Professor Mitchell illustrates that Client-centered Representation does not simplistically reduce to a single admonition: Tell the client's story. The concept is far more nuanced than that. It incorporates a constellation of ideas. Listen to the client's story. Hear what they want. Try to be creative about ways to tell the story. Look for opportunities to bring their story into the legal process. At the same time, the attorney must join together to discuss any risks and problems which may result from various strategic choices, including the risks in even telling the story and whether those risks are worth it to the client. But, when all the dust settles, as a general proposition the theory of Client-centered Representation guides us towards telling the client's story, opening the jury to the client's true voice. Narrative theory, however, teaches us that all stories are socially constructed, and that the stories we hear will be evaluated against our own self-constructed narrative worlds. So you can offer the client's voice all you want to fulfill Client-centered Representation, but Narrative theory will guide the fact finders to discount that voice because it clashes with the world that is contained in their own stories. Therein is the collision between client "voice" and narrative theory. In this article, Professor Mitchell presents two criminal cases with "troubling" stories in which students in our clinic represented the defendant. He then discusses his own model of narrative theory that he uses in preparing students to do criminal defense advocacy, and apply that model to the two cases. Next, he analyzes the sources of conflict between narrative and client-centered representation in the two cases, specifically considering schema theory, social construction of personal reality, and the "story theory" of juror decision making. Lastly, Professor Mitchell discusses the tack they took in the two cases to deal with this conflict-the use of experts and then trace the journey that choice took them on.
John B. Mitchell,
Narrative and Client-Centered Representation: What Is A True Believer To Do When His Two Favorite Theories Collide?, 6 CLINICAL L. R. 85