A Flaw in the Legal System: the Skill of the Lawyer

A flaw in the legal system is that the skill of the lawyer makes a difference. It’s a flaw because in the ideal legal system a particular lawyer’s skills do not matter.

Here’s an example of how the skilled lawyer makes a difference.

One of goals of a lawyer is to persuade others that his or her client’s position is the right one. A lawyer’s work for that client begins with digging out the facts.

That’s seen in each episode of television’s Law and Order. Each begins with police detectives and then lawyers from the District Attorney’s Office digging out the facts. On television that digging means going to the crime scene, working with the crime scene analyst and the medical examiner, interviewing witnesses, and reading a few documents. In a real lawsuit, those few TV minutes take months and require quite a bit more effort, but Law and Order has it right. It starts with digging out the facts.

To persuade, the important facts must then be identified, with importance judged against rules of evidence and a fact’s value in settlement discussions and at trial.

The words used to describe those important facts count, too. Words are most are powerful when they are simple, as Terin Izil teaches:

The parts of speech that are used count, too. Facts are best described using nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. Nouns and verbs are concrete. Adjectives and adverbs are coloring.

Simple words are a foundation for persuasive messages:

and, more recently:

With the exception of very few words, the Prime Minister and the President spoke in simple language, using nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. They were not speaking down to their listeners, they were speaking forcefully.

The skilled lawyer does an exceptional job of digging out and assembling the facts and of determining which are important. He or she then organizes and presents those facts using simple words. That lawyer moves the needle more than does the less skilled lawyer. That lawyer also moves the legal system away from the ideal.

Steve Rosen