Posts tagged ‘Keith Evans’

Designing your Questions to Get the Answer You Want

As an advocate, particularly in a courtroom setting, it is important to think out in advance the answer you want to hear and then design your questions to present a view toward obtaining that desired answer.

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Ultimately, you are seeking an answer that favors your position. And a big part of your job is to control what is said and how it is said.

You must give proper time and consideration to knowing precisely what you want to be said, in advance. Once you know what it is that you want to be said, the next step is to arrive there by asking a series of questions. Slowly, question by question, it is possible to lead the audience to the desired conclusion. Each question within the series should be designed to obtain the individual answer that you want.

The goal is to get the audience to agree to several points and then as a consequence to agree to the final point. In order to be effective, you must have a clear understanding in advance of what those points will be. You must know what it is that you want the audience to agree with.

Every question is an objective and each series of Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evansquestions leads you to the answer or conclusion you desire. Once you obtain the answer that you desire to a question, you move on to the next question. After you know your ultimate objective it is then possible to break that objective down to individual objectives so you can work on them one by one. The best way to approach this strategy is by thinking “if this, then that.”

Another approach would be to look at it as “if such and such, then so and so.” Make a point to design your questions to that you can bring out the desired conclusion and then invite the audience or the witness to agree with what must naturally follow as a result.

By using this strategy, your solution will seem to be irresistible to the audience. They will have followed you through every single step and will have seen the way you reach your objectives. It will then be natural for them to agree with you.

To learn more about advocacy and the best techniques to win others over to your issue, consider the Capitol Learning Audio Course, Effectively Using Persuasion in your Oral Presentations: A Trial Lawyer’s Perspective, or this 1-day workshop, Effective Briefings: The Art of Persuasion.

Reference: Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evans, Chapter 3 The Mandatory Rules of Advocacy, Rule 57: Think Out in Advance the Answer You Want to Hear and Design Your Questions With a View to Getting That Answer.

For more information about becoming a better advocate, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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The Danger of Asking Leading Questions

As an advocate in court, you want to be careful about putting words in the mouth of your witness, also known as asking leading questions. While it can be difficult to steer away from asking leading questions, think of this rule as “do not put words into the mouths of your witness.”

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What exactly is a leading question? A leading question is any question that contains its own answer. Leading questions can be asked with a simple yes or no answer. For example, you might ask a witness “You are now 25 years old?” The witness can answer “Yes.” All the witness needs to do is agree. If you change the question to eliminate the inclusion of the answer, it then becomes much safer. For instance, you would ask, “How old are you?” The witness then states their current age.

Simply because a witness can answer a question with a nod or shake of their head, that does not necessarily mean it is a leading question. The reverse is always true, however. Leading questions can always be answered with a yes, no, nod or shake of the head or even a grunt.

Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith EvansThe danger of leading questions is that testimony comes from the advocate and not the witness. The advocate should never provide evidence or testimony — that is the job of the witness. There are also two other reasons why leading questions are dangerous.

First, when evidence comes from an advocate, it is difficult for the factfinder to assess the credibility of the witness. In addition, if the advocate provides testimony by placing words into the mouth of the witness, the value of that testimony can be spoiled. The effect of the witness’s testimony is diluted.

To learn more about advocacy and the best techniques to win others over to your issue, consider The Capitol Learning Audio Course, Effectively Using Persuasion in your Oral Presentations: A Trial Lawyer’s Perspective, or this 1-day workshop, Effective Briefings: The Art of Persuasion.

Reference: Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evans, Chapter 3 The Mandatory Rules of Advocacy, Rule 18: Never Put Words in the Mouths of Your Own Witness.

For more information about becoming a better advocate, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Mandatory Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers

When it comes to advocacy there are certain rules that are mandatory and must be observed. The consequences of forgetting these rules or not giving them proper credence can be severe, so it is important to have a solid understanding of them.

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First, it is best to avoid arguments and stick to the facts. This rule is not ambiguous; it means simply what it says. It can be particularly important when you are presenting an opening statement during a trial. Only during the closing argument are you allowed to argue and present the opportunity for factfinders to draw inferences. In the beginning, you will only be allowed to introduce evidence that is relevant and essentially tell the factfinders what it is that you hope to prove. Take great care speaking about anything you might be later prevented from proving. It might seem as though it would be limiting to be forced to stick to the facts, but that is not the case. You can still be creative and imaginative; creating a story that will draw in your factfinders and invite them to take the journey with you.

Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith EvansAt the same time, you want to make sure you state enough facts to justify the verdict you will ask for.

As an advocate, you must never appear to be providing evidence on your own. Testimony must come from the witness stand–it must never come from you as the advocate of the client.

When it comes to your closing argument, only speak of things that have actually been touched upon in evidence. While you can certainly discuss any item that is common knowledge, e.g., you may refer to historical events and characters or to characters from television programs or literature. If, however, you wish to discuss anything else, you must make certain that you actually did prove it before you refer to it in the summation.

To learn more about advocacy and the best techniques to win others over to your issue, consider The Capitol Learning Audio Course, Effectively Using Persuasion in your Oral Presentations: A Trial Lawyer’s Perspective, or this 1-day workshop, Effective Briefings, the Art of Persuasion.

Reference: Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evans, Chapter 3 The Mandatory Rules of Advocacy

For more information about becoming a better advocate, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Advocacy Is Fragile

Rule 38 The Materials of Advocacy Are Fragile
As an advocate, one of your most important tasks is to persuade others to feel and think a certain way about an issue. You must be able to lead others to view your description of an issue or your solution to a problem as the most acceptable option.

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Rule 39 Be Likeable
Make sure that you are likeable. At the very least, make sure you are more likeable than your opponent–the nice-guy approach is one of the most effective techniques possible. When you are affable, likeable and kind, these help evoke the feelings you desire from your audience Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evansand they will naturally want to believe you. However, you must be sincere. The public has an amazing ability to sniff out insincerity. If you are only trying to act nice, you can be certain they will know it.

Rule 40 Aim to Create Sympathy Between You and Your Factfinder
You want to create sympathy between you and your audience. Developing sympathy is essential to your cause. By developing sympathy, other will be more willing to listen to you. In addition, it is likely they will place the kindest interpretation possible on what it is that you have to say. They will also be more reluctant to deny what you ask of them.

It is important to place yourself in the other person’s position and make an effort to get behind their eyes. This is a technique that does not take a lot of effort, but it can produce outstanding results. By putting yourself in the their position, you will find that you will not make nearly as many mistakes. One of the important advantages is that you will not say things that might offend your audience.

To learn more about advocacy and the best techniques to win others over to your issue, consider TheCapitol.Net’s workshop Effective Briefings, the Art of Persuasion.

Reference: Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evans, Rules 38-40

For more information about becoming a better advocate, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Delivering Effective Oral Presentations

Whenever you must give an oral presentation, being aware of a few critical elements can make a significant difference in the impact of your presentation.

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First, make certain you know how loudly you must speak in order to be heard. Venues come in all different sizes and shapes. Whenever possible, get an idea ahead of time of what you can expect from the physical layout of the venue so you will know how loudly you need to speak. Ceiling heights can vary quite a bit, and some venues have walls that absorb sound while others do not.

It is also a good idea to practice using your voice within a variety of different spaces. Ask someone to observe and let you know how easily you can be heard. Explore using your voice in a range of softness and loudness.

People tend to respond better to the type of delivery that is informative and conversational. It is essential to know your own audibility in order to deliver an appropriate presentation.

Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith EvansAlso vary our pace as well as your tone. Without this type of variance, your delivery will sound boring. Record yourself and listen to the playback. Even better, video yourself while you are having a simple conversation with someone else. Listen to your delivery with a critical ear. Does it seem as though your pace is too fast? Does it sound too slow? Do you cover a range of both lows and highs? Most people are often somewhat reticent about examining themselves in this manner, and yet it can help you develop a solid understanding of how you deliver oral presentations and where you can make improvements to be more effective.

There is certainly no reason to be bashful about examining yourself in this regard. You can be certain that others will be examining you throughout your presentation, and you do not want to be the last person to know if you have some habit that could be easily corrected.

Finally, be aware of timing. Take advantage of the opportunity and the power of the pause. Timing is essential to any outstanding oral presentation, whether you are acting on stage, delivering a closing argument in a courtroom, or testifying before Congress. Many inexperienced speakers often feel the need to maintain continuity and to continue speaking in order to avoid lapses. A well timed pause can be all it takes to create impact.

Reference: Common Sense Rules of Advocacy, by Keith Evans, Rule 30–Know Your Audibility, Rule 31–Vary Your Pace and Vary Your Tone, Rule 32–Be Aware of Timing and Use the Power of the Pause

For more information about becoming a better advocate, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Tips for Good Legal Writing

When handled properly, good legal writing stands out.

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There are four basic questions that should be asked in considering whether a document meets the standards of good legal writing:

  • Is it easy to read?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Does it work?
  • Is it as short as possible?

If you are able to answer yes to all of these questions, your piece will stand out from the crowd and be a good example of written advocacy.

One of the biggest challenges of written advocacy is determining how much advocacy to use. At the outset, ask yourself what your objectives are for writing the piece. Advocacy is only required when you want to persuade someone to a certain point of view, and it does not come into play until you have an objective.

One of the most important goals of any written document is to be taken seriously. Even if your writing is accurate, it will be viewed poorly if it contains spelling mistakes and cumbersome sentences. The way in which you write reveals a great deal of information about yourself, including the words you use and the structure of your sentences. In many ways, writing is a good deal like body language, and it is your responsibility to know what your writing says about you.

Keep your writing concise. Lengthy paragraphs should be broken up so they are more easily read. Keep a brisk pace to your writing by using short sentences, occasionally Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evansvarying the length of your sentences and writing in plain English rather than legalese.

To learn more about effective writing, consider our 2-day Word Workshop: Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing, and Writing to Persuade.

Reference: Rule 89 Good Legal Writing is Easy to Read and Interesting, Accomplishing its Goal in as Few Words as Possible, in Common Sense Rules of Advocacy for Lawyers, by Keith Evans

For more information about becoming a better advocate, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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