October 27, 2011 Articles

Different Perspectives on Oral Advocacy

Lawyers use persuasion every day in almost everything. How do persuasive skills used in day-to-day life differ from those used in the law, or do they differ at all?

By Nicole D. Thumma and Samuel A. Thumma

Oral advocacy is essential in many aspects of daily life. From a baby’s cry, to trying to stay up a bit later on a school night, to lobbying for a particular vacation destination, oral advocacy has a huge impact on how most of us live our lives.

Effective oral advocacy is the lifeblood of litigators. Be it seeking to convince a jury or judge, an opponent, a regulator, or a client or potential client, lawyers use persuasion every day in almost everything. How, then, do persuasive skills used in day-to-day life differ from those used in the law (or do they differ at all)?

Nearly a generation ago, in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum suggested how the world might be a better place if adults applied the same basic concepts they learned as children. On the heels of Nicole’s seventh-grade oral presentation on the Oracle of Delphi and following Sam’s stint as a judge pro tempore on the Arizona Court of Appeals, we decided to test Mr. Fulghum’s suggestions. More specifically, we decided to discuss whether the approaches to oral presentations for a seventh grader (through the eyes of Nicole, a seventh grader) applied to pretrial oral advocacy in court (through the eyes of Sam, a trial judge). In doing so, we first identified 10 helpful tips for oral advocacy and then addressed them from those two perspectives.

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