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Theater for Trial

In Theater for Trial, David Ball (Damages 3 and Reptile Theory) 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 stage and screen to optimize every moment you’re in trial.

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Theater for Trial

About the Authors

David Ball is widely regarded as America’s most productive and influ­ential trial consultant and teacher. He’s a partner in Malekpour & Ball Consulting in North Carolina, and a fifty-year veteran of professional theater and film/video, including his rivetingly awful cult-film classic, Hard Rock Zombies. He was literary direc­tor and writer at Minneapolis’s Guthrie and Guthrie 2 theaters, as well as at the Pittsburgh Public Theater; and artistic director of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Stage Company and Duke Stage Company.

A founder of Reptilian Trial Advocacy, he has written several best-selling trial and theater books, including the theater and film world’s standard classic Backwards and Forwards. He has directed off-Broadway as well as in regional theaters such as Minneapolis’s Guthrie and North Carolina’s Duke Stage Company, where he was artistic and producing director.

His plays have been staged in professional theaters off-Broadway and across the nation, as well as in Canada, Hungary, and Scotland. He taught theater at the University of Minnesota, Lawrence University, and Carnegie- Mellon’s world-renowned drama conservatory, and ran the theater department at Duke University during that department’s golden years. His theater students hold Oscars, Emmys, and Obies; and his Civil-War novel, Swamp Outlaw, is in the top few percent of Amazon Kindle sellers.

He’s perennially in high demand across the country as a CLE speaker. David was trained in psychology and small-group dynamics, science and electrical engineering, litera­ture, and theater, and he was a training counselor at the Minnesota Academy for Seizure Rehabilitation. He was born in the hills of Catskill, New York, and his daddy was an honest-to-God bootleg­ger. David’s favorite job ever was taxi driver. He no longer wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.

Joshua Karton is the president of Communication Arts and specializes in the application of the communication techniques of theater, film, and television to the art of trial advocacy. Television writing and acting credits range from Forever Fernwood to Beverly Hills 90210. Having trained as an actor at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, he returned there to teach after writing and directing the film and video exhibits of Theatrical Evolution, winner of the New York Drama Desk Award.

The creator of Bantam Books’ Film Scenes for Actors series, his museum education programs and installations have been the recipient of grants from the Arco Foundation, the Ford Motor Company Fund, the California Arts Council, and the Kellogg Foundation. He serves on the faculties and develops curriculum for the American Association for Justice, the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, the United States Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Criminal Defense College, Loyola and California Western Schools of Law, numerous state trial lawyer associations and criminal defense associations, as well as maintaining a professional practice of individual case consultation and witness preparation.

His thirty years of work in this field culminated in his participation in the preparation of the winning oral argument to the United States Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. He is the recipient of the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Advocacy from Stetson University College of Law’s Center for Excellence in Advocacy.

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Praise for Theater for Trial

“There’s direct, practical, and plain-spoken advice on every page. It’s guaranteed to make the reader a better trial lawyer.”

—Rick Friedman, coauthor of Rules of the Road, past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates

“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.”

—Gerry Spence

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.”

—Gary Johnson, obtained largest verdict in the state of Kentucky, $270 million; creator of the concept of Judo Law in the courtroom

“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.”

—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

“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. 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.”

—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

“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.”

—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

“Outstanding advice from outstanding communication experts. Here in one volume, you get counsel from the nation’s best-known teachers of communication and trial.”

—Paul Luvera, past president of the Inner Circle of Advocates and the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association

“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.”

—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

“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.”

—Rob Ammons, founder of the Ammons Law Firm, editor of Tire Defect Litigation

“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!”

—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

“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.”

—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

“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.”

—Dorothy Clay Sims, author of Exposing Deceptive Defense Doctors

“With Damages and Reptile, Ball revolutionized trial strategy in personal injury cases. In Theater for Trial, he, along with the brilliant Joshua Karton, take 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.”

—Bryan Slaughter, president-elect of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, faculty member of the National Trial Advocacy College

“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.”

—Charlie H. Rose, director of the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, Stetson University College of Law

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