Creating a Persuasive Story at Arbitration

Welcome to our blog series for lawyers on developing and presenting your arbitration case as a persuasive story. We’ll start with some background, and then delve into the assembly of story elements within the legal framework of the case. The crucial goal is the creation of a compelling story that extends beyond mere description and advocates for a favourable decision.

What’s a Story?

In simple terms, a story is how people structure information with a beginning, middle, and end. Fundamentally, it’s about a hero overcoming an obstacle to achieve a goal. In arbitration, each side follows a similar structure: The claimant faces an obstacle from the respondent, and the goal is to overcome the obstacle and secure redress from the respondent. The respondent argues the obstacle was not its responsibility and the claimant is not entitled to redress. Transforming these structures into persuasive stories depends on using storytelling elements effectively.

Storytelling Elements

Of the many story elements, the principal drivers are plot and theme.

  • Plot is the sequence of events supporting your client’s entitlement to a favorable decision. It’s often referred to as the theory.
  • Theme is the abstract concept your story revolves around. It explains why your client deserves a favorable outcome beyond the legal aspects.

Legal Framework

This is the collection of laws and principles you use to support your claim. It helps shape your case’s theory and theme into a persuasive story.

Why Stories Matter

We understand our lives as stories: we are protagonists overcoming obstacles to reach our goals. So, we find stories inherently persuasive. When we encounter information, we try to fit it into a recognizable story pattern, making sense of it.

Using Stories in Arbitration

An arbitrator’s decision is a story drawn in large measure from each party’s often conflicting story. The arbitrator evaluates each story for consistency and inherent probability in coming to a decision. [1] Counsel’s goal is to provide the arbitrator with reasons for a favourable decision.

[1] Faryna v. Chorny, 1951 CanLII 252, 256 (BCCA); A2102253 (Re), 2023 CanLII 81611 (BC WCAT).

What’s Next?

In an upcoming post, we’ll consider how to develop an overall framework for your client’s story – whether you act for the claimant or respondent.

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