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Trial Advocacy: The Art of Storytelling

Strategies for Winning a Trial in New York State Court

By Jared J. Hatcliffe

Date of Publication: 2022

304 pages

 5/5☆

What Is This Book About?

In Trial Advocacy: The Art of Storytelling Strategies for Winning a Trial in New York State Court, as readers, we are immersed into the world of New York trials led by author, professor, and attorney Jared J. Hatcliffe. In the words of Hatcliffe himself, this book is, “[d]irect and to the point – it is how we New Yorkers are and how this book is written.”[1] While it is direct and to the point, Hatcliffe’s style of writing is so conversational that it makes you feel like you’re speaking with a close mentor, or even a peer from one of your classes. This book is clear, concise, and the style of writing keeps it light and interesting.

What Did I Like About the Book?

There are many, so I had to narrow it down. The first thing I liked about Trial Advocacy: The Art of Storytelling Strategies for Winning a Trial in New York State Court was the outlines and organization provided to the reader. In the beginning of every chapter, Hatcliffe provides an outline that tells you exactly where he is going with the chapter. Additionally, at the end of every chapter, there is a brief list of bulleted “Final Takeaways” for the reader as well. While these may seem like two incredibly small details, pieces like these speak to Hatcliffe’s role as an educator throughout this book. He wants his students to learn, so he tells them before they begin a topic what they should be prepared to gain. Then he dives in, and “lectures” on the topic. At the end, he provides a sort of review, through his final takeaways. So, when readers finish a section, they can read the final takeaways and maybe say, “okay, that isn’t so much what I understood from this part, I need to go back and reread it, or maybe research a little on my own to get a better understanding.” Hatcliffe makes learning through his book easy.  

The second thing I really liked about this book is also stylistic, but the provided photos and examples were incredible. Not everyone learns the same way, this is clear and evident in our society and education system. So why do most authors write their books this way? Luckily for us, Hatcliffe did not write Trial Advocacy: The Art of Storytelling Strategies for Winning a Trial in New York State Court with just one particular kind of student in mind, but provides enough photos and visuals for students of all kinds to be able to learn. My personal favorite photos are the ones that show an advocate where they should be standing in the courtroom when they are doing certain statements or questioning throughout the trial. These small details are what turn good advocates into great advocates.

Another part I thought was great was how Hatcliffe teaches his readers about common objections. After telling his reader how to object, he provides a thorough list of all the common objections. Like we said before, this book is incredibly organized. So, for each objection, Hatcliffe walks his readers through the same four subsections. The four subsections are: What It Is, The Rule, Leading Cues, and Federal Rule Versus New York State Rule. By subjecting each of the common objections to the same standard of review and four subsections, they are so easy to compare to one another, and therefore, easy to understand. For new students learning advocacy, this chapter is a must read and would be incredibly helpful to keep on hand during your first semester on a trial team (or even second year).

As Hatcliffe lays out the objections so clearly, he does the same thing with differing foundations for entering an exhibit into evidence. He explains all the common foundations an advocate might need to enter a piece of evidence into evidence and then provides an example question and answer. So not only can the student learn how to lay a foundation for an exhibit, they can also read these examples and see that particular foundation come to life.

What Didn’t I Like About the Book?

The only negative aspect about this book is that it only aids readers in how to win a trial in New York state courts. This book is spectacular, and I wish it could be helpful to students studying law in all jurisdictions, and not just New York. Every student deserves to read this book, in every single jurisdiction.

What Did This Book Teach Me About Advocacy?

Something this book taught me about advocacy is how incredibly important it is to prepare specifically for what kind of judge you’re going to argue or try a case in front of. Preparation for a case in general is crucial, but if you don’t prepare for the specific judge, you’re missing out on a huge advantage. I liked the example Hatcliffe provided to explain this theory even further:

All judges have their idiosyncrasies. Know what they are. For example, there is a fabulous judge who has a quirk about pushing your chair in after you stand to leave her chambers. She is one of the best judges on the law that I have had the pleasure to be in front of. But if you do not push that chair in, she will admonish you. I always chuckle to myself when I am assigned to her, and my adversary gets up and does not push their chair in, and she scolds them. Maybe it is a small thing to know, but you want to get as much information as you can about the assigned judge.[2]

When you’re arguing in front of a judge, you want to leave no room for mistakes or errors. You also want to leave no room for a judge to scold you unless they have to. If something as simple as pushing in your chair is going to gain you bonus points with a judge, you better learn it and use it – because you’ll regret it if you don’t!

Now I have been competing in all sorts of advocacy competitions since my second semester of 1L (and I’ll be graduating this May… I know!), I am certainly not an advocacy expert because unfortunately there are pieces of advocacy that I can’t gain experience in through moot court or mock trial. One of those fields is jury selection. Hatcliffe provides his readers with an entire chapter on jury selection, and there is something really important included in this book that I want to highlight. When Hatcliffe teaches his readers about jury selection, he walks them through each of the challenges that advocates can make to try to strike an unwanted juror. The book states that when you’re dismissing a juror for cause, you’re not always going to have your challenge granted, and “you must preserve the record by asking the court to call a reporter to record the objection.”[3] This is important for an advocate because when the trial is complete, you will have the opportunity to appeal this ruling, if necessary. This idea goes directly to Hatcliffe’s theme of being prepared and setting yourself up for success later on!

How Am I Going to Be Able to Be a Better Advocate Because of This Book?

The greatest lesson Professor Hatcliffe ever taught me personally is conveyed throughout his entire book and his number one rule of trial advocacy, Always Look Good. Hatcliffe notes in his book that one of the best criminal defense attorneys, Terry MacCarthy’s theory, followed the simple motto of looking good. When you look good in front of the jury, or with a judge, opposing counsel, or anyone really – you build your credibility. If a lawyer or advocate doesn’t have credibility, they don’t have anything. On page 78 of his book, Hatcliffe talks about how most advocates may not see a direct examination and think it’s as glamorous or flashy as other parts of a trial, however, it’s a great opportunity for you to make your witness, and yourself, look good.

Another important takeaway from this book is the lesson that you always have to be yourself. The world of advocacy is cutthroat and intimidating. It is an environment that makes it easy to compare yourself to others and wish you were something you’re not. But none of that is how you’re going to be successful. The greatest advice I ever received in law school, has become my personal mantra:

RUN YOUR OWN RACE

It’s so important throughout advocacy to just be yourself. Hatcliffe writes that when he sees advocates trying to be something they are not, “[n]ot only will you be miserable, but a jury will sense something is wrong. They will know you aren’t comfortable. They will not know why, but they will think it has to do with your confidence in the case. Be you, and you will be successful.”[4]


[1] Jared J. Hatcliffe, Trial Advocacy: The Art of Storytelling Strategies for Winning a Trial in New York State Court, xxv, 2022.

[2] Id. at 17.

[3] Id. at 27.

[4] Id. at 287.

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