In my early years as a lawyer I tried to listen more. Then I found that an effective tactic of many lawyers was to talk first and convince the judge to move in your direction.
I followed that novel little tactic for a while until I started listening to myself. What I found was that I was being rude, unprofessional and breaching what I considered to be traditional rules of common courtesy.
Today many divorce lawyers still follow this tactic. They try to start talking first before the other lawyer or the opposing party to try to steer the judge in the direction of their client's position so that the judge actually puts the opposing counsel on the defensive side of the coin for his or her client without really giving the lawyer the same chance to explain for his or her client.
While their is a decided advantage that some attorneys gain with some judges in divorces by "talking first" and try to convince the judge of their position, it doesn't work with all judges. Most judges listen more these days. Some (and I do mean some) of the older and more "seasoned" Rhode Island Family Court judges may fall into this trap rather than allowing the other counsel to speak without forming a judgment, several of them do not and of those RI Family Court Jurists I am most proud to be members of our Judiciary with. I believe they know who they are.
Yet over time I've learned a tip from Dale Carnegie's traditional teachings. It is simply this. You have one mouth and two ears . . . Listen in proportion!
If the truth be known, you learn more by listening than by talking and careful and active listening can lead to the other party making your point or argument for you.
Dale Carnegie or his predecessors would use salesmen as the example because in one way or another we are all selling something. Even when we are arguing for our point of view at court we are trying to get the judge to adopt or "buy" the point of view we are "selling" as opposed to the one the opposing party is "selling." The judge is most likely to act on the most convincing and logical presentation if he or she has not allowed himself or herself to be biased by the first argument presented.
In sales, a salesperson is taught that buyers have various objections will give you why they cannot make a purchase right now. Typically as a psychological mechanism the first reasons buyers give a seller that they can't buy what the seller is selling are not the real reason. A good salesperson knows the "real reason" is usually 3 or 4 reasons deeper. The good salesperson know that the "real reason" is what they need to find and overcome before the buyer will really want to make the purchase.
Why do I relate this to law? Because a legal position is no different than any other product but you are merely selling a position of your client. So how does a really good salesperson find that "real reason" and want the buyer to buy the product or accept the position? A good salesperson just like a good lawyer will know that you do that by careful and active listening. The person who "might" buy your product or accept your position IF you listen actively because they literally give you the reason when they are talking to you. You just need to figure out what it is and then use it to close the deal or get the judge to have the best chance of accepting your position.
Listening will get you more than two times farther than talking. When people talk, they give information and they argue positions. What they also do is show the holes in their arguments or they point the way to what it is that will change their point of view.
Convincing someone is just like making a sale. This is where many lawyers may fail. I dare say we all fail at this from time to time because sometimes a Judge or Magistrate will have such set ideas that they will always believe that a child should be with it's mother, even if the child has been living with the father and thriving for the past 5 years. Very few lawyers can beat that kind of thinking that is so engrained in someone's mind that it will never change.
The lesson to be learned from this tip is simply this... Listen! And do you know what? 90% or more will dismiss and ignore this message because it is too simple and they think they already listen.
So let me say it again for lawyers in divorce court, superior court, district court and people who represent themselves...active, skillful listening will give you the answers you need to win a case or get your position accepted by a judge or magistrate. It is a skill that can take years to master.
Do not simply listen, but hear what the person is saying and process it. How did the person say it? What was the person's tone? What was most emphasized by the person? Why are they saying it, namely what are they trying to accomplish? What beliefs are they conveying to you by using the words they use?
Listening will get you or any attorney representing you much further than simply speaking without understanding the other party's point of view and gauging the judge or magistrate's response to it.
As a Rhode Island lawyer focusing in divorce my goal continues to be to listen and master the art of listening at high speed so that I can most effectively advocate for my clients. A skilled lawyer hones his or her skills and then has them at his or her disposal for every aspect of the representation. The lawyer who merely follows the legal process of the divorce misses the true calling of an effective advocate.
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™
I'm an RI Divorce and Family Law Lawyer practicing in Providence County, Kent County, Washington County and Newport County.
I give 100% personal service and I am here to help you if you need me.
Call me for your reduced-cost advice session at (401) 632-6976.