Having just presented my first lecture of the year in Advocacy at Brunel University to a keen audience, I was delighted to read in the Times this morning, an article by Jonathan Paige entitled ‘Speakers who take their time say much more’.
Professor Uriel Cohen Priva of Brown University, USA, has just published a study in which he has made findings eloquently summarised by Paige ‘…that fast talkers are not as efficient as those with a more ponderous delivery’.
Although the study was limited on the one hand, to everyday telephone conversations analysed, and 40 interviews including the speech of 398 people, some of his observations and findings, give food for thought.
It is all very well to communicate in dolphin-like terms, but does the person you are communicating with, take in what you say?
Placed into the context of a courtroom, what you convey to a Judge and jury alike, as an advocate, is essential to making your argument presentable, plausible, and irresistible for the court not to accept.
Cohen Priva observes that there are constraints as to how much information per second is transmitted by a speaker if the speaker wishes for the recipient to take in what is being said.
Cohen Priva’s study measured the same information and date as to what was said and how it was put, in terms of time. The factors were complex, taking into account constructions of sentences, words used, age, gender, and speech rate.
From his study, he observes that between genders, men convey more information than women at the same speech rate and suggests that this is so because women are more concerned with ensuring that what they say is understood by those they are speaking with. This is not the case in the context of a court of law where everyone who speaks regardless of gender is duty-bound to put their client’s case across in the best interests of their client.
In court, when presenting a case you cannot go too wrong, if you keep calm, and articulate carefully what needs to be said in short sound bites, with pauses, focusing upon your tone, volume, and pitch. Watching the speed of a Judge’s pen, or the clatter of keyboard strokes is a good indication that what you are saying is meaningful, and relevant. A fair observation to make is that a Judge who falls asleep or starts to yawn is unimpressed by your presentation.
A point well made should be made succinctly. Rambling and dwelling on a point, may be cause for annoyance and impatience. There is no need to continually make the same point. Indeed, doing so is likely to weaken your assertion that you really do not have too much to say.
For me when advocating, I like to convey my points in threes. Make three points at a time, if possible. It follows grammatical rules of beginning, middle, and end. The arguments flow, as does the logic. It will attract the ear of those listening, and hopefully make your argument so irresistible that a court would find it hard not to agree with you…unless, of course, your fellow advocate adopts the same pattern of speech, in which case….do not then start rambling. Keep a cool head; be confident in what you have said and how you say it; even if you think you are losing the argument, behave as if you are a winner.
This blog post is for information purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice because it does not consider or take into account your own personal circumstances. If in doubt, seek legal advice.
Professor David Rosen is a solicitor-advocate, partner and head of litigation at Darlingtons Solicitors LLP. He is a strategic legal advisor for Help4LiPs, a member of the Society of Legal Scholars amongst other memberships, and honorary professor of law at Brunel University where he regularly lectures on practical legal skills and procedure, and advocacy amongst other subjects.