Who is the Hero of Your Anecdote?

Read these two versions of the same anecdote told by a litigation support consultant:

Version #1

Sometimes losing is almost as good as winning.  Not long ago, a major power company was sued for breach of a twenty-year power contract.  The plaintiffs were asking for damages in excess of one billion dollars, the value of the damages hinging on the discount rate used in their calculation. 

Multiple experts offered the defendant ways to calculate the rate.  We spent many hours educating the general counsel on the credibility of the alternative ways to calculate a discount rate and persuaded him of the intellectual superiority of our approach.  When the arbitrators compared our estimation of the discount rate with the one provided by the plaintiff’s expert, they found ours more credible.  The power company ended up paying the plaintiff only $115 million, far less than they would have had to pay if the plaintiffs had won or one of the other experts’ calculations of the discount rate had been presented.

Version #2

Sometimes losing is almost as good as winning.  Not long ago, a major power company was sued for breach of a twenty-year power contract.  The plaintiffs were asking for damages in excess of one billion dollars, the value of the damages hinging on the discount rate used in their calculation. 

The attorney representing the company asked several experts to calculate the rate.  He spent many hours with the power company’s general counsel evaluating the credibility of the alternative ways to calculate a rate, and selected our experts’ approach.  When he took the case before arbitrators, they found his arguments both intellectually superior and more compellingly presented than those provided by the plaintiff’s attorney.  The power company ended up paying the plaintiff only $115 million, far less than they would have had to pay if the plaintiffs had won or one of the other experts’ calculations of the discount rate had been presented.

These are both accurate descriptions of what occurred, but the points of view differ dramatically.  In Version #1 the consultant is the hero and the plaintiff’s attorney isn’t even mentioned.  In Version #2 the defendant’s attorney is the hero and the consultant a helpful sidekick.

Is one version better than the other?  Why?  Might one version be preferable in some circumstances and the second in others?  What circumstances might they be?
If you were an attorney listening to the story, which version would you find most interesting and compelling?  Why?

If you used this anecdote describing your services to an attorney considering using you on another case, what different messages might the two versions send to him?

An anecdote is a simplification of a complex bit of history.  How you choose to simplify sends a strong message to the listener.  You should choose your words carefully.  It is especially important that you choose your hero for the story with the listener in mind.

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2 Responses to “Who is the Hero of Your Anecdote?”

  1. Anecdote Says:

    An anecdote’s point of view

    The power company ended up paying the plaintiff only $115 million, far less than they would have had to pay if the plaintiffs had won or one of the other experts’ calculations of the discount rate had been presented.

    …The power company ended up …

  2. Ford Harding Says:

    Shawn Callaghan has notice another feature of these anecdotes that you can find at:

    http://www.anecdote.com.au/archives/2008/02/an_anecdotes_po.html

    He notes that the reason the story is important–he calls it the moral–is stated in the openning sentence.  When using anecdotes to sell professional services, this lead-ion sentence is essential to making certain the client draws the meaning you want from thes story. 

    If you are interest in the construction and use of anecdotes, Shawn’s blog is a must read.  It provides the best insights on the subject I have seen in blogs. 

    Ford

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