Lexcurions: the adventures of Anthony Jucha – May edition
May 3, 2012 Leave a comment
Lawyers like to say the law is about stories, but I’m not so sure anymore. The last few contracts I drafted were lacking in narrative. In fact, my whole precedent collection is starting to look unoriginal. With clients shaping up to be characters as memorable as their ABNs, my law-story feels tired, like just another page of the Australian Encyclopedia of Forms and Precedents that hasn’t been updated since 1992.
So when my local library offered a free storytelling workshop called “sell me a Story”, I signed up straight away.
Half of my neighbourhood had the same idea. Surveying them – the grey haired and greying – I thought, if only I could capture and bill all that time they have left on their hands, I could send one final invoice, and never have to sell my soul, or stand up on a bus, ever again.
A spritely young storyteller appeared and facilitated introductions between the not so spritely teachers, retirees, social workers, one yoga instructor and a guy in a suit who could have passed for a lawyer, except that he was there.
The storyteller gathered us in for a story. It was about a fat sultan who had a disappointingly slim wife. The sultan sought to fatten her up by feeding her tongues.
“Give me some types of tongues,” the storyteller said snapping her fingers.
Animal tongues – the tongues of mooses and fishes and platypuses – wriggled from the collective mouth of the group.
“A liar’s tongue,” I called.
“A liar’s tongue?” she said with wide eyes. “What does that look like?”
I stuck it out.
The storyteller snapped her fingers again, and broke us into groups to dissect fairytales. My group selected Little Red Riding Hood. We then broke into a fight.
“That’s not how it goes,” said a woman. “There’s a woodman in it, I’m sure.”
“Yes…he cuts out Grandma, after she’s been eaten by the wolf.”
“But how did he know to go to Grandma’s house?”
“Maybe he was the executor of her estate?” I offered.
“Now I’m really confused.”
When it was time to present stories, my group did so with tension in the air. I took the initiative at the end.
“And they all lived happily ever after. except for the wolf of course, and Grandma, who faced charges for drawing a pension after her death, and Little Red Riding Hood and the woodman, who litigated the woodman’s executorial intervention in the anticipated estate.”
“Okay…” said the storyteller. “Maybe we should take a break.:
I took to her, with a polystyrene cup of tea.
“Do you think lawyers make good storytellers?”
“Oh yes,” she said.
“My husband’s a lawyer, and he’s a brilliant storyteller.”
“A frustrated lawyer then?”
“No, he says he loves the law.”
“Wow,” I said. “What a storyteller.”
“He says he’s just starting to…emerge.”
“Make some real money, you mean.”
“That too, I suppose…”
“I guess someone’s got to,” I said, blowing on my tea.
We regrouped for the theory of storytelling. The idea is that every story has: a hero (Little Red), a helper (the woodman), an obstacle (the wolf), and a moral (which we never agreed).
“So how do I use that in law?” I asked.
“Say if I’m making a presentation on contracts?”
“You could weave a fairy tale through it to liven it up.”
“What like: ‘Once upon a time…Little Red Riding Hood executed a contract’.”
“Exactly! And put yourself in the story.”
“As the hero?”
“Why not.” she said. “Now everyone please take a partner. We’re going to do a voice projection exercise.”
I did as instructed – faced my partner and talked, taking backward steps, until we were shouting at each other across the room – but I was caught up imagining myself making a CLE presentation in a spiffy red tie, and matching riding hood.
“Perhaps I could do a presentation on deeds of release,” I shouted.
“What on earth do you mean?” shouted my partner.
“You know,” I shouted. “Where they all live happily ever after”.
By Anthony Jucha