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The Trial Lawyer’s Art

by Sam Schrager Temple University Press

The Trial Lawyer’s Art

Every year in mid-summer, the mall in Washington, DC is transformed into a huge stage for one of the largest festivals of folk life in the world. In 1986, Sam Schrager created a stage for one of America’s greatest unsung folk arts: trial opening statements and closing arguments. Those performances capped a year-long study Schrager conducted of the oral persuasion strategies of nationally recognized top trial lawyers. He worked with about 40 lawyers all told, but focuses on four legends:

  • Cecil B. Moore, a Philadelphia prosecutor
  • Tony Serra, a Bay Area criminal defense lawyer
  • Penny Cooper, a Bay Area criminal defense lawyer (now deceased)
  • Michael Tigar, a Bay Area plaintiff’s lawyer

The book that results from his research is a wonderfully droll and well-written analysis of the performance styles of such great trial performers, giving insights into the specifics of how trial attorneys craft credible personae and persuasive performances. It’s the kind of book every trial lawyer will love — full of wonderful stories and quotes from opening statements and closing arguments that slip the learning in so easily you don’t even know it’s going down.