“Brevity is the soul of wit” Shakespeare Hamlet
Long before Shakespeare the importance of brevity in communication had been noted. Horace in 65 BC wrote “Unless you are brief, our complete plan of thought will seldom be grasped. Before you reach the conclusion, the reader or listener has forgotten the beginning and the middle.” In spite of the wisdom of history, walk into any courtroom and listen to the typical lawyer asking questions of a witness or arguing to a judge. The questions usually are not questions and the argument isn’t a logical outline of thought. Instead it is all speeches. Boring and confusing. Remember the advice “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”
Contrary to the common phrase, in litigation, talk is not cheap. It is too often boring and unnecessary which can result in an expensive loss to your client. In fact, time is money and too much talk is deadly.
Milo Frank wrote a book: Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds and the title says it all. His book is an excellent summary of the basics of communication. We know typical television news items are 1.5 minutes which includes the introduction, photos & story in total.
Since people have a short attention span, the message must not be too complex. If you make it complex the listener will simply “tune out” and probably will resent you for confusing them. You may never regain their good will or interest again when once lost because the message was too complex or lengthy to be grasped. Remember that the average attention span is something less than a maximum of twenty to thirty minutes. After all, 15% of the brain is all that is required to understand communications and that leaves 85% to day dream anyway.
If you don’t make it simple, keep it interesting and make it brief you are risking the loss of attention of the people you want to persuade. Furthermore, you need to do it in the first few seconds or you will probably fail to persuade at all. That’s why television advertisements are thirty seconds long and news top stories seldom longer than one and a half minutes.
Great advocacy requires discipline and hard work. For trial lawyers, it should start with taking the time and effort to discover the primary issues and significant facts involved in their cases. To reduce and focus the trial they present with simplicity, clarity and brevity. By doing so they will employ the best principles of advocacy
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Copyright 2011 Plaintiff Trial Lawyer Tips