratives that makes them persuasive in law?

2.) What is the goal of narrative in persuasive legal argument?

3.) How do verbs/adverbs affect persuasion in law?

4.) How do prejudices from the jury affect the presentation of an argument?

5.) How has historical cases affected how the public/jury view law?

Research Problems

RESEARCH PROBLEM: Rhetoric seems to be the most important to how an argument is formed, however one must wonder the amount of influence the actually law and statutes have on the case. PURPOSE STATEMENT: I am studying the impact rhetoric has on the influence of law. The purpose of this study is to give a calculation into what factors on average are needed in a courtroom for the judge/jury to side on your side of the case, this takes into account every human element including bias.

You must have a voice and an ear

It is very important to find the right style according to a
judge who said, "Voice goes with ear. We should therefore expect the choice
of styles to be influenced by the implied audience for a judicial opinion"
(Posner 1431).

Narrative must be....


•Correspondence to what the jury finds plausible to happen in the world

•Gaining fidelity through speech and language techniques

Opening and Closing statements

Jurors like people forget a lot of information. But they remember opening and closing arguments. Thus it is important that organizational structure is rooted in the opening and closing statements. This is what Garner means be organizational structure and depiction of jurors (Garner 20).

Compelling Narratives

What can bough down many trial
lawyers is that they are facing lawyers who are also professionals in the
world of rhetoric. This is why the importance of realizing, "that many
jurors are naturally predisposed to respond favorably to compelling
narratives (Mazzocco 191).

Use of Verbs and Adverbs

•The Defendant and her husband were “just” resting in their car.

•The defendant was “just” walking around outside their house when the police and their guns came upon her