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Ruth Cater Lawyers and screenwriters
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Get to the Point!

Lawyers Can Learn This From Screenwriters

By Theda C. Snyder

When scriptwriters pitch a movie to a producer to get funding, they use a summary called a logline. A good logline entices the decision-maker to want to learn more. See if you recognize these famous loglines:

  • The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
  • A Las Vegas-set comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps to find him.
  • A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feed his urge for violent action, while he tries to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.

A logline specifies these elements: the protagonist, the goal of the protagonist, and the antagonist or antagonistic force. Adjectives flesh out the characters.

What Is the Logline of Your Case?

You should be able to articulate a persuasive logline for whatever matter you are working on. That way, you will know when you have reached the goal of the protagonist, your client. For example:

  • Writing a contract: A nonprofit conference sponsor needs to negotiate a favorable deal with a large hotel to produce value for its members.
  • Defending a theft of intellectual property suit: A famous musician who worked hard over many years to earn his place through true innovation must show he had no need or opportunity to see the wannabe’s work, which doesn’t even resemble that of the famous musician.
  • Representing a personal injury plaintiff: A grandmother has racked up huge medical bills and will suffer pain for the rest of her life, all because a building owner couldn’t be bothered to get the proper inspections and maintain the elevators; she deserves to be compensated.

Do these loglines make you want to buy a ticket to see the movie? Who will you be rooting for?

Write down the logline of that new matter before undertaking what could be unfocused, unproductive actions. While surprises can disrupt your plans, if your logline is muddled at the start, it’s unlikely to get better as you go on.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Amazon.com. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at SnyderMediations.com and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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