Acting for Lawyers encourages attorneys to loosen up. Courtney Kasuboski , an associate at the law firm Finnegan , is unwinding a story that involves murder, threats, and the unjust detainment of her client, a Honduran man who was denied asylum. “He endured physical and mental pain and suffering that amounts to torture,” she says.

From a lawyer’s point of view, it’s powerful, case-making stuff. But there’s a problem, and it has nothing to do with the asylum seeker’s story. Rather, it has to do with Kasuboski, the man’s attorney. She’s telling the story in the same lilting tone she might use to place a Starbucks order.

Which is why it’s a good thing she’s not actually talking to a judge or a jury right now. She’s in acting class, standing on a stage in a church basement on 16th Street, Northwest, as she struggles to make eye contact, staring down at her notes, her long blond hair hanging around her face.

Theater director Gillian Drake shifts slightly in her seat as she watches. Attorneys such as Kasuboski are the reason she created this eight-week workshop, Acting for Lawyers . As Drake sees it, too many attorneys value being serious and deliberate above all else. “They tend to speak each word as if they’re choosing each word before they say it,” she explained to me earlier. “That’s why lawyers seem heartless.”

Drake’s job is to help the litigators, client reassurers, and wannabe rainmakers who seek her services loosen up and sound more, well, human . In the coming weeks, the seven new students gathered will be expected to master skills they’re unlikely to have encountered in law school—including how to recite one of Shakespeare’s sonnets while holding a wine cork between their teeth.

For now, though, their task is simply to stand and give short presentations about themselves and their work. When Kasuboski finishes, Drake’s only reaction is a cheerful “Thank you!” She’s saving her real feedback for the end of the evening.

Drake is sixtysomething—she declines to give her precise age—with dark-framed glasses and a platinum bob. She founded the Acting for Lawyers […]

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