This post continues with the concepts from 10 Simple Secrets of the World’s Greatest Business Communicators (herein “10 secrets”). As mentioned in the first post, this book for business leaders seeking to become more effective presenters can just as easily apply to lawyers seeking to become more effective at the business of practicing law. Below is a discussion of three more secrets and their application in the context of practicing law.
1.) Start Strong
The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to start strong. He says people will remember the manner in which you start your presentation so the key is to cut to the chase and tell people why they should care about what you have to say. To help start strong, he suggests one provide the answers to the following questions in about thirty seconds: What is my service, product, company, or cause; what problem do I solve; how am I different; and why should you care.
This advice to start strong is clearly helpful for lawyers as well. Lawyers are well advised to apply this teaching when they speak and write to other lawyers, clients, and potential clients. Simply put, before getting into the weeds give your audience a hint as to your overall point. For young lawyers talking to (or writing) partners and clients, tell them as quickly as possible the problem and your recommended solution. Most of the time it is not necessary to drag them through the welter of considerations you waded through to get there (including legislative and judicial history). In the client development context, sell you or your firm’s service by describing how it fits into your particular audience’s needs and differentiating the service from others in the market. This approach will help the listener determine whether your service is necessary.
The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to remove the clutter and the jargon and speak clearly. He points to USA Today as an example of reporters taking complicated subjects and turning them into easily digestible nuggets of information. The help lose the clutter, he suggests one ask themselves how USA Today would describe your service or whatever it is you are describing.
This advice to be clear and simple is helpful for lawyers to follow in their written or oral communication. Drop the legalese and make sure the client, partner, or layman who knows nothing about the subject matter can follow you. If not, you have not met the USA Today test and need to start over.
The author of 10 secrets advises the business speaker to be brief. To help keep it short, he asks the reader to describe what makes you different and great in twenty-five words or less. As an example he notes that Thomas Jefferson only chose twenty-two words to describe his life’s accomplishments on his tombstone: Author of the Declaration of Independence of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia.
This advice to keep it short and sweet is helpful for lawyers especially in written communication. One goal of writing should be simplicity. Simplicity often brings clarity (see item two above), which is key to strong legal writing. So, to implement this advice, use simple words, phrases, verbs and structure, and prefer short sentences and paragraphs.
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