The Talking Lawyer By Daniel Bulusson

In the judicial sector, there are Honorable Judges and Justices who conduct proceedings to adjudicate matters between parties, and dispense justice by listening to both parties (claimant/complainant and defendant/accused).

In the course of conducting proceedings in the courtroom, it is not part of a sitting judge’s duty to take over proceedings from counsel representing parties, like descending into the arena, examining and cross-examining witness, making objections on behalf of counsel, and the likes.

Many years back in England, there was a judge named ‘hippy harlet’ who descended into the arena, took over proceedings from counsel appearing before him, and then pass judgment. When one of his judgments was appealed, Lord Denning while delivering his judgment said a judge should avoid being a ‘hippy harlet’; talking too much, and delving into the arena.

On the other hand, at the Bar we have lawyers, who have similar traits with ‘hippy harlet’, talking excessively without control while representing a client. This crop of lawyers can be referred to as ‘the talking lawyer’. This set of lawyers when appearing before my lord/lady, always has a response to the hints and guidance of the court, spends more time explaining the reason for his/her actions rather than go straight to the business of day, and when allowed to address the court spends more time explaining why A is A, and Z is Z, spilling unnecessary facts all in a bid to prove a point.

Sadly, many are unaware of the difference between oral and written communication, they feel speaking and writing are one and the same thing, the way they speak is the same way they write. For this reason, ‘the talking lawyer’ is not only restricted to communication while addressing the court, his/her manner of speaking also reflects on court processes prepared by this kind of lawyer. In legal practice, lawyers are often confronted with court processes containing facts that have no bearing on the subject matter of litigation, leaving the other counsel in the dilemma of responding or not.

It is important to state at this point, in communication there is sure to be misinterpretation of facts. If one writes in direct translation of how they speak. Thus, it becomes imperative while drafting legal document, for a legal professional to be concise, precise and coherent to carry along readers with different mindset and viewpoint. It is my humble opinion that no matter how good a case may seem to look, a talking lawyer can lose if he/she fails to effectively communicate his message on behalf of clients to learned friends and presiding judges/justices.

It is one thing to be acquainted with the principles of law, and another to put such knowledge into use. ‘The talking lawyer’ mostly feels that he knows it all and so above correction, truth be told, a legal professional that talks carelessly without paying attention to the observation of other colleagues can hardly learn anything new, and when you don’t learn as a lawyer, you get stuck in a particular situation longer than necessary.

Talking is part of the legal profession, but talk effectively, restrict arguments to necessary facts, spilling more information than needed exposes both self and client. Some lawyers talk out of impulse unconsciously getting personal with client’s case, others feel they need to talk to make a point, whichever the case may be, legal professionals ought to understand that spoken and written words have a high tendency of meaning different things.

In sum, legal professionals ought to pay attention to the importance and effect of communicating effectively; a lawyer without a good communication skill and discipline is likened to a farmer that goes to the farm without his farm tools, one cannot survive without the other.  Unfortunately, some lawyers pay less attention to developing this vital skill; they erroneously believe that their knowledge of the law is all they need to make it in the legal profession.

Paraphrasing Lord Denning words, a practicing lawyer should not be a ‘talking lawyer’ to avoid the pitfalls that come with the vulnerability of talking too much.

Godspeed!