Is Sarah’s story all that we need? How exactly does this work? These thoughts rushed through my mind as Ana and I sat down with Sarah for interview #2.
Ana began the interview by explaining the case and our strategy to Sarah. For the first time, Sarah heard that it would be difficult to explain the time gaps and problems (no diagnoses) with her medical records. She heard that a decision might not be in her favor and realized that a lot is riding on this one day in court. No one has ever listened to Sarah’s story (I mean really listened) and it dawned on her that she might tell her story, but that it might not be convincing…it might not be enough.
Interestingly, the resulting tears and explanations proved to be helpful in this meeting, as it allowed us to discuss her story in depth. Not the simple chronology of her past medical history, but her personal journey through the past decade. Ana led us down this path, and I picked up on where she was headed quickly. I’ve noticed through my limited time in law firms that the closer an attorney gets to trial or a hearing, the more interested they are in the client’s story. Not the whole five-hour version, but the small details that humanize the client and stick with a listener. The “my mom always has grapes on the table and lime-pops in the fridge when I come home for a visit because she knows that I love them” stories. The attorney looks for anecdotes that produce an emotion in the client, whether joyful or sad, and then hopes to bring that to life in the pages of a brief or during a direct examination
Now, last time I talked about the need to compartmentalize; the need to separate “important” from “unimportant” and stick to the gravamen of the case. True enough, however, one must also be able to create interest in one’s client and deliver a convincing story to the court. I’ve learned that the convincing story is a mosaic of facts and anecdotes designed to project Sarah into both the heart and mind of the court.
I’m confident about Sarah’s case, but I’m also nervous. There are holes in the facts that Sarah recounts. Does it matter? Can we get around these holes by putting Sarah on the stand to tell her story? Will her story be enough? Will additional documents help fill those holes? I’ve been told that you learn to get used to being nervous.