Monday, February 9, 2009

Cochran, Chapter 3

Because we missed a class due to the weather, I've squeezed two classes into one, which means we'll be watching The Deal this coming Thursday without as much prep as I would have liked. I also trimmed Chapter 3 of Cochran from the list of assigned readings for Thursday's class.

However, Chapter 3 is important so please read it anyway. I think you'll find it helpful not only in our exercises and for Citizenship Day but also when you start practicing law. As Cochran points out, "knowing how to read body language enhances the accuracy of communication between the lawyer and the client and also leads to better decisions." And remember, in addition to your clients other people will be reading your body language; judges and opposing counsel, for example.

As a student at Boston University School of Law I worked in the criminal clinic. My professor, David Rossman, drove the point about body language home by telling us how not to respond when your client is on the witness stand and says something unexpected/bizarre/fatal to the case. David jumped to his feet, held his head in his hands in an impressive imitation of Edvard Munch's The Scream, and shrieked "oh noooo!" This, David assured us, would (among other things) undermine the attorney-client relationship.

On the positive side, there are some steps you can take to build trust with your client. Cochran's advice on responsive statements, paraphrasing, and reflecting content and emotion is invaluable. The two important points I ask you to take from Chapter 3 are (1) it really is easier, both in the short term and the long run, to be genuinely interested in what somebody is saying than it is to feign interest, and (2) you don't have to wait. You can practice Cochran's advice in your daily life starting today.

In fact, you should feel free to practice the active listening skills in class!

1 comment:

  1. Aren't those ideas contradictory?

    To do as your Professor says and NOT undermine your client by reacting yet Cochran says that we should be genuinely interest in what somebody is saying -- which in practice would mean responding (with body language) to what your client or even the opposing counsel's witness says or does on the stand.

    Is there a happy compromise?

    --Jon Orell