FAMOUS COURT SPEACHES
Appreciating the art of persuasion truly begins with Aristotle‘s Rhetoric. Although it is not light reading, Rhetoric is deeply rewarding. Aristotle observed what so many lawyers learn the hard way—that audiences differ in attitudes, beliefs, and preconceived notions about the matter at hand: An argument or presentation before one judge may fail before another. Just as each receiver is different, each argument should be unique, Aristotle insisted. The capacity to match your rhetoric to your audience is well-served by a sophisticated understanding of human nature, habits, desires, and emotions. For him government of the polis was most appropriately subject to incontestable principles, not localized argument and contingent decision making.
Using methods developed in anthropology, linguistics, psychology and other social sciences for the study of just such issues as those involved in testimonial style, it is possible to generate empirical answers to these questions of longstanding interest to the legal profession. This Article presents the findings of an empirical study developed by the authors to determine the influence of presentational style on juries functioning as decision makers and analyzes the significance of these findings. The Article concludes with proposals for dealing with the effects of presentational style on the process of communication in the courtroom.
The average trial lawyer lacks time to read Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, or Quintilian. But most trial lawyers will not settle for being average. There is gold to be mined in Rhetoric, that dusty work of Aristotle‘s, along with the speeches of Demosthenes, and the works of their Roman heirs. Although these classical rhetoricians lived centuries ago in cultures very different from yours, their understanding of what makes a winning argument is timeless. Their techniques and steadfast belief in the rule of law are continually instructive and inspiring for modern trial lawyers. Spending time with the works of these sages will not only improve your performance in court, but also give you a deeper appreciation for the rich history of this profession.
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