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Language is the Key

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the thought that counts - it's the way you express that thought. I'll go one step further and assert that what you say and how you say it are the crucial factors in communication. While language skills are important tools in nearly every industry of work, i think they are particularly meaningful in the practice of law. When written, the language used can create obligations and liabilities. When spoken, it will determine how effectively you argue and advocate your position at conference or in court.

From my experience on the bench, lawyers swing from one side of the pendulum to the other, i.e., they either soft soap their words and hold back on their zeal, or display pitbull aggression and insulting remarks against their adversary. By the way, did you know that both of those practices, the meekness and the mocking, are scorned and prohibited in our legal ethical code?

Keeping a balance is not as difficult as it may appear. Just remember what our job description entails - to present the facts in the best light for our clients. Here's a tip: focus on the issues instead of the opposing personality. Give little, if any, attention to the disparaging remarks; they are designed to throw you off your mark. And, the judge can tell the difference between a good argument and a defensive one.

Caveat causidicus - weigh your words carefully. I take literary license in adding to Abraham Lincoln's famous quote that a lawyer's time and advice is his/her stock in trade. Words are also our stock in trade. We are the voices for our clients. The outcome determining their well-being, their property, sometimes, even their liberty, may hinge on our language.

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