In Theater for Trial, David Ball and Joshua Karton use their extensive professional theater experience to give you practical exercises and strategies for connecting yourself, your case, and your witnesses with the jury. They provide tools available to any attorney—such as voice, presentation, and story structure—and show how to empower juries to take responsibility for righting a wrong. This book teaches you how to turn every trial into a powerful production that authentically calls forth your best asset: the simple truth, clearly and effectively communicated.
Ball and Karton also teach you how to arm jurors to fight for you in deliberations. They offer techniques to improve how you prepare witnesses, create exhibits, present your client, select jurors, and conduct yourself in ways that frame the facts and the law to best engage your audience: the jury. Ball and Karton combine decades of intensive trial experience with cases from the smallest counties to the halls of the Supreme Court, with lessons from the stage and screen to optimize every moment you’re in trial.
- Author's Note from David Ball
- Typography Note
- Publisher's Note
- Foreword to the Fourth Edition
- Curtain Raiser
- How You Talk: The Sound of Your Voice
- How You Talk: Words
- How You Talk: Sentences and Beyond
- How You Look
- What You Do
- Cast Your Best Self
- Casting the Jury
- Opening Statement
- Arming the Jurors Throughout Trial
- Audience Skills
- Direct and Cross
- Closing—A Reorientation
- Appendix A: Your Trial Team
- Appendix B: Demonstrative Exhibits
- Appendix C: HEIDI
- Appendix D: Secrets
- Appendix E: The Song Exercise
- Appendix F: Zen and the Art of Trial Advocacy
- About the Authors
What Legal Leaders Are Saying
— Randi McGinn, past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates, author of Changing Laws, Saving Lives
A modern human’s greatest terror is not snakes or plane crashes, but public speaking. The advice contained in Josh Karton and David Ball’s extraordinary collaboration helps you go from terror to triumph in the courtroom. By studying the techniques actors have known since ancient times, you will become comfortable enough to become your authentic self before the jury.
— Rick Friedman, coauthor of Rules of the Road, past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates
There’s direct, practical, and plain-spoken advice on every page. It’s guaranteed to make the reader a better trial lawyer.
— Gerry Spence
Joshua Karton: guru, dancer with words, father of trial lawyers for the people, he teaches us how to discover our perfect selves and to thereby make that precious gift to others.
— Gary Johnson, obtained largest verdict in the state of Kentucky, $270 million; creator of the concept of Judo Law in the courtroom
Theater for Trial is a unique book from a dream team of courtroom experts, David Ball and Joshua Karton. Every page is a useful collection of the wisdom they acquired from decades as top-rated theater and screen experts, combined with decades in the trenches of trial advocacy. Few advocacy books are this good, except David’s others.
— Bob Genis, winner of twenty-six multimillion-dollar verdicts and five eight-figure verdicts, listed in Super Lawyers (NY) and the NY Plaintiffs Hall of Fame
An indispensable and vital reference work by legends in the field of communicating with jurors, to be read and reread by all trial lawyers who want to excel. Chock full of practical advice and useful techniques with specific examples of Dos, Don’ts, and their Whys.
— Eric Oliver, trial consultant of over twenty years’ experience, author of Facts Can’t Speak for Themselves, coauthor of Courtroom Power: Communication Strategies for Trial Lawyers
Since its first publication in 1994, David’s original Theater Tips and Strategies for Jury Trials has remained one of my favorite—and most significant—trial advocacy books in my library, so it honestly was hard to imagine how it could be made any better. But, by bringing in the incomparable Joshua Karton to help him update and revise the content, the book will be staying on the very top shelf of my library. When Joshua addresses motives for parties’ actions from the start, you know right away that this new edition continues the difference from the ‘rest of the herd’ of the original. He heads straight to the heart of storytelling where most others keep nibbling around the edges. Then, David effortlessly picks up that thread when discussing the virtues— and dangers—of legal storytelling. A common theme throughout the book is the attorney habit of just telling decision-makers how to think or what to feel. Instead, David and Josh lead you through how to ‘artfully’ invite jurors to create their own version of a persuasive case story. As these authors say, ‘Why tell them when they can tell you?’ They go on to acknowledge and offer ways to overcome the many potential limitations that confront attorneys who, by default, are not only their own ‘scriptwriter,’ but must serve as their own actor and director as well. At least, until they have read this book and can bring two hugely talented and finely tuned theatrical minds to the ‘team.’ And throughout the book, there are many times when the dialogue has been recorded between Joshua and David as they explore and work through a problem of persuasion, and we get to be in on that conversation through the thoughtfully provided transcripts. You really can’t beat that.
— Michael Leizerman, first chair AAJ Trucking Litigation Group, author of West’s Litigating Truck Accident Cases and Trial Guide’s upcoming The Zen Lawyer: Winning with Mindfulness
I owe much of my success as a lawyer to David Ball and Josh Karton. This book shows why, including ways to connect with the jury, how to prepare yourself and your client for trial, and how to present the facts in your case. This is a must-have for every plaintiffs’ trial lawyer
— Charlie H. Rose, director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, Stetson University College of Law
When two great minds get together magic happens, and that is definitely the case in Theater for Trial by David Ball and Joshua Karton. Both of these authors have made an incredible impact on the ability of lawyers to persuade juries through the power of narrative, and their combined efforts are a treat for the senses. Regardless of your level of experience, there is something in their work that will make your heart sing, and juries weep.
— Bryan Slaughter, president-elect of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, faculty member of the National Trial Advocacy College
With Damages and Reptile, Ball revolutionized trial strategy in personal injury cases. In Theater for Trial, he, along with the brilliant Joshua Karton, takes on the other critical piece of winning a case—how to connect with a jury. Without that connection, even the most cutting-edge arguments will fail. If plaintiffs’ lawyers want to be truly effective at trial, they need to have this book in their arsenal.
— Dorothy Clay Sims, author of Exposing Deceptive Defense Doctors
This is a very helpful book. We forget that ‘people in any particular demographic group are not all similar.’ There are some very valuable lessons here. For example, as the book bluntly points out, ‘fairness questions are pointless.’ I found it very helpful to learn to ask about the folks who make up the norms in the ‘research’ dealing with jury studies. I’d never gone that extra step, which means I’ve been the victim of some very bad data. Finally, the ‘identifying leaders’ section was very practical. I recommend this book.
— Lisa Blue, past president of the AAJ, has earned over $350 million in verdicts for injured clients. Author of Jury Selection: Strategy and Science, Blue’s Guide to Jury Selection, Preparing for Voir Dire, and Conducting Voir Dire
Think Reptile meets Sir Laurence Olivier. It’s a recipe to humanize lawyering with a pinch of ‘reptile’ and a sprinkling of ‘damages.’ This book rounds out your education and insight as to what it means to be a lawyer and be human … a perfect storm of all the tools it takes to make a total and great lawyer. Great tips on witness prep, jury selection, and advocacy. This book is a compilation of all the things you never learned in law school (but need to in order to grow as a lawyer). It’s required reading no matter what stage of your law career you are at. Reading this book is like listening at the table of two masters sharing their best-kept secrets.
— Darryl Lewis, named in Best Lawyers in America, recognized in Florida Trends as one of the “legal elite,” and named by the South Florida Legal Guide as one of Florida’s top lawyers
I am privileged to have worked with David as my trial consultant on several cases where our trial team received multimillion-dollar jury verdicts. For all of us who get in the arena and try cases, Theater for Trial is a must read. This book provides practical guidance on how to use theater techniques to assist in telling your client’s story in the most compelling and captivating way. I love the way the book teaches practical techniques that we can easily implement daily to assist us in becoming better communicators. I have started implementing many of the techniques taught in the book and can already see an improvement in my ability to communicate more effectively. I have no doubt in my mind that implementing and practicing the techniques taught in the book will make us all better trial lawyers!
— Rob Ammons, founder of the Ammons Law Firm, editor of Tire Defect Litigation
Great trial lawyers from all over the nation routinely travel thousands of miles to consult with David Ball and Joshua Karton on trial strategy and communication skills because David and Joshua are the best at what they do. In Theater for Trial, David and Joshua unselfishly share their collective experience and insight to help trial lawyers make the most of each precious moment with the jury. Read it and you will improve as a trial lawyer. Master the lessons David Ball and Joshua Karton share and you will be unbeatable in the courtroom.
— Susan Poehls, director of trial advocacy at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in teaching from Stetson University College of Law’s Educating Advocates Conference
This book is a game changer for trial lawyers. Readers not only learn the theater-based strategies that will help them motivate and persuade juries, but also are given specific training methods to develop their individual advocacy skills. It’s a must-read for young trial lawyers, law students, and even the most experienced lawyers looking to take their trial skills to the next level.
— Paul Luvera, past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates and the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association
Outstanding advice from outstanding communication experts. Here in one volume, you get counsel from the nation’s best-known teachers of communication and trial.