Meeting the trend of storytelling in legal communication, Brigham Young University J. Rueben Clark Law School has launched a new national storytelling competition for law students.
The competition aims to generate more interest in storytelling as a key skill for lawyers, and promote a way to connect more personally with the law. It is believed to be the first-ever national storytelling competition for law students, with 10 finalists getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Utah in March where they present their stories. BYU law dean Gordon Smith explained law schools have experimented with incorporating storytelling into their curricula or as an extracurricular activity, but the BYU ‘LawStories on the Mainstage’ is the first formal attempt to encourage young lawyers to embrace storytelling as a way to be better lawyers and explore their personal relationship with the law. Dean Smith said, ‘we want to get the students to connect emotionally to the law. We think if they do, it will inspire them to work harder to be good lawyers.’ Dean Smith explained his own training as a lawyer, ‘if we were talking about a merger or public offering, we were telling stories about ‘Oh, the last merger I did…’ or ‘I had a deal once that did this. We were telling stories that framed the way we thought about our work as transactional lawyers.’
Telling their stories
BYU already had an informal student group dedicated to storytelling, and faculty decided to collaborate by bringing in guests to talk about storytelling techniques. The success a first internal storytelling competition for law students last year was deemed a success, where participants talked about their clerkships and how the law had impacted their lives. Dean Smith said, ‘what I learned from that experience was that it was tremendously affirming to those students who participated in the competition, to show that part of their personality to their classmates and professors. They said they learned a tremendous amount about themselves, through telling their stories.’ BYU decided to take the competition national this year in hopes of finding the best stories, and the school will bring 10 finalists to campus March 13 to 16.