Cover image for The trial lawyer's art
The trial lawyer's art
Schrager, Samuel Alan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 245 pages, 4 unnumbered pages of plates : portraits ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF8915 .S263 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



How do lawyers sway jurors in the heat of a trial? Why do the best trial lawyers seem uncannily able to get the verdict they want? In answering these questions, folklorist Sam Schrager vindicates -- but with a twist -- the widespread belief that lawyers are actors who manipulate the truth. He shows that attorneys have no choice but to treat the jury trial, from beginning to end, as an artful performance: as story-telling combat in which victory most often goes to the man or woman who has superior control of craft.

Drawn from fieldwork in the Philadelphia courts and at the Smithsonian Institution's American Trial Lawyers program, The Trial Lawyer's Art gives a remarkable, in-depth look at this craft of performance. It examines how lawyers exploit a case's dramatic potential, how they enact mythically potent themes, how they project personal authority, and how they use cultural identity -- their own and their opponents' racial, gender, class, and local affiliations -- all to make themselves and their stories persuasive to a jury. Schrager depicts the performance styles of some of the nation's most artful criminal and civil advocates: in Philadelphia, prosecutor Roger King, defender Robert Mozenter, and the legendary Cecil B. Moore; from around the country, such litigating stars as Roy Barrera, Penny Cooper, Jo Ann Harris, Tony Serra, and Michael Tigar. These lawyers reflect candidly on their courtroom calculations and share revealing "war stories" about their work.

Integrating performance insights with evocative portrayals of unfolding trials, The Trial Lawyer's Art offers a no-holds-barred analysis of the place of skill versus evidence in the American justice system. In doing so, it raises vital questions about the moral challenges that legal and other professions now face and sheds new light on the role of stories in American life.

Author Notes

Sam Schrager is a member of the faculty at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

How can you tell the difference between a snake that's been run over and a lawyer who has met the same fate? There are skid marks in front of the snake. Folklorist Schrager suggests that today's antipathy for the legal profession stems from our cherishing the ideal that the evidence will determine a person's guilt or innocence while at the same time recognizing that it is often the lawyer's performance that tips the scales of justice. Further, Schrager contends that the jury trial, a kind of ritual verbal combat, demands compelling performances from attorneys if they are to win. He draws from fieldwork in Philadelphia courtrooms, interviews with lawyers, and mock court battles at the 1986 Festival of American Folklife to create a fascinating portrait of the attorney as storyteller and performer. Recommended for popular legal collections.ÄJim G. Burns, Ottumwa, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

While many have recognized the importance of stories and storytelling skill in legal trials, few have themselves managed to tell good stories about the dramatic side of the trial process. Schrager's The Trial Lawyer's Art is an immensely readable and engaging account of what lawyer's do as they try to persuade jurors. It boldly and forthrightly analyzes the performances of some of the best lawyers in America. Filled with illuminating anecdotes, this book makes a good case for the view that those performances are essential to truth-finding in the courtroom. Though it may not convince the most die-hard cynic, this book humanizes the legal process. Based on observation of lawyers at work and skillful interviews, the book reveals to the reader lawyers' styles and strategies, their view of clients, judges, and jurors, and the ways that the character of lawyers themselves is shaped by their courtroom personas. Schrager (Evergreen State College) offers a wealth of original data presented in a way that allows readers to draw their own conclusions about the skill, commitment, and effectiveness of lawyers and the health of the adversary system. Highly recommended for undergraduate, graduate student, and faculty collections. A. D. Sarat; Amherst College

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction: A Storytelling Craftp. 1
1. Dramap. 17
Two Decisive Hoursp. 18
Momentump. 25
Nailing Things Downp. 31
2. Stylep. 38
The Trialp. 39
Poetics of Identificationp. 64
Repertoiresp. 69
Strains in Performancep. 78
Interlude: A Legendary Lawyerp. 89
3. Identityp. 102
Sources of Emotionp. 104
Local Inflectionsp. 117
Gendered Plotlinesp. 133
A Mix of Class, Gender, and Racep. 143
4. Deception and Truthp. 174
The Clientp. 175
The Juryp. 186
The Judgep. 191
The Expertp. 196
The Lawyerp. 200
Conclusion: In the Service of...p. 210
Notesp. 225
Bibliographyp. 235
Indexp. 241
Prefacep. ix
1. The Framers and Original Intentp. 1
2. President and Congress: Foreign Policy and War Powersp. 30
3. Judicial Review and Judicial Activismp. 54
4. Marbury v. Madison: Judicial Activism Run Amokp. 75
5. Was Judicial Review Intended? The State Precedentsp. 89
6. Development of Judicial Reviewp. 100
7. The Contract Clausep. 124
8. Why We Have the Bill of Rightsp. 137
9. The First Amendment: The Establishment Clausep. 174
10. The First Amendment: The Free Press Clausep. 195
11. The Fourth Amendment: Search and Seizurep. 221
12. The Fifth Amendment: The Right Against Self-Incriminationp. 247
13. The Ninth Amendment: Unenumerated Rightsp. 267
14. History and Original Intentp. 284
15. A Constitutional Jurisprudence of Original Intent? Part Onep. 322
16. A Constitutional Jurisprudence of Original Intent? Part Twop. 350
17. Conclusionsp. 388
Notesp. 399
Bibliographyp. 479
Indexp. 495