I was once in the courtroom with an experienced opposing attorney during a divorce case. In an effort to combat the position I was advocating for my client, he drew a picture of a fish with a red pin on a large white pad, declaring that my depiction of the facts of the case was just a red herring and of little relevance. My version was merely an effort to distract the jury from the true version of the case – his, of course.
During my closing argument, I took the pad that he had used, embellished his drawing of the fish, turned it upside down, and with my illustration, told the jury that what he really had shown them was a dead fish. I then told them we all know that a dead fish stinks. And that was his case – it stinks. I’ll never forget the look on his face. I was successful in discrediting his argument and winning the case.
I tell that story as just one example of how I actually use my art degree in the courtroom and in other aspects of my legal career. I believe that a picture can actually be worth more than 1,000 words. It’s so much easier for someone to understand and absorb a concept quickly if they get the information visually.
Visuals help in the courtroom primarily because approximately 65 percent of us are visual learners. We process information based on what we see, according to the Social Science Research Network.
For that reason, I incorporate visuals into my presentations whenever possible. The visuals can’t change the storyline. But what visuals can do is enhance the storyline and allow me to communicate the message to the judge or the jury a lot quicker than trying to explain it with words alone.
Of course the graphic has to be relevant. If I am not making my position clear, no matter how well executed my graphic may be, it has not served its purpose, which is to clarify and solidify my point.
I am reminded of the quote by photographer Ansel Adams. “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
Lawyers by trade are not artists. And while most of my cases are not tried before a jury, when they are, I know I can present my case graphically in the best way possible. In this respect, my art degree actually gives me a leg up on my competition.
Please click here to see my short video on this topic.