The Source for Whistleblowers, Journalists, Legislators & Academics

Advocacy is a two way street

Young lawyers learning about advocacy need to understand how judges think if they are to master the skill, says Reuben Guttman.

Young advocates or trial lawyers often labour under the conception that communication is a one size fits all effort.  Be smooth, don’t be nervous, be flamboyant, and engage in fanfare.  Really?  For my trial advocacy students at Emory Law School, this is sometimes their vision of a trial lawyer.  Yet advocacy is a two way street.  Before an advocate formulates the content and form of his or her message, the most important question to ask is “Who is receiving the message?” Advocates, or trial lawyers, are teachers.  Judges and juries are their students.  How does the trial lawyer, as a teacher, deliver a message that resonates with each particular student?

Insight

Last year at Emory Law School,  I convened a panel of four judges with the hope of giving students an insight into their lives.  It was enlightening for the students to learn that these judges had dockets ranging from a couple hundred to several thousand cases.  The students learned that these judges were tasked with deciding matters that they had never studied in law school.  Their support ranged from one to several law clerks and the law clerks themselves were all recent law school graduates.  This group of judges ranged from civil cases to criminal matters with divorces, large scale securities class actions, business disputes, discrimination cases, and maritime matters in the mix.

Breaking the monotony

There is a saying that justice is blind.  And of course there is a perception that judges are powerful – which they of course are – and that they know everything.  While sitting in federal court a couple of weeks ago, I was watching a judge hear a dozen motions before it was my turn to argue. He was jovial.  He was witty. He engaged the litigants with humour.  I liked him. I had seen this behavior before with jurists.  I realised of course that some judges usually do this to break the monotony of the job.  They are human beings.  As I sat and watched this particular judge, I thought about him sitting high on his bench in a courtroom with 35 foot ceilings and the walls adorned with paintings of judges who had preceded him. I thought about why the US government spends so much on these ornate courtrooms.  I realised that without these accoutrements, judges would seem like mere mortals.  And of course, the proceeding itself would not be cloaked in the same solemnity.

Lifetime experiences

For the advocate, it is important to understand that at the end of the day, their messages will be evaluated by humans; whether they are judges or jurists.  They will have lifetime experiences, families that they go home to, perhaps pets that they feed, and like other humans, they will have had their successes and failures.  They will have fears and concerns.

If there is a takeaway from all of this, it is that advocacy is a two way street.  What you may think is the right message, or form of message to deliver to the decision maker, may not necessarily be the one that resonates.  What you may think is the right style may not be appropriate for a particular audience.  This is just something to think about; communication is a two way street.

Related posts

Democracy Misconceived

By William Nettles and Reuben Guttman There is a misconception among many that democracy...

The Art of Advocacy

Judges are now insisting that plaintiffs make their case with facts instead of merely...

A Tale of Two Cases

The SEC needs more transparency The SEC needs to begin identifying those receiving bounties...

Benchmarking Law Schools

How should law schools be judged? Reuben Guttman questions the current law school rankings...

A Global Epicentre

Our man at the IBA, Reuben Guttman, is most impressed by a law professor...

Doing the right thing

Are global corporations under just a moral obligation rather than a legal duty to...

Professional melting pot

The International Bar Association has a well-deserved reputation for partying hard at its annual...

Puckering Up

“Whether to blow or not to blow – that intriguing issue triggered heated debate...

“Backing Barack”

The US President wins some heavyweight economic support as Reuben Guttman sees the curtain...

Changing the Debate

CHARLOTTE, NC — Twenty-eight years ago, then New York Governor Mario Cuomo gave a...

It’s all about Ohio

CHARLOTTE, NC — Inside the Democratic National Convention here it is all about winning...

Is Apple Serious?

After years of representing to shareholders that it properly monitors its supply chain for...

Rapamune In the News

The Justice Department on Tuesday joined a whistleblower lawsuit against Pfizer and its subsidiary...

Comments are currently closed.

Top