September 14, 2005
Did you know that body language accounts for over 90% of a conversation?
Body language can be used to help teach a class, conduct an interview (from either side of the desk), give a presentation or deliver an appellate argument. For lawyers (and law students, and those who teach them), information and practice in this area is critical.
Cara Hale Alter, who owns and operates Speechskills, a communication consulting firm in San Francisco, helps lawyers communicate better. This month (September 2005), her article, "Does Your Body Speak Your Language?" appears in California Lawyer Magazine. (My thanks to the magazine and the author for permission to reproduce the article on this site.)
Ms. Alter reminds us that "People make up their minds about others at lightning speed – without attempting to analyze why they find them likable, authoritative, credible or insert-adjective-here. These conclusions are based on observable cues – nonverbal signals such as the position of a chin, width of a stance, speed of gestures, or duration of eye contact."
"Take control," she implores, "of your nonverbal signs."
Law schools talk about "thinking like a lawyer" quite a bit. We teach students how to "write like lawyers." How much emphasis do we put on talking "like a lawyer?"
We teach in two (basic) ways: by providing information and by modeling. When you meet students in your office, when you present workshops, when you speak at orientation ... do you "... bolster your appearance of authority and confidence" as Ms. Alter suggests, by focusing on stronger volume, crisper articulation, use of the lower tones of your voice? Are you conscious of your body language when you need to appear approachable and receptive?
The article, appearing in a magazine targeted at the profession, is for lawyers. Encourage your students to start practicing now to be the lawyers they aspire to be.
Your thoughts? (djt)
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