TEAM-BUILDING through IMPROVISATION – 33 improv techniques that help lawyers as litigators, mediators & negotiators!

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 8.26.48 AMTEAM-BUILDING through IMPROVISATION

Improvisation is the invention or fabrication of a story or line of logic using a given set of parameters.

In theatre training, actors learn human behavior skills so that they can apply intention to visible action in order to create interaction that appears real in given situations.

In a law practice, similar skills are required in order to interact effectively across diverse groups in real situations, share stories that effective persuade a jury or mediate effectively with adverse parties.

The act of improvising is typically not done alone, since interaction is a key component of the process. This is why improvisational activities are excellent vehicles to help groups or “teams” interact effectively. Team-building through improvisation is both fun and effective in helping presenters understand the dynamics of human interaction.

All of the activities suggested in this document are originally designed for improvisational comedy. Delivery skills are assigned to these activities using a law-practice perspective. Since stage acting techniques are based on spontaneity and the understanding of human behavior, improvisation provides an excellent training ground for developing people skills.

These skills are the staple of all lawyers and all legal teams who work together for a common goal.

Here are 33 unique skills that can be enhanced using these improvisational techniques that help lawyers in their practice as litigators, mediators and negotiators.  


By practicing improvisational activities, lawyers can develop the lateral thinking and creativeness necessary for effective communication within groups and among team members, as well.

ACCEPTING – the capacity to immediately empathize with the existing situation, regardless of preconceived notions. This enables a presenter to recognize diversity and tolerate adverse opinions.

ACCURACY – the ability to quickly get to the point. This is useful during Q & A moments.

ACTION – the external expression of a strong choice, represented in a physical manner using the body and voice. This helps develop control of body language.

ADAPTING – the capacity to acclimate to a particular situation, although not necessarily accepting the circumstances. This aids a presenter during those times where a sense of logic and common sense appear to be lacking.

ADVANCING – the ability to move a story forward, from “point A” to “point B”, based on the natural progression of logic or emotion. This is a critical presentation skill in order to close, persuade, or influence a person.

ANTICIPATING – the quickness of expecting the unexpected based on a history of predictable outcomes. This skill also develops with experience, since business situations tend to repeat.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL – the talent for fine-tuning a perspective without cluttering the concept or over explaining the idea.

CLARITY – the flair for simplifying an issue without overstating or underestimating relative importance.

COMMITMENT – the tenacity to take responsibility for an expressed choice. For a presenter, any deviation from the chosen path will be seen as a limitation.

CONFLICT-MANAGEMENT – the capacity to see both sides of a situation while facilitating a positive (win-win) outcome.

COOPERATION – the quality of effort that always adds value toward a common goal.

CREATING A SENSE OF URGENCY – exacting a pressure that identifies and targets the specific importance of a concept or idea. The art of persuasion is based on this principle.

CREATING ANALOGIES – the ability to find similar, real-world applications of defined parameters for a given issue. Comparisons to transportation, health, family, food or life experiences are the best analogies.

DEDUCTION – the natural transition used to show the reasoning behind a given line of logic. In presenting, this skill is used to thread a group of concepts into a flowing script.

FLOW – the functional layout of scripted logic, placed on a timeline and paced in a pleasing manner.

FOCUSING – the aptitude for finding the center of attention at any given moment of a situation. The lack of this skill causes presenters to drift off-topic and get sidetracked.

INTENTION – the internal expression of a strong choice, represented in a mental manner using the mind and heart.

JUSTIFICATION – the internal measurement of belief in a personal choice. Expressed outwardly as self-confidence, this validates information for an audience.

LISTENING – the level of attentiveness to audible content and patterns of speech. A good listener hears the sound of silence between spoken phrases in order to grasp the pace of a person’s voice. This avoids interrupting, overlapping, or cutting off the dialogue.

LOGIC – the sequential and predictable display of related information, whether legitimate or flawed, that leads to a decision.

MAINTAINING INTEGRITY – the facility to sustain a strict adherence to a value proposition without losing sight of the objective.

OBSERVING VISUAL CUES – the ability to detect and decipher actions and reactions, such as body language, facial expressions and other noticeable forms of feedback.

PROVIDING RESOLUTION – the capacity to reduce complexity into simplicity, while seeking the best outcome (win-win) possible.

REFERENCES AND ALTERNATIVES – the components of support for a given line of logic. Presenters with more experience are likely to have a wealth of backup information at their fingertips available to overcome argumentative objections.

RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING – the knack for finding similar interests, desires or needs, while creating a common bond in the process.

ROLE REVERSAL – taking on opposing character traits in order to understand a situation. Presenters who can play “devils advocate” (opposing their own concepts or ideas) can develop stronger arguments to support a line of logic.

SELECTIVITY –choosing the unique and relative details of an issue specific to the immediacy of the situation.

SHARING – the willing effort to offer others a chance to enjoy a particular experience. This skill reduces nervousness (butterflies, jitters, stage fright, etc.) because it forces a presenter to focus externally (on others), rather than internally (on self).

SHIFTING FOCUS – the process of directing or giving attention to a particular view (person, group, support item, etc.). Presenters use this skill to draw attention to support materials (a display visual), to others in the room (during interaction) or to imaginaries (virtual props & space).

SUPPORT – the effort given to promote or defend a particular choice. A presenter uses this as a collaborative skill when advancing a particular line of logic shared by at least one other person.

TABLE-SETTING – the ability to preset the conditions, parameters, or guidelines relevant to a particular line of logic. Presenters always provide a necessary bias (selective data) to support a point of view.

TIMING – the aptitude for positioning the key component of an issue as near as possible to the highest moment of acceptance.

USING VIRTUAL PROPS AND SPACE – the talent for representing thought through visible action. Presenters can use physical movements (gestures, body language, etc.) to identify the unique and specific components of a concept or idea.


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Improvisational Theater Skills for Lawyers