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September 03, 2012

Redux: Jim McElhaney: "Killing Your Case With Clutter".

Hey, you're brilliant--but too much information, big guy. See this one on clutter getting in the way of your client's case by the legendary James W. McElhaney in the October 2010 issue of the ABA Journal. Please note also in this piece how McElhaney himself writes. This is how he always writes. Spare, simple, friendly, efficient prose. It is intended to communicate. It is always in search of the right word. He's been writing in non-wank speak for over three decades. No legalese. This is people-speak--and it sings. Use people-speak (1) when you write and (2) when you fill up a courtroom with your client's story and your big personality. Excerpts:

Ernie’s opening followed a strict chronological order that kept him hopping back and forth from one topic to another. He did it in such meticulous detail that it took 12 different charts set up on wooden easels around the courtroom to cover everything he said.

While all this was going on, one of the associates from Ernie’s firm leaned over and whispered, “I’ve never seen anything like this before. I guess this is what people mean by a tour de force. Anyway, Ernie doesn’t need these outlines. You can tell by his pace that he’s got it all memorized. He’s doing it this way because he read somewhere that people are more likely to believe something if they see and hear it at the same time.”

I didn’t answer him because I was concentrating on how Ernie was coming across to the judge and jury. It bothered me that he kept the same clipped pace going the entire time. By the time he hit the 30-minute mark, everyone in the courtroom was looking more than a little dazed.

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Be excellent--not anal-comprehensive.

Posted by JD Hull at September 3, 2012 11:59 PM


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