When Lawyers Speak...Do People Listen?

Once there was a well-recognized television commercial for a brokerage firm.

An impeccably dressed, distinguished man is involved in a quiet conversation at an exclusive club and says in a hushed tone "Well, at E. F. Hutton we believe. . ." The room falls quiet. Everyone in the room turns, leans in, and eavesdrops with eager anticipation on what is about to be said.

[Voice overlay (somberly)] "When E. F. Hutton talks, (pause) people listen"

One message of the commercial is the value of reliable, expert judgment.  But it also affirms the widely held belief that when certain people speak others are wise to listen. That has been true since the dawn of time and is so today.  It is part of the "power" influential speakers exercise:  get them to listen . . . and then get them to do what I want.

Lawyers often rely on their ability to get others to listen.  Coincidentally, they get paid, sometimes handsomely, for doing so. From the courtroom, to the boardroom, from conference rooms to classrooms, in private and community settings, lawyers exert influence by their natural and learned skills of communication. Lawyers communicate in three main ways: in writing, in oral communications, and in how they conduct themselves. This workshop seeks to make lawyers better public speakers. Writing skills are a well-covered topic that is somewhat outside the goals of this workshop. The messages communicated by lawyers, collectively and individually, is a neglected, but crucial, issue for our profession. How people see lawyers affects every lawyer who seeks to exert influence through the spoken word.

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