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Keep it Simple, Stupid

Keep it Simple, Stupid - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

“I’m the BEST BLOGGER EVER! Really! My blogs are so wonderful and entertaining and smart. Because  why? Because I am so smart. And SUCH a great writer! Did I mention that?!? Really really really great. Dickens Great. Shakespeare Great. Heck, even Louis L’Amour Great. So, Great! Let’s face it—  I’m Great!”

Sound demented? Try this:

“I’m the BEST LAWYER EVER! Really! I’m so great. I win so many trials it would make your head spin. If you hire me I am going to do such an amazing and brilliant job in court that people will weep. Seriously! Trust ME! People say I’m arrogant. Whatever. WHATEVER! I am what I am and they are all jealous. And stupid. Really, really stupid.”


Like that? I don’t. So why is it that someone who talks like that is leading the so called “race” for President right now? It really makes me wonder. But I think Donald Trump is succeeding because of two other things he does:

He speaks plain, simple English, and he just says what he wants to say.

No fancy schmancy. It works.

The reason I am writing about this has nothing to do with politics. I try to avoid that like the plague. It has to do with how to talk to people in a way that works. Lawyers use words and talk to people for a living. No matter what kind of law we practice we have to speak or write clearly and make sure people understand what we are saying. Unfortunately too many lawyers lose their point in a sea of complicated words nobody can understand.

I watched Trump give a speech in Iowa the other night. It was fascinating. He just talked. He did not pontificate or use big fancy words. He just said stuff. And you know what? People listened. Why? Because he made it easy for them. In the interests of political neutrality, I can say that Bernie Sanders does the exact same thing, which is why so many people are also coming to see him talk.

I knew a used car salesman once (no, this is not the beginning of a “walked into a bar joke”.) He liked to say that he did not really sell cars. Instead he just made it easy for people to buy them. He had a point. Trump makes it easy for people to understand him. That’s his trick: “K.I.S.S.”  [Keep it Simple Stupid.]

The thing is that most politicians speak like robots. They are trained to say certain things certain ways using certain words. The whole thing is so scripted and unnatural. Unless they are really good at it, it comes across as fake and insincere.

Lawyers have the same problem.

We have a set list of words to say and ways to say them. It even infects non-lawyers who work with us regularly, like cops. Police officers are notorious for using buzzwords. Instead of “I got out of my car” it becomes “I exited my vehicle.” My best come-back to that during trials is sometimes: “So by exited your vehicle do you mean you got out of your car?” It’s a fair question and thus can’t really be considered too sarcastic or critical. But it shows that they are reading a script, which can be helpful if I am arguing their credibility to the jury. You just aren’t as credible when you are reading a script.

Which is why politicians reading scripts from Teleprompters sound so scripted. Because they are literally reading scripts! I’ve seen lawyers do it too. I saw a real live lawyer in a death penalty case get up and read his closing word for word off of a legal paid to the jury, never looking up. They were falling asleep by Page Two. His client went down.

Instead of reading scripts lawyers should watch Donald or Bernie (take your pick; this is an apolitical piece.) Lawyers might learn something from watching these two, like how to talk to an audience. Whether you are talking to a jury or your own client, plain English is the best way to communicate… er, I mean, talk. They are your audience. Try talking to them instead of at them. Maybe then they will listen.


If you would like Craig Platt’s help with a legal issue, you can find his contact information here or fill out a confidential, easy form about your case.