• Trial advocacy training materials

    • Legal professional development

The Write Stuff

According to noted legal writing instructor Bryan Garner, many practising lawyers, especially transactional lawyers and new lawyers, suffer from a phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Garner’s post, “Why Lawyers Can’t Write” in the ABA Journal helps to explain why lawyers often underestimate the value of legal writing programs when making professional development decisions.

The good news, according to David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the two Cornell psychologists for whom the phenomenon is named, is that people unskilled in a task can recognize this after “highly effective training” in the skill. Canadian lawyers will be pleased to hear that there are lots of CPD options designed to improve their legal writing skills. These include:

  • Annual Course on Written Advocacy (lead instructor Steve Armstrong, large supporting faculty) – Osgoode Professional Development and The Advocates’ Society
  • Writing and Editing for Clarity and Impact, also Writing to Persuade (Steve Armstrong) – Seminar Partners
  • Writing Workshop, a component of the National Criminal Law Program (Jim Raymond) – Federation of Law Societies of Canada
  • Drafting Clearer Contracts (Ken Adams) – Osgoode Professional Development
  • Various programs by Steven Stark – BC CLE, The Advocates’ Society, Seminar Partners
  • Write this Way (Jane Griesdorf) – Law Society of Upper Canada

I’ve also heard great things about legal writing instructor Ed Berry, although as I understand it, he does mostly judicial writing workshops. Whether any of the above programs are “highly effective” and can also take you that next step of actually writing better, you’ll have to determine yourself.


The Ultimate CLE Roadshow

Last month I had the pleasure of seeing two of today’s greatest CLE presenters not one but two times. For the third year in a row, Larry Pozner and Roger Dodd brought their larger than life Advanced Cross-Examination Techniques program to Canadian lawyers in three provinces.

At the risk of sounding like a groupie (I’ve heard people ask where to buy t-shirts), every time I see Pozner and Dodd perform I’m blown away by their ability to win over audiences. They are more than professional lecturers, they are first-class entertainers, and they belong, in my humble view, among the likes of Jim McElhaney, and Irving Younger before him.  As Carmine Gallo writes about Steve Jobs in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, they “transform… the typical, dull, technical, plodding slideshow into a theatrical event.”

How do they do it? Someday, maybe I’ll ask them. I have a sneaking suspicion their answer will be preparation. In the interim, these are my own observations:

  • they make an effort to know and engage with their audience
  • they set audience expectations
  • they are passionate about their topic
  • they don’t just tell, they show
  • they speak without notes
  • they use simple language
  • they share personal stories
  • they are animated
  • they know their presentation cold
  • they don’t leave logistics to chance, and
  • they make people laugh.

All of that, of course, is in addition to the fact that their content is excellent. They did, after all, write the bible on Cross-examination. If you haven’t seen Pozner and Dodd in person yet, I highly recommend it. As the marketing copy says “your only regret will be that you didn’t see them sooner.” You can get information about Canadian dates at www.seminarpartners.ca.

Those Tricky LinkedIn Endorsements

LinkedIn endorsements trouble me.

The first time I received a notice that “X has endorsed you for..” I thought “what the hell is that?”. I actually received two in as many days and it freaked it me out so much that I contacted both people to ask how it happened that they endorsed me. I was mortified to think that they might think that I was asking them to endorse me. One seemed to understand that it was some kind of automatically generated thing that just happened with LinkedIn, however the other person, did, in fact, think it was a request I had sent them. I felt powerless, confused. I even sent LinkedIn an email questioning the practice, in response to which I received some standard, unhelpful reply.

All of that was some time ago now and, although I only rarely actually log-in to LinkedIn these days, it would appear that endorsements, for better or worse, have become common-place. An article last month in the ABA Journal reignited my train wreck-like attraction to the topic by asking “do LinkedIn endorsements violate legal ethics rules?” The article, together with some poll results about whether lawyers hide their endorsements on LinkedIn taught me some things I didn’t know about Linked In and also offered the following closing advice for lawyers: remove endorsements you believe are false or misleading.

Hmmm… one more thing for my summer to do list. And I smell a CLE topic.