The article Sharing Stories: Narrative Lawyering in Bench Trials, 16 Clinical Law Review 195 (2009), provides insights into what is and what isn’t effective advocacy in a bench trial. The author of the article is Paul Holland, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University Law School. Besides his duties as Dean, Paul Holland continues to teach the Youth Advocacy Clinic, which he headed from 2004 until becoming the Associate Dean in 2009. In his article, Dean Holland reviews the bench trial of the Seattle Sonics’ case before Federal Judge Marsha Pechman and trials of everyday criminal cases before King County Juvenile Court judges. Dean Holland’s article examines how trial lawyers not only can effectively use narrative lawyering in bench trials but also the pitfalls for trial lawyers who don’t. He also explores the challenges that trial lawyers face in jury trials. For example, here are his observations regarding closing arguments in bench as opposed to jury trials:
. . . In the tight professional circle of a bench trial, with lawyers and judges sharing traditions and, yes, stories, lawyers must find a way to keep their advocacy fresh. Jury trial lawyers will often return in closing argument to a familiar trope, a story that, although they are telling for the tenth time, is new to the audience. Bench trials force lawyers to be creative, to craft an argument that is truly unique, a distillation of this case and the experience of trying it in a way that will never be duplicated.
Dean Holland’s observations and research provide valuable insights for any trial lawyer who is preparing for a bench trial.