Cheryl, you are going to be a Faculty Co-Leader at the upcoming TLC Regional Seminar in Chicago in October. What do you think is the most valuable learning tool from the Direct Examination Seminar in Illinois?
“I am most looking forward to the storytelling aspect. I love storytelling, and direct exam is the place in a trial where you tell the story the most. It’s where the lawyer gets to interact. In opening statement, you are telling a story but you don’t interact with anybody. It’s just you, up there, talking to people. The energy goes one way. In Voir dire, you get to interact with the jurors, but you’re not really telling your client’s story — not yet. But in Direct Exam, you get to work with your witnesses and tell your story and put it into action so the jury can see what actually happened. I love that part. In essence, direct exam is just like a psychodrama and I just adore psychodrama. It’s so hard and painful and emotional, but when you are done, it is so eye opening and cathartic and that is what a direct exam should be for the jury. I’m really looking forward to teaching the students how to do that in Chicago. We’re doing a lot of psychodrama in this regional seminar, which I’m excited about. As lawyers, we are not the star of the story. We shouldn’t really be heard, we should guide the story along. It’s a very important skill and most people don’t know how to do it right. Their direct exams are very bland and blah, like,”Tell me what happened next. So what did you do then? Okay. What day was it?” It’s just facts. There is no emotion or feeling. At TLC we learn to put your client’s story into action, which I love doing. Teaching lawyers that you can take a witness off the witness stand and reenact it and that the jury will be on the edge of their seats when its happening! I’ve done it in court a lot of times and they’re just like “Oh!” You just have to teach lawyers, give them the confidence and tell them, “You can do this!”. Keep it in the present tense, use the five senses, use adjectives, get the jurors to feel like they are there. I love that part of direct exam.”
What is different about this Direct Examination Course compared to previous years?
“TLC is always changing and evolving and growing while we stick to our fundamental belief in the power of putting stories into action. So true to our core, this Direct Exam Regional will be completely based on the principles of psychodrama. We have six of our top psychodramatists there, and they are doing a full day of psychodrama with the students. They will stay all weekend and with a very experience lawyer faculty staff, we are going to teach the students how to use the psychodramatic methods in a direct exam — how to put their story into action, like a psychodramatist, but how to do it with a client and with your witnesses, in front of a jury, so they can see the story unfold. Students will also get the opportunity to experience directing skills which is something they can immediately take back to their office on Monday morning, to improve their case preparation. This Regional is a bit different because we traded sessions on Communications Skills so that we could continue the focus on learning and applying the psychodramatic skills to perfect one’s direct exam.”
Is this Regional Seminar better for people who have experience with TLC or is it better for people who are new to TLC?
“It will accommodate everybody, and like every Regional Seminar, we want to make it open to all. The great thing about psychodrama is that it doesn’t matter if you’ve never done it before or if you’ve done 100 of them, you can all be in the same group and it doesn’t make a difference who is experienced. You will all be at the same level. It’s never the same. You learn something in every psychodrama you do and you just can’t get enough. It all starts with us. We learn about ourselves in psychodrama and how to tell a compelling story in action, with the senses involved. If you can do that in the courtroom with your client on the witness stand, the jurors will all relate to him or her. Then how can they find him or her guilty, or not award them damages? If you are a newbie, everything will blow your mind and hopefully you will see lots of new ways to improve your practice. If you are a TLC graduate, you will have the opportunity to hone your skills and work on the particular facets of your cases that are bothering you or that need more attention. Our whole faculty team is there to help the students, no matter what level of TLC learning they have.”
How do you use Direct Exam to guide a witness to tell the best story for your case?
“It makes the witness just so much more at ease if you can be a good director and take charge, but let them tell the story while giving them the direction they need. The anxiety goes down so much and it makes it so much easier to do a trial. It’s amazing if you do these directing skills that we are going to teach at the regional seminar, if you do them in your office before trial, you’re client will know, “Oh my gosh, my lawyer is listening to me, they understand me! I feel comfortable and well represented.” It just makes it all so much easier and a better trial. It makes them feel validated and not rushed. That’s what we try to do when we are in psychodrama or in trial skills — just focus on what you are doing at that moment. Don’t think ten questions ahead. Don’t anticipate where this is going to go because you never know where the story is going to go. Definitely don’t anticipate what a juror is going to say to you or what their answer is going to be. The methods we teach at the Trial Lawyers College just slow things down, and give the lawyers the confidence to just let it unfold, without having to force anything.”
What does the Trial Lawyers College teach you that you can’t learn in law school, or at other CLEs for that matter?
“I think that law schools sucks the “human-ness” out of people. When I suggest an idea to lawyers who haven’t been to the College, they say, “I can’t do that”. I say, “Why can’t you do that? Why? It’s just how we act in real life”. Law schools teach students that they have to have all these perfectly prepared questions, but in real life, it’s exactly the opposite. To tell a story and to be persuasive in the courtroom, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Nobody wants to listen to perfection. When I will teach at the upcoming Chicago Regional, I will tell the students and then try to show them – look how much more powerful you are when you are just you.”
About Cheryl Carpenter:
Cheryl Carpenter zealously defends every client charged with a criminal offense. She fully dedicates herself to truly knowing her clients and their cases. This makes her a powerful advocate in court. Cheryl represents clients accused of any crime. She focuses on criminal sexual assault (rape) cases and removing people from the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. Cheryl has also served on a multi-disciplinary professional advisory board which includes judges, former prosecutors, probation officers, psychologists and other professionals who work together to address issues related to the Michigan Sex Offender Registry. Ms. Carpenter is an adjunct professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School and on the teaching staff at Trial Lawyers College and Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.
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