In a seminar called “Visual Persuasion in the Law,” taught by Prof. Richard K. Sherwin at New York Law School, students learn how lawyers communicate in court and out using visual images on electronic screens. For their final projects, the students, working in small groups, create short films on a law-related topic.
Here is one such film from Fall 2012:
Devil’s Advocate: The Fight to Free Damien Echols
Devil’s Advocate: The Fight to Free Damien Echols from Richard Sherwin on Vimeo.
“Devil’s Advocate: The Fight to Free Damien Echols” is a short film produced and directed by New York Law School students Anthony Iliakostas (’14), Meghan Lalonde (’13), and Ryan Morrison (’13). The film examines how Damien Echols, a member of the ‘West Memphis 3’, was wrongfully convicted of the murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Featuring one-on-one interviews with Damien and his legal team, this film provides an inside look at the people responsible for Damien’s freedom and the ongoing fight for ultimate exoneration through years of rallying support from the same entity that helped convict him in the first place: the media.
During the fall semester of 2011, students in the Visual Persuasion seminar studied the various ways in which lawyers use visual evidence and visual advocacy in legal practice. For their final, student teams produced their own video clips on law related topics.
Here are three:
Social Movements in the Digital Age
Social Movements in the Digital Age from Richard Sherwin on Vimeo.
This film was produced by New York Law School students Jennifer Baek, Kristoff Grospe, Nicholas Tambone, and Geoffrey Weg as part of the requirements for Prof. Richard K. Sherwin’s Fall 2011 seminar, “Visual Persuasion in the Law.” The film addresses the impact of new digital visual technologies on social protest movements at home and abroad.
Civil Liberties Ten Years After 9/11 from Richard Sherwin on Vimeo.
This film was produced by New York Law School students Jillian Raines, Emi Shinozaki, Matthew Spano, Bradford Sussman and Lauren Whiting as part of the requirements of the seminar “Visual Persuasion in the Law” during the Fall 2011 semester. The film addresses the impact on civil liberties in the United States of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC.
Understanding “Probabilities” at Trial
Understanding “Probabilities” at Trial from Richard Sherwin on Vimeo.
This is an educational video produced by law students Marc Battipaglia, ’13, Timothy Johnson, ’13, and Jason Katz, ’13, for Prof. Richard Sherwin’s “Visual Persuasion in the Law” seminar, Fall 2011, at New York Law School.
Here is their description of the film:
“Causation: Problems with Probability”
Keeping a jury’s attention and emphasizing important arguments during a trial can be difficult when issues are shrouded in terms of a complex topic such as probability. This video exemplifies how demonstrative evidence can clearly explain and emphasize arguments that would not be understood by a jury due to their complicated nature. The video was designed as a supplement to an opening argument for an attorney who realized that making the arguments in the video without use of visual tools would likely fall on deaf ears. By relating to the jury and making the case theory memorable—visually—a jury is more likely to be persuaded to your arguments. (All images were either found in the public domain, modified images from the public domain, or created by the producers.)
Law Students Produce Legal Documentaries
During the 2010-2011 academic year, a group of New York Law School students worked together to produce short independent documentaries on legal topics of their own choosing. Here are two examples of the work they produced:
Knockoffs from Richard Sherwin on Vimeo.
Filmed and Produced by Allison Stultz and Dusan Lakic.
Bakken’s Progress – A Quest for Criminal Justice from Richard Sherwin on Vimeo.
Producers: Bryan Dolin, Julie Murray Thomas Teplitsky
Camera Operators: Bryan Dolin, Greg Hayes, Julie Murray
Editors: Bryan Dolin, Thomas Teplitsky
Production Support: Seena Ghaznavi
Students in a recent Visual Persuasion in the Law seminar were charged with the task of making a short film that would advocate in favor of a pending legislative proposal, namely: the Information Protection and Security Act (aka the “Markey” Bill [D-MA]).
The Markey Bill was designed to address a gap in recent efforts to curtail identity theft. Rather than take additional deterrent steps by criminalizing identity theft, the Markey bill attempts a preventive approach. It would seek to curtail identity theft by regulating the activity of ‘information brokers’ (i.e., dealers in consumer information who sell this personal information in the open market).
Among other precautions, the Markey bill would take steps to ensure that consumer information is accurate and that it was procured and disseminated with the consumer’s consent.
In their assignment, students were told that their appearance before a Congressional Committee would be televised. This meant that their advocacy would serve a dual purpose: (1) to persuade legislators to support the bill, and (2) to educate the public about the escalating dangers associated with the identity theft problem (which, in turn, might translate into additional popular support for the proposed Markey legislation).
In their films, students took a number of approaches reflecting the influence of popular culture formats and genres.
For example, some students started out with a traditional ‘lawyer-as-advocate’ style, typifying the familiar ‘trial attorney’.
One student film tapped into the popular template of the television ‘news report’.
Some enterprising students even went so far as to advocate ways in which the Markey bill might be improved.
These visual productions illustrate the various ways in which legal advocates may tap into familiar storytelling genres and formats which citizen-viewers have internalized from exposure to popular film and television programming.
Studying how these popular visual frames may be deployed for purposes of visual persuasion in the law has now become an essential component of legal training.