7am Call:
Was here at 6:30 am for breakfast before the 7am call. Just a few crew members ate the breakfast, which was basic dorm food. Well. before dorms upgraded the food.

I am now in a conference room set off the courtroom that is serving as the green room waiting to be called to wardrobe and make up. There are no working outlets in this pretend conference center so I don't know if I will have enough laptop battery to blog all day. I hope to be able to do so from the set in between scenes. We'll see. We'll also see if there is enough interesting stuff to blog about.

Am shmoozing with Brandon Ford Green who's playing the court clerk. Finding out about how he got into the acting business. Earlier I was talking with J.G. Herzler ("Star Trek Deep Space Nine") who is moving to Ithaca to teach drama at Cornell. He remarked that, though the Drama Department is next to the law school there, there is no connection between them. He said that because actors are full time liars, and lawyers lie for a living, law students would benefit from some dramatic training. I disputed the liars part, but said that those lawyers who try cases do need to present themselves the way they want to be perceived by others in court and some acting skills would be helpful for that. It is no secret that courtroom work does involve genuine acting, though I would not say that's the same as lying.

Just spoke with James Runcorn, who is playing the bailiff and also casting the background actors. He said it would be great if my mom and dad, who live in Orange County and are coming to visit the set tomorrow, wanted to be spectators in the courtroom scenes. And they would get named credits at the end of the film too. I think that would be especially cool because when I was a real prosecutor in Chicago my parents came to 26th and California to watch me first chair a murder case. Now they would be in a pretend courtroom pretending to watch me pretending to be a prosecutor.
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Actually, most experienced and reasonably successful courtroom lawyers will tell you that the key to being effective is not acting, and certainly not lying. Juries, in their collective wisdom, are generally very good at sniffing out phonies, which is why the jury trial system mostly works.

It is possible, and desirable, to improve one's self-presentation and one's presentation skills. All other things being equal, for example, a courtroom lawyer who mumbles and speaks in a soft voice is going to be less effective than one who doesn't.

But finding an authentic way to present your client's point of view is essential.
6.16.2007 12:32pm
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Or maybe I misunderstood this sentence:

It is no secret that courtroom work does involve genuine acting, though I would not say that's the same as lying.

If acting is pretending to be something you're not, I think that's a negative for courtroom lawyers. ("Genuine acting" is sort of an oxymoron, isn't it?)
6.16.2007 12:42pm
John (mail):
Hey! Its "shmoozing," not "smoozing."
6.16.2007 2:35pm
Zywicki (mail):
John, Randy:
Funny, I read "smoozing" and thought he meant "snoozing" because it was such an early morning call!
6.16.2007 2:39pm
Actually, there are a number of skills actors can share with lawyers that have nothing to do with lying.

Many actors will tell you that the point of acting is not to present something false, but to present something real. To be an effective actor, you've got to tap into real emotions and feelings and bring them to the audience.

But even aside from that, trial attorneys can benefit from the skills that actors practice: cadence, tone, connecting with the jury/audience. These skills can help you avoid being "phony," which will turn the jury off. My firm had an excellent CLE on this with a noted trial consultant, Katharine James. She's an actress who helps lawyers communicate more effectively with jurors. Not by teaching them to be phony or to lie to the jury, but by teaching them how to open up, connect with the jury, and make the jurors feel like they're an important part of the process.

Perhaps Mr. Herzler could learn from her and bring some acting education into the law school.

6.16.2007 2:50pm
Eric Muller (www):
I would write "schmoozing," personally.
6.16.2007 6:04pm
markm (mail):
Sincerity is everything. If you can fake that, you can do anything.
6.16.2007 6:40pm
Cornellian (mail):
Hey, Hertzler's character, General Martok, was actually a pretty significant character in ST:DS9, not just some guy you saw in the background every now and then.
6.16.2007 9:48pm
Bill Dyer (mail) (www):
Phantom: Cadence, tone, connecting with people (if that's a quality that can be singled out and taught, or learned) — those are communication skills. Actors may benefit from them, and so too may courtroom lawyers, or used car salesmen, or law professors, or snake oil salesmen, or politicians (oops, sorry, got awfully redundant there). Novelists and song-writers and trial lawyers and preachers all need to have story-telling skills too. And all of the above can profitably employ comedy, drama, mystery, suspense, and (occasionally even) romance.

I don't think we're disagreeing, necessarily; and I may have been pedantic in my initial pair of comments, for I should have noted my fundamental agreement with Prof. Barnett's conversational rejection of the notion that lawyers "lie" for a living. (His actor acquaintance may have been using that word in a peculiar sense, too — perhaps he thinks that some form of "lying" is involved whenever a lawyer knowingly defends someone who's guilty, for instance).

But the single quality I associate most with "acting" and the professional work of actors is their ability to convincingly and consistently portray themselves as characters who they are not. I have yet to see a consistently effective courtroom lawyer who does that, although I've seen some lawyers who've tried (without much success). And part of the professional challenge of being a courtroom lawyer is finding a way to be as effecting on your client's behalf as possible without ever having to "act" (i.e., pretend to be someone you're not). In that important and essential sense, it seems to me that being an actor and being a good courtroom lawyer require fundamentally inconsistent skill-sets.
6.17.2007 3:29am