Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


Cognitive researches have established that humans think in terms of stories and, consequently, are persuaded by stories. That means that lawyers must be wary of stock stories that effect how an audience views a given set of circumstances. When a stock story is so pervasive that it will not allow a lawyer to ignore it or a more favorable alternative story does not exist, a lawyer can present the client's story from an alternative perspective that will not evoke the embedded knowledge structures triggered by the unfavorable stock story. The lawyer can accomplish this by tinkering with the different threads of narrative rationality to improve the persuasiveness of the story he or she tells. In this article, I suggest that the principles of narrative coherence, correspondence, and fidelity can help the lawyer whose client does not fit comfortably within one of our culture's stock stories (e.g., the big bad wolf who wasn't really bad). Specifically, the lawyer who limits the client's story to the facts leading to the litigation focuses on the persuasive power of narrative coherence by ensuring that the story is plausible as all aspects of it mesh with one another. On the other hand, the lawyer who shifts from a narrow to a broader view of a case will rely on the persuasive power of narrative correspondence by mapping a cultural myth onto her client's story. Finally, by creating friction between the client's character and the outcome associated with a stock story, the lawyer can draw on the persuasive power of narrative fidelity and shift the reader's expectations about how things should turn out.