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Book Review: 'Performance on Trial: The Case for Better Entertainment'

Rodney Nordstrom
July 18, 2012
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As the lights dim, the soundtrack from the “Godfather” starts and a colorful, tough-looking, rotund Italian cradling a Churchill cigar enters stage right. Joey “The See”, aka Joseph Curcillo III, is a successful magician and defense attorney. At night, Joey performs for audiences in theaters seating thousands. By day, Joe performs before juries of 12 with the power to grant life or death. From two-hour evening shows to jury trials lasting weeks and requiring a lawyer to perform 10 hours a day, Joe lives for his audiences.
 

il-nordstorm-15col.jpg (Photo submitted)

His new book discusses perfecting the art of communication, audience perception and strategic performance techniques necessary for successful presentations. Joe has spent 25 years at the top of his profession as a successful judge, prosecutor and trial lawyer. By fusing together a lifetime of experience as a performer with the secrets of winning in the courtroom, he has produced the method for trial attorneys who want to succeed with juries. His new book, “Performance on Trial: the Case for Better Entertainment,” teaches presentation skills from the perspective of a professional who understands what an audience needs.

His skills as a professional presenter are the result of years of training and experience on stage in theater and “on stage” in court. His mastery of these two worlds has made him one of the most highly sought-after performance trainers for the legal profession. Joe has spent the last 25 years teaching trial lawyers how to present winning cases. Whether he is on stage entertaining corporate executives or in court defending a client charged with violent crimes, Joe knows the ultimate goal is winning the audience. His book consists of a rather interesting compilation and insights necessary for successful trial work. The six-chapter, 154-page book discusses the roles of both magic performer and trial attorney. Aristotle’s basics of rhetoric: Pathos, Logo and Ethos are the underpinnings for the book. He creatively accentuates his chapters with clever quotes from a range of sources including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Humphrey Bogart, Lenny Bruce, Monty Python, Francis Bacon and Milton Erickson.

Joe starts by saying, “…they (the jury) want to hear words that are in your heart, or you are not ready to present a winning case.” Rhetorically he asks, “Do you give your audience the information to choose the world you want them to accept? Do you argue the facts through your passion for the topic so the audience will follow your conclusions?” Simply put, will your audience (jury) want to take you on a second date?

According to Joe, your opening is the dust jacket of your entire presentation and must motivate jurors to open the book, not just stare at the cover, and must resemble a movie trailer. In a rather profound insight, he says he prefers to “walk along the edge of reality until the audience settles into the outskirts of the secondary world you create for them.”

In his chapter on storytelling, he offers the following COLOR acronym: Clarity of thought, Open your mind, Listen to your instincts, Observe your audience and Rehearse. This simplified reminder should help you connect with jurors, causing them to suspend their reality and briefly enter your world. The most effective argument is one in which the jurors enjoy being involved. Remember, your presentation is for them, not you.

“Performance on Trial” draws parallels between performance skills of the magician and trial attorney. At times, he takes a light and sometimes humorous approach to his presentations. Joe reminds us that an easy way of motivating your jury is to make your world so inviting that they truly want to understand your case. But it is so much more than that; he refocuses attention back on the importance of jury-centered advocacy, not attorney-centered case presentation. The book sells for $39.95 and is available from ThoughtEmporium, www.thoughtemporium.com, and Joey can be reached at jac@bclegal.com. Joey warns you to read his book or you’ll be seeing him.•

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Rodney Nordstrom, Ph.D., J.D. is a trial consultant and magician. His trial consulting company, Litigation Simulation Services, www.litsim.com, is located in Peoria, Ill. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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