Lawyers and public speaking

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Lawyers and public speaking

Postby nonomegusta » Fri May 27, 2011 1:52 am

I am interested in pursuing a career in law because I enjoy researching and writing. And (as lame as this may sound) I truly do want to help people. But before I start applying to law schools, I need to know this: How much public speaking do lawyers actually have to do? I know that the stereotypical image of the lawyer passionately arguing in front of the entire courtroom is not necessarily true. But do lawyers still need to at least be moderately skilled in public speaking?

I am pretty shy, and I'm not the best public speaker in the world. I took a speech class in college, but I pretty much hated it. Does this mean I would not make a good lawyer? I feel like I possess a lot of the skills that make a good lawyer (not to brag) except for public speaking.

For that matter, how much public speaking is required of law students? I am fine with the Socratic Method and all that jazz, but are all law students required to prepare a lot of oral arguments and present them in front of the class?

So BASICALLY, what I want to know is will being shy and afraid of speaking in public hinder my ability to be a good lawyer / law student?

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Re: Lawyers and public speaking

Postby Lawquacious » Fri May 27, 2011 2:27 am

I think law school would prob make you a better public speaker, but the process (being forced to give a practice oral argument in front of the writing teacher or class) prob will be unpleasant for you. I think there is a strong public speaking component to being a lawyer, but it certainly doesn't apply equally in all law jobs. Prob a lot of ppl hate public speaking like you (assuming you do) who go to law school and become lawyers. I don't think that is nec a problem, but if you absolutely hate presenting yourself to the public eye and being under scrutiny at times then law could be kind of a rough career IMO. I personally think I developed some good public speaking through some personal activities I was involved in a number of years ago, but I haven't used the skill much in recent years, and I actually really struggled with standing up and giving an oral argument for legal writing class (on the couple of occasions I had to do so over two semesters). I found it pretty unpleasant, and feel I didn't present myself very well. However, I actually seemed to get fairly good feedback. I think some of it is how good you feel about yourself- any shame or insecurity can def get magnified IMO, but I think it can be good to be faced with the situation of feeling uncomfortable and just doing it anyway.. even if you're shaking or whatever. It can suck going through it though. I think that practice also has a lot to do with it... there are personal tricks that a person can learn (mental tricks etc) to help overcome some of the fear, and also it can just generally get easier with practice.

Litigation jobs tend to involve some pretty intense public speaking (i.e. before a judge and jury etc), but a lot of other types of positions can also involve at least occasional court encounters of course. Being a professor (not that it is necessarily a realistic goal, because it is hard to get that type of job) obviously involves a ton of public (classroom) speaking. Probably certain transactional jobs (business) may not involve as much public speaking, but I think you would def need to be ready to be on the spot at times nevertheless. Clerking, which is very research oriented, may not involve much public speaking IMO, but your writing would be public in many cases as far as I know, and you would need to be present for court hearings and 1:1s with your judge.

In law school, the public speaking element ties into 'cold-calling' (so-called Socratic method, although IMO the pure Socratic method is more about pure intellectual inquiry and challenge, rather than necessarily something to do with grilling students on legal topics and case materials specifically). A lot of teachers don't even do this anymore, but there are a few who will call people out to talk in class. It can be unnerving, but everyone goes through it (most get called at some point), and even the 'toughest' of professors generally won't push someone too hard and will move to someone else if you don't know the answer or just say "I'm sorry I don't think I can answer that." The other places that I think pub speaking comes in are for practice oral args if the school you go to does them (I think most or all do), and I would say it is also a big component (in a sense) of the interviewing process (presentation of yourself and what you say-- I think that is part of why I really haven't liked the interview process. I would much rather have hiring just be strictly based on numbers. But that obviously isn't how it works).

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