This is Not the Whole Truth: The Ethics of Telling Stories to Clients
Steven J. Johansen
Lewis & Clark Law School
Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 38, p. 961, 2006
Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2008-6
This is not the whole truth. Rather, it is a tale of deception. More precisely, it is a reflection on storytelling and the law. It begins from the premise that stories, by their nature, can never tell the whole truth. Stories are told from a point of view, and that point of view necessarily limits the story. If told from another point of view, the truth of the story would change. To at least some degree, then, stories are incomplete analytical tools, and as such, deceptive. Despite the incomplete nature of stories, they can be powerful tools of persuasion. This creates a dilemma: when does the deception inherent in storytelling make storytelling an inappropriate tool of persuasion in a legal context? This article seeks to define the limits of legal storytelling generally and of storytelling to clients in particular.
Part II explores how the American Bar Association (ABA) not only tolerates deception, but in some cases requires it. The second inquiry, discussed in Part III, is storytelling's ability to inform and persuade in a way that rational analysis cannot. Part III of this paper explores how stories persuade through appealing to the listener's emotions, or, in Aristotelian terms, pathos. The final inquiry regards lawyer-client relations. Part IV explores the inherent conflict between a lawyer's responsibility to counsel a client and a client's own autonomy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: storytelling, narrative, ethics, clients, truth, model rules, professional responsibility, client autonomy
Date posted: March 4, 2008 ; Last revised: March 17, 2008