THE EXPERT WITNESS: Primary Economics


A hero(ine)’s journey (part three)

By John F. Sase
Gerard J. Senick,
senior editor
Julie G. Sase, copyeditor

[H]umans are moved by stories at a primal level. Tapping into this human need for drama by using storytelling in the courtroom is an easy (but not simple) method of persuading your judge or jury. As is largely true in sales, I believe that juries (and probably most judges) decide on emotion and justify their decisions with facts.

—Ken Lopez, “Litigation Consultant, Storytelling for Litigators: Building a Great Narrative for Judge and Jury” (3rd ed., A2L Consulting, 2014)

Why Should I Read This?
Why should an attorney care about a courtroom story? Very simply: No story, no sale. Without a story, no one will side with us. Jurors are human beings and as such are natural storytellers. We cannot help turning real-life events into stories because we love narratives of innocence and guilt, truth and lies, and justice and injustice in the jury room. Therefore, attorneys must be excellent storytellers.

What is a courtroom story?  It is a dramatic tale containing character-rich events in which the client is cast as the hero(ine) that the attorney delivers with the purpose of evoking an emotional response from the jury.

This storytelling begins with the opening statement—a statement that should not be a simple recitation of facts and information in chronological order. Without structure and movement, information presented to jurors can end up as a confusing recitation that means nothing to them.

What is the structure of a dramatic story in which the attorney telling the story makes the client the hero(ine)? Casting the client as hero(ine) involves the same structure used by storytellers since humankind sat around fires. First, the Introduction (aka the exposition) introduces characters, sets the scene, and introduces the plot. Second, the Rising Action reveals the hero(ine) and identifies the conflict in which the hero(ine) finds the solution. Third, the Climax clarifies whether the situation of the hero(ine) is improved or worsened. Fourth, the Falling Action shows diminishing conflict and whether the hero(ine) is clearly winning or losing. Fifth, the Resolution (aka the denouement) reveals morals, releases tension, and gives a sense of relief to the jurors. (For a more thorough treatment and additional links, see “5 Keys to Telling a Compelling Story in the Courtroom” by Ken Lopez,

Our Story Thus Far
We are in the fourth episode of this tutorial story in which I (Dr. Sase) have cast attorneys (my clients) in the role of hero(ine) along with myself to facilitate leading all of us through the development of a story. As an economist, I am more comfortable writing about my own field rather than Law. However, the story elements and the archetypes that enrich the characters are the same regardless of the subject matter. As attorney Ken Lopez points out in his book, cited in the opening quote, “Remember, stories are supposed to be interesting and entertaining. They have a beginning, a climax, and an ending. They have a theme, a setting, and fully developed characters. Help your case by making it understandable to the jurors and by keeping them from being bored.”

During the past three months, we have considered the need for a strong primary sector of Economics that includes agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining. We have assessed this sector not only for the ongoing production of finished goods and services but as a firm foundation for human organization that we can trace to our distant past. We began our Economist/Attorney Journey by using the model of a pedagogical myth introduced by the American author and lecturer Joseph Campbell. We have used this model to build upon the basics of Productive Economies, a concept developed by the noted New Zealand-born economist Allan G(eorge) B(arnard) Fisher. In the adaptation of Fisher’s model, we hope that our readership will modify and apply this approach to the courtroom and the classroom.

For our demonstrative story, we have created a scenario that introduces survivors from a variety of cultures who find themselves on an uncharted island after an unidentified catastrophic event. Through participatory experience in group survival and allocation of existing resources, we learn about the four primary sectors of Economics--agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining.

We continue to organize our text into principles and examples: First, we state the economic or storytelling principle to be illustrated. Then, we reenter the Hero(ine)’s Journey timeline in order to provide an illustrative segment that reflects the principle. For those readers who missed the previous episodes, we have posted an updated cumulative copy and PDF at

Back to the Island
In our pedagogical adventure, survivors of an unidentified cataclysm have found themselves on a sole remaining island. They have grouped into four geographic communities around the perimeter of the island. In addition, a group of “watchers” and others inhabit the woodlands that encircle the desolate central plain. They warn of a group of antagonists that attempts to control this central region. Through the present time in our tale, we have witnessed the four communities along the perimeter attempt to rebuild a sustainable human socio-economy from the most basic and primitive level. Last month, we introduced our mentor, the wizened elder of the fire-builders. This month we expand the character of the mentor, send a small group on an important mission, and meet a Threshold Guardian who may turn into an ally.

The Mentor Archetype may serve to explain how an attorney’s client receives some unexpected assistance. In turn, this assistance may bring an opportunity to reality. In “The Writer’s Journey” (Michael Wiese Productions, 2007), film-script consultant Christopher Vogler explains that a mentor may be a willing archetype who aids the protagonist, or an unwilling one who may express dark or negative sides through this archetype. A mentor also may play an inverse role as a special type of Threshold Guardian. The guardian blocks the gateway between the normal world and the “Special World” in which the overarching journey occurs. In addition, mentors may be on their own journey. On these journeys, the mentor may experience a crisis of faith or deal with the problems of aging, including the approaching threshold of death. However, mentors primarily serve the story by giving assignments and setting the stories in motion.

Mentors resemble shamans or healers who guide their people through life. Though many different character archetypes can coalesce into that of the mentor, this one can manifest the characteristic of numerous other archetypes. As a practical consideration, mentors tend to appear in the first quarter of a story. In a courtroom story an attorney may reveal how the client first met the person (or organization) that is central to the opportunity The mentor character may aid in the initial exposition of the story and function as the one who gives key information or direction to move along the hero(ine) and the story to the confrontation with the Threshold Guardian.

In keeping with our tutorial story from economics, let us recall that primary economies are built through the allocation of human and non-human resources. We tend to sort these resources into further subdivisions, called factors of production, for the purposes of order and control. The bringing together of the factors of labor, land, capital, and technology (intellectual property) by the application of the factor of entrepreneurship allows us to produce a variety of goods and services to satisfy our needs and even our wants.

Starry, Starry Night
Now, let us return to the island where our story is told from the perspective of the survivors: On a clear starlit night, a small group of us lay upon the half-submerged shoal that is located at the mouth of our cove. We are looking upward at the sky. Three of us from the core group of our cove community listen as our fire-mentor tells us about stars that we once ignored or had taken for granted. As a navigation instructor, our mentor explains that stars are an alternate way to navigate, especially when horizon lines are not visible.

As we look at the 3,000 visible stars in our hemisphere, our teacher/spirit-guide instructs us that humans have relied upon twenty stars of the first magnitude and another thirty-eight of the second magnitude to navigate and to measure distances on land and sea since ancient times. Approximately half of these 58 stars are visible in either the northern or the southern hemisphere. Pointing at the brightest star, our guide says, “That is Polaris—more commonly known as the North Star. Given its position and visibility, we recognize that we are in the hemisphere north of the equator.” However, the wizened one adds, with an unsettled air, “Of course, Polaris does not appear to be in quite the same location as it did before our recent catastrophe.”

Nonplussed, one of us asks how we might recover all of this ancient knowledge and adapt it to our current life-situation. Our mentor responds, “So, you’re asking how to recover all of this ancient knowledge with only rocks and sticks as tools?” Defensively, two of us quickly interject that we have done well for ourselves in our revival of civilization within the past few months. They remind our mentor that we not only are able to feed everyone around the cove, but now we can produce sufficient amounts of seafood to exchange for goods with the other groups on the island. Furthermore, we have increased our capital and technology through building simple boats to drag our new fishing nets out to the open sea and rafts to which we can transfer the catches. These rafts help us to carry the fish back to shore to be doled out to members of the community.

The surplus is stacked on shore in order to prepare it for inland trade.

The third one of us points out that some of these raft-folk have climbed the cliffs while carrying slaked lime (quicklime) from the lowlands and sheets of bark that were a byproduct of raft-building. These resources have been used to build painted directional reflectors for our beacon lights. Those of us who have gone out to sea on a foggy night without visible stars or horizon lines have been thankful for this advancement in technology.

Swords and MacGuffins
At some point on the Hero(ine)’s Journey, the “seizing of the sword” takes place. The seeker aggressively takes possession of some treasure being sought in the Special World, the new and alien world of the journey that is set in contrast to the ordinary, mundane world of the exposition (think Oz versus Kansas in “The Wizard of Oz”). The item might be a magic sword, the Holy Grail, or some elixir that heals every ill. The acquisition of this object may be accompanied by clairvoyance, self-realization, or an epiphany. For a client, this treasure may be some material gain involved in a business transaction or a personal health in a medical malpractice case.

However, the sought object merely may be a MacGuffin—a plot device in the form of some goal or desired treasure that the protagonist pursues. Typically, a MacGuffin is an object, place, or person that is unimportant to the overall plot. The device may be nothing at all or it may be “The, uh, stuff that dreams are made of” such as the statuette of the black bird in John Huston’s “The Maltese Falcon” (Warner Brothers, 1941). The term MacGuffin was popularized in the 1930s by Alfred Hitchcock, who used the device in some of his early films like “The 39 Steps” (Gaumont-British Picture Corporation, 1935): In this movie, the 39 steps are the MacGuffin. We discover in the final minutes of the film that the 39 Steps, which is alluded to but not described, is the name of the enemy spy ring responsible for the murder, mayhem, and intrigue throughout the entire movie. In court, a MacGuffin may be the revelation of some entity that had conspired against the plaintiff such as might occur in an antitrust case.

The Cube: 101
Back on the island, our fire-mentor pauses long and thoughtfully after our comments on the technological advances that we have made on the island. Then he says, “A large amount of our past knowledge and wisdom has been preserved in what many have referred to as ‘The Cube.’” The rest of us wait while an air of suspicious curiosity hangs pendulously in the air. The mentor has gained our undivided attention. The wizened one queries, “Have you ever asked yourselves why we ended up on this island?” One of us retorts, “Given the trauma that we experienced before finally awakening here, we have had a difficult time just remaining in touch with our basic survival instincts.” Our mentor smiles as if laughing inside, saying, “While foraging for fuel, those of us who build the fires along the shore of the cove have met regularly with the fire-builders among the forest people and those from the other three quadrants of the island. We have shared food as well as pieces of knowledge and information. A number of us believe that this Cube of Knowledge may still be somewhere on this island.”

Taking a ninety-degree turn within the conversation, our mentor-turned-navigator points distractingly to the eastern sky. Our seer gesticulates, “Look there, where the small cloud is moving. See that star? The Native Americans of the shores of Lake Huron called it Tawas. It’s commonly called….” Suddenly, a blood-chilling scream breaks the calm of the evening. The drumming and chanting around the fire stops. Instinctively, we wade back to the edge of the cove and make our way hurriedly along the base of the cliff to the shore.

The Shadow Archetype
The archetype of the Shadow represents unexpressed, unrealized, or rejected elements of our dark side that we project onto an antagonist or villain. Psychologically, the Shadow Archetype may represent the power of repressed feelings, deep trauma, or guilt. This archetype also may appear as the Shapeshifter Archetype of something from our deep subconscious. This Shapeshifter turns into a monster that wants to destroy us. However, the primary dramatic function of the Shadow Archetype is to present a worthy opponent to struggle with the hero(ine). Christopher Vogler points out, “It’s often been said that a story is only as good as its villain because a strong enemy forces a hero to rise to the challenge.” In the murder or spouse-battering case, the defendant may emerge as the Shadow Archetype in the storyline written by the prosecutor.

A Disturbing Event
We arrive at the beach and find most of the habitants huddled around an injured friend, who has a deep gash along the outside of the left thigh. Calmly, our mentor enters the center of the circle to learn what has happened. Apparently, the injured habitant was walking along the edge of the pinery when a “shadow being” attacked, demanding to know the location of something called “the Cube,” an item about which the victim has no knowledge. One of the younglings who witnessed this encounter explains that the intruder became violent and slashed the person now lying on the ground. The scared youngling, who routinely helps the fire-mentor, looks upward and says, “It looked like a shadow. I could see right through it! Is it a ghost? Is it magic?” The mentor kneels down to calm the youngling and says quietly, “No, just malfunctioning technology.”
Amid this strange confusion, the injured person screams out in pain again. Our mentor tells the youngling, “Go along the edge of the forest to the place where we gathered herbs two days ago. Bring back as much ‘woad’ weed as you can carry. Do you remember what it looks like?” The youngling responds, “It’s the large, bushy plant with small mustard-yellow flowers with four large and four small leaves.” The mentor replies, “Correct. Now, go quickly and take someone along with you. Hurry back. We need to stop the bleeding and the risk of infection.”

Our medic/navigator/teacher gestures for us to walk to a secluded area of the shoreline. While we walk, our mentor tells us, “We don’t have much time. That shadow person is one of the people who have been driving folks out of the middle of the island. They know about the Cube and are searching for it desperately” The mentor sees the youngling returning with the medicinal herbs and says, “The three of you need to go through the forest to the interior, meet up with those from the other quadrants, and retrieve the Metatron Cube. So, I am asking you to gather some root-vegetables, sunflowers, and milkweed that you will need on your trip. Go now. Please! I need to attend to my patient.”

While the fire-mentor practices the healing arts, we go around the community gathering supplies. We look at one another with bewildered expressions that seem to ask “Is the wizened one off his rocker?” and “What is the Metatron Cube?” One of us responds, “The mentor hasn’t misled us yet. In fact, we wouldn’t have survived without all of the wisdom and knowledge that our mentor has shared over these past months” We continue our search for the milkweed, et al.

Night nears first light. We have gotten together our provisions and have managed to get a bit of rest. Our mentor moves slowly toward us through the mist. While speaking in a tired voice, the mentor says, “The patient is alive and is healing. I apologize for my bluntness earlier. However, this recent incident has made me realize that we face a critical situation with this group of ‘unfriendlies’ that has dominated the mid-island.” Our seer continues, “My fellow habitants, I apologize for not sharing what a few know about the Metatron Cube. The violence that many witnessed tonight appears to center around the Cube. Allow me to explain the importance of finding this object.”

Our mentor unveils the legend of the Metatron Cube. Apparently, this object is a crystalline structure about the size of a soccer ball. Though it can fit snuggly into a cube, its appearance is more complex. At some ancient time, someone or something discovered a way to partition exceedingly pure crystal into five basic geometric shapes without fracturing it. Rather, all of the surfaces of the five shapes intersect one another while the mass of this object remains consubstantial. Similar to how we partition and format computer hard-drives in modern times, some ancient race built the Metatron Cube and began the tradition of storing the knowledge of the ages at a sub-molecular level.

The last person to enter information into the Cube before the catastrophic event that brought us to our present state was Professor Stuart MacGuffin while working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The terror surrounding this matter comes from a belief that he stored detailed working knowledge of Distance Molecular Energy Technology (DMET) and similar volatile technologies in the Cube. The DMET technology, which requires neither nuclear fusion nor fission, has the economic potential of creating and delivering abundant clean energy at virtually no cost. However, the use of this technology for weaponry has been demonstrated successfully as early as the Vietnam War. DMET has the ability to destroy people and buildings through molecular disintegration. The group of mentors on the island has known about the Cube.

Consequently, the mentors have been concerned that shadow figures have gained possession of it. However, the events of the past night suggest that this feared reality may not be true.

The three of us who had started our evening by looking at the stars agree that our mission seems simple enough—find the Cube, take possession of it, and bring it to a safe environment. Nevertheless, the probability of success eludes our consciousness. Though we understand the need to carry woad-weed flowers with us in case of injury, we receive no explanation from our mentor when we ask why we need to carry along a bundle of root-vegetables, sunflowers, and milkweed. The departing words of our mentor are, “Your search for the Cube will not be boring. However, this task requires more than the three of you. Therefore, I will ascend the cliffs immediately to signal your cohorts with the beacons.”

We begin our trek along the diagonal path that takes us deep into the forest before reaching the clearing along the barren plain of mid-island. About an hour into our journey, we begin to hear the rustling of leaves and the breaking of branches to the right of us. We stop and the sounds stop. When we start up again, the sounds resume.

The Threshold Guardian
Any dramatic story must take the hero(ine) across a First Threshold. For the attorney storyteller, this may involve the client making the decision to move forward toward the central opportunity with a clear, obvious step that involves getting past a Threshold Guardian. Christopher Vogler tells us, “At each gateway to a new world, there are powerful guardians at the threshold, placed to keep the unworthy from entering. They present a menacing face to the hero, but if properly understood, they can be overcome, bypassed, or even turned into allies.” Guardians are seldom the primary antagonist of the story. However, they may be a doorkeeper who warns the antagonist of an approaching protagonist. On a deep psychological level, these guardians may represent our inner demons and reflect our neuroses. Dramatically, the Threshold Guardian may test or challenge the hero(ine), who may bribe, appease, or even make an ally of this gatekeeper. Therefore, successful protagonists learn to recognize the Guardian Archetype as a friend rather than as an enemy. In a court case, this guardian may reveal him/herself as a colleague of either the plaintiff or defendant, depending on the viewpoint of the attorney telling the story.

In the Depths of the Forest
As we reach the densest part of the forest, the rustling sounds stop. In front of us, traces of dawn light reflect off of two large, dark eyes. Slowly and cautiously, we move forward. In response, these two eyes appear to float toward us out of the darkness, messaging us to stop. We wait for this potential nemesis to make its move. However, it remains still. As the rising sun illuminates the forest around us, we find ourselves confronting a strange elk-like creature. However, unlike an elk or deer, its two eyes are predatory, that is, they are toward the front of the face looking forward. This entity has upright ears, pointed like those of a wolf. In contrast, it has a nose that resembles that of a horse or a mule-deer. However, the most striking feature of this creature is a set of three antlers that have the texture of velvet. They are short and have three twisted tines (points) growing out of each of the three short beams. This feature gives the creature the appearance of a Buddhist temple rather than that of an elk.

This strange animal stares at us angrily while blocking our path. In order to gain its trust, one of us pulls out a piece of milkweed from our stash of goodies. Timidly, this person approaches the “guardian of the woods,” holding out the milkweed as an offering. Our companion says softly, “This animal is injured. Judging from the bloodied rips on its hide, it looks as if it’s been whipped and beaten.” On cue, we pull some of our yellow woad-weed mixture and gently hand it to the new caregiver. The elk-like creature appears to sense that we are friendly and are there to help. After eating one of the large sunflowers that we offer, the animal shakes itself off. Then, with an arc of its head, it motions us to follow along the previously barred path. We proceed at a respectable distance behind this Threshold Guardian. When we stop, it stops and turns around as if to make sure that we are all right. Our new guide is an odd but intelligent creature. We follow blindly along the path….

This month, we have continued our theme of allocating scarce resources in order to produce goods and services to satisfy our needs and wants. In this episode, we have allocated portions of our time to develop new technology, capital, and labor skills for production in future time-periods. Also, we have begun to look for answers by searching for a knowledge-source from the distant past. From this fourth part of our journey, we hope that the attorney/hero(ine) has gained more understanding of the process of Creative Storytelling and Primary Economics. In constructing a dramatic story for judge and jury, the Mentor and Threshold Guardian Archetypes and the transition from the first to the second can serve as highly useful elements. By weaving a story, the attorney captures the imagination of the jury. This story, combined with solid facts and evidence, can help to win the case. Therefore, attorneys need to be excellent storytellers. In next month’s episode, we will cross the First Threshold and begin our journey through the “Special World.”
Dr. John F. Sase has taught Economics for thirty-five years and has practiced Forensic and Investigative Economics since the early 1990s. He earned an M.A. in Economics and an MBA at the University of Detroit and a Ph.D. in Economics at Wayne State University. He is a graduate of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. Dr. Sase can be reached at 248-569-5228 and at You can find his educational videos of interest to attorneys at

Gerard J. Senick is a freelance writer, editor, and musician. He earned his degree in English at the University of Detroit and was a Supervisory Editor at Gale Research Company (now Cengage) for over twenty years. Currently, he edits books for publication and gives seminars on writing and music. Mr. Senick can be reached at 313-342-4048 and at You can find some of his writing tips at

Julie G. Sase is a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. She earned her degree in English at Marygrove College and her graduate certificate in Parent Coaching from Seattle Pacific University. As a consultant, Ms. Sase coaches clients, writes articles for publication, and gives interviews to various media. Ms. Sase can be reached at and