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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

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  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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