Speak Up and Be Heard
November 22, 2017 § 3 Comments
You older lawyers can take a break from the blog with this post. You, for the most part, don’t suffer from the particular malady I am about to describe. You younger lawyers need to pay heed.
Simply put: if you want the judge to grant your client some kind of relief, you must make sure that the judge hears what both you and your client are saying. I hope I said that loud enough.
Too often I have to urge younger lawyers and their clients to speak up. Projecting your voice so as to be heard in all corners of a courtroom is vastly different from talking on your cellphone. Many courthouses, particularly the older ones, provide no amplification equipment, and acoustic efficiency was not a consideration when designing courtrooms back in days of yore. That’s because lawyers and orators in general knew, understood, and practiced the simple art of projecting their voices.
I met Dean Duncan of the OM Law School recently, and was tempted to ask whether some unamplified speech class could be introduced into the curriculum to impress on lawyers-to-be the importance of making themselves heard. I let it pass and decided to grumble about it here.
One consideration you need to bear in mind is that hearing often does not improve with age. If you look up to the bench and see a chancellor with gray hair, you should assume that he or she spent too much time in college listening to the Rolling Stones through headphones with full volume. Oops, I may be getting too autobiographical here.
Another consideration is that even if you learn to project, it does little good if the judge can’t hear your client. When you prepare your client and key witnesses for trial (and a few of you do that), impress on them the vital importance of speaking up. In the courtroom encourage your witnesses to speak up.
Speak up and be heard.
I am an old lawyer and spent several years in an artillery battery. Recently, I attended a youth court hearing at which I was entirely unable to hear anyone except the judge. Fortunately, a younger lawyer on our side conducted the whole hearing, knew what he was doing, and when I did hear the judge’s opinion, I realized we had prevailed.
Young lawyers should be prepared for bad lighting, as well. As someone with a sight impairment, I have learned to type all of my notes in 20-point type so that I can read them in the dark if I have to. If the lighting is really bad, I will ask the Court to indulge me staying seated during examinations and arguments so that I can keep my notes nearer to my eyes.
Good point. Sound and light, as well as accessibility and accommodation to physical needs, are all challenges in many of our courthouses.