How to Use Negative Space Theory in Your Litigation Strategy for Tear-jerking Results

September 14, 2023

September 14, 2023

How to Use Negative Space Theory in Your Litigation Strategy for Tear-jerking Results

The practice of law is an art. Lawyers possess a natural talent for abstract thinking and interpreting the law is comparable to analyzing a masterful work of art. As an artist lifts their brush to paint their canvas; the lawyer is building their argument for their case.


Negative space theory helps define the boundaries of the positive space and brings balance to a composition. Think of the periods of silence in a musical piece – this can be considered negative space. Negatives pace involves learning to see in a new and abstract way. Look at the defense counsel. What have they not tried? What haven’t they looked at? What are they not saying? This theory can be applied to defendants, witnesses on both sides, experts, etc.


The theory of Negative Space is used in art composition, and it can be applied to law practice as well. Negative space theory is the space around and between the subject of an image. In law, negative space is the missing information surrounding the case not presented to the jury.

CASE EXAMPLE: Sally slipped and fell on her back in the lobby of a bank building

Positive Space of the Case

This is what we immediately see. It is information that is readily shared and put out there. It can also be what others immediately assume when they think of the subject.

  • Sally slipped in the lobby
  • Sally hurt her lower back
  • Sally is suing the bank for a settlement in money

Negative Space of the Case

So, what's missing? What are the things we don't see? The negative space is everything else.

  • Sally's lower back gave her partial paralysis on an old disc injury
  • Sally had to give up her soccer scholarship that was paying her college tuition
  • The doctors did x-rays but did not conduct MRIs or CT scans
  • The bank did not mention the floor was wet
  • There was no wet caution sign to warn Sally

So, we can see how the positive and negative space would work in this case. The negative space would be parts of the case that the jury cannot see immediately. The abstract way of thinking can also be applied to other aspects of the case.

For example:

Positive Space of Witnesses:

  • Doctor appointments
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Daily tasks

Negative Space of Witnesses:

  • Family and friends are constantly around Sally
  • They share the edges of the experience with Sally
  • They do everything in their power to bring balance back for Sally, thus adding a burden on them too
  • Their role is understood by very few people
  • They are not seen or recognized but are vital to giving Sally the care she needs now

Understanding their role can give a much bigger picture of Sally’s injuries and how she was forced into this new life of depending on others. Sally must adjust and relearn a new life.


Develop the skill to paint a canvas for the jury by showcasing gaps in evidence, drawing attention to inconsistencies, and highlighting alternative explanations. With practice, you will effortlessly master the art of conceptualizing non-existent scenarios and connecting the dots in your mind.

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