Legal Cliches: The Enemy of Effective Courtroom Communications

Spend a few minutes some time in a courtroom when lawyers are arguing to a judge or jury.

You will hear, all too frequently, common threads of lawyer speak, words that aren’t generally heard in your living room or when you are talking with friends and at work.

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When did you last tell someone (your spouse? your business associate?) that what he did was egregious – or that she was making no sense because she was missing a prong in her explanation or reasoning of some matter?  When did you last refer to someone you just met as your brother or sister, even though you have no family relationship with that person. Do you regularly make statements to others with the qualifying introductory remark “clearly”?

Or interject the words “quite frankly” when giving your views on something?

And if you are so lucky as to be the black robed judge, sitting a couple of feet higher behind a “bench,” you will more often than not hear those endearing words that precede all other lawyer speak, “MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT….” (to which you as Judge might interject “No, it hasn’t yet, counsel…..”

Yes, there is humor in our courtrooms, even if unintended.  One might think there is no harm, such verbiage is just part of the ritual.  And so my point – ritual, clichés, overused and not really on point words and expression detract from the points and understandings that can otherwise be communicated in more direct and descriptive terms to the judge or jury – which is another way of saying – more effective advocacy in the courtroom.

So, on to the dumpster with the clichés and words that detract from direct and clear statements that even judges can understand.

From many hundreds of court arguments, jury trials and oral arguments before state and federal appeals courts, Beauregard, Burke & Franco has learned these lessons and puts them to good use for the benefit of our clients.

by Philip N. Beauregard, Esq.