Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Monday, March 20, 2017

To "Um" or Not--A Discussion of Disfluencies for Lawyers, Professors, and Students

As a moot court coach, I teach my students to not use disfluencies like "um" or "uh" in their oral arguments. According to Prof. Barbara Gotthelf's article, A Lawyer's Guide to Um, my dislike of these disfluencies is not unique, but it might be wrong.  After hearing a moot court judge critique an advocate for her use of "uh" and "um," Prof. Gotthelf "began consulting books on public speaking, including texts written specifically for lawyers, and they all gave the impression that using uh and um might be the single worst thing any speaker could do." Having previously heard from a psycholinguist that "using uh and um was not only 'perfectly normal,' but also helpful in furthering effective communication," Prof. Gotthelf dug even further into the literature and found "a body of scientific literature that supports Dr. Shriberg’s views and demonstrates that, contrary to public perception, uh and um are not only inevitable, but actually useful bits of communication."

Prof. Gotthelf's response to the "um fixation" is expressed in the article, which was published by Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD and is available here.  I haven't had a chance to review it in depth, but I look forward to doing so soon (at least in advance of the below event).

In addition to publishing the article, Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD is holding a live Facebook discussion of the article.  Below is the announcement that I received regarding the event.  I am sure that it will be, uh, a great discussion.

Gearing up for spring oral argument competitions? Join Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD for a live Facebook chat-based discussion of Professor Barbara Gotthelf’s article, The Lawyer’s Guide to Um. This article about disfluencies like “um” and “uh” should be of particular interest to moot court advisors, practitioners, law students, and anyone who teaches oral argument. Should verbal fillers be vilified? Read the article and come weigh in!

The chat will take place on Thursday, April 6 at 3pm Eastern. Professor Jennifer Romig of Emery University School of Law will moderate. To participate in the discussion, join the LC&R Discussion Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/304595676586667/. You may join at any time in advance of the chat. When you join, you can check out the archives of our previous discussions.

 Professor Gotthelf’s article can be found here on the Journal’s website: http://www.alwd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/01-Gotthelf_Web.pdf

The Group invites participation by lawyers, law professors, professors from communications and other fields, legal professionals, law students, and anyone with an interest in law and legal communication. It is a forum for the free exchange of ideas with civility and mutual respect.

 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/appellate_advocacy/2017/03/to-um-or-not-a-discussion-of-disfluencies-for-lawyers-professors-and-students.html

Appellate Advocacy, Appellate Practice, Moot Court, Oral Argument | Permalink

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