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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
6/28/2013 11:20:50 AM

Book Review: The Articulate Attorney: Public Speaking for Lawyers

Brian K. Johnson and Marsha Hunter, The Articulate Attorney:  Public Speaking for Lawyers (2d ed., Crown King Books, 2013), 186 pages.  ISBN:  978-0-9796895-9-8, $24.99, paper.

Sweaty palms, stammering speech, stilted gestures:  for many of us, these are the hallmarks of public speaking.  With decades of experience teaching lawyers communication skills, Brian K. Johnson and Marsha Hunter present a very readable, comprehensive how-to volume that will help you cope with our common speaking foibles.   Even strong speakers at ease in front of any crowd will likely pick up some useful pointers from this book.

A change in title from the prior edition helps to explain the authors’ objectives.  The subtitle previously read:  “public speaking for corporate lawyers” (emphasis added).  As the publisher explains, the speaking skills presented apply not just in the corporate world but “in all types of settings that lawyers find themselves in – whether it is talking to colleagues at a firm, clients, board members, etc.”  (The authors also write The Articulate Advocate, dedicated to the separate subject of trial techniques.)

In short, the authors present methods for becoming a “more self-assured, compelling communicator.” Chapters discuss how to best use the body, the brain, and the voice, as well as how to practice.  As an example of thoroughness, the chapter on “Your Body” travels up the body – outlining what to do with your feet, lungs, hands, and face.  The authors typically offer quite specific directions– here’s an example explaining “subway knees”:  “The knees do not bend as in a crouch, but adjust enough to flexibly absorb the forward lurch of the train as it pulls out of the station.”  Readers are frequently encouraged to stop and practice, giving an interactive feel.

The authors offer clear explanations, often tying their techniques to scientific concepts.  In one particularly interesting example, the authors draw on the work of several psychologists to explain the importance of natural gestures—their innateness, their role in audience content comprehension, and their contribution to remembering a planned speech.  This discussion takes up less than two pages, but it crystalizes the rationale for the authors’ message—and therefore the speaker’s actions.

Each chapter ends with a narrative summary and a section called “Talk to Yourself,” similar material in bullet point form.  In addition, the appendices present a “Speaker’s Checklist,” essentially a longer summary, as well as a “Video Self-Review Checklist,” which functions much like yet another synopsis.  This level of repetition seems a bit much, but it does permit a reader to refresh the memory at various points and offers a choice between more specific or more comprehensive reviewing.

Aside from the title, there are few major changes between editions.  There are about thirty pages of additional material, much of it slight expansions of prior material.  The authors have also rearranged or rephrased some advice.  “Don’t use a mirror” became “practicing with a mirror.” 

Two commendable changes merit notice.  First, the index is more nuanced.  For example, the first edition index contains no subheadings under “face,” which now has four.  Second, the illustrations have much improved.  The first edition showed concepts with human figures made out of slinky toy squiggle shapes.  As a result, it was difficult to see the movements, gestures, or expressions the authors sought to depict.  The new edition presents sketches of human figures instead, allowing for more detailed approximations that are much easier to understand.  In any case, illustrations only go so far in presenting a three dimensional activity; an accompanying DVD or link to web videos would be helpful. 

Although the publication press release tells us the book “addresses the distinctive communication skills expected of attorneys,” these “speaking solutions” do not seem unique to the world of law. Other professional speakers would very likely benefit from the techniques presented here.

Nevertheless, the book remains a very useful, practical guide. Your palms may still get a bit sweaty, but with Johnson and Hunter’s advice, your speech and gestures should be much more fluid, your audience more appreciative.

Best suited for law firm libraries and public law libraries.  Also valuable to law schools libraries, seeking to prepare practice-ready graduates.

Susan Azyndar is a reference librarian and adjunct professor at the Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University.

Posted By Susan Azyndar at 6/28/2013 11:20:50 AM  0 Comments
6/26/2013 4:19:54 PM

The July Issue of Spectrum is Now Available on AALLNET

We hope you enjoy the latest issue of Spectrum and encourage you to share your thoughts and feedback using the "comments" box below!

Public Relations: A Visit to Irish Libraries
An opportunity to see some of the great libraries of Ireland
By Linda M. Sobey

In Support of Universal Citation
AALL's work to promote universal citation continues with the release of the third edition of its Universal Citation Guide
By Anne Burnett and Dan Cordova

Cooking Lessons and Legal Research
Creating and integrating instructional videos into legal research training
By Austin Martin Williams

Innovative Displays in Law Libraries
Showcase your collections and your talent with displays that capture the creative spirit of your law library
By Sherry L. Leysen and Alena L. Wolotira

A Law Librarian's Guide to Effective Committee Participation
Tips gathered from longtime committee members
By Elizabeth Outler

Are Our Users "Customers"?
A librarian's thoughts on professionalism in librarianship
By Paul J. Donovan

Is Your Library In Good Standing?
Offering stand-up desks in the academic library
By Cynthia Lewis

The Importance of Relationships
Our relationships with various constituents define what we do and who we are
By Sandy Placzek

Collection Development in Academic Libraries
What can we learn from law firms?
By Victoria Trotta

A Day in the Life
Congratulations to our 2013 photo contest winners

From the Editor
The Last Time
By Mark E. Estes

From the Secretary
Spring Executive Board Meeting
By Deborah Rusin

Washington Brief
Put Advocacy in Practice this August Recess
By Emily Feltren

The Reference Desk
More than one co-worker has asked me to join my law firm's on-site Weight Watchers program, and I've declined each time. I continue to be asked, and I don't know how to make it understood that I don't want to participate without being rude or seeming like a snob. I just don't want to do it, and I'm also concerned about whether or not my co-workers could share information outside of the meetings. What can I do?
By Susan Catterall

Member to Member
What class do you wish you had taken in your undergraduate or graduate program (assuming it had been offered)?

Stu's Views

Views from You
Photos of Ruth Lilly Law Library hosting Indiana Canine Assistant Network service and therapy dogs for student stress relief

Members' Briefing
AALL Advocacy and You
By Emily Feltren

Posted By Ashley St. John at 6/26/2013 4:19:54 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: spectrum
6/25/2013 4:26:40 PM

Book Review: Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas

Rachel Marx Boufford, ed., Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas (Vault.com Inc., 2013), 196 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58131-895-1, $29.95 (PDF).

While Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas provides some insight from lawyers on their respective legal practice areas for those interested in starting or switching legal careers, too much of this already short title is devoted to full-page advertisements for firms and legal products.  An academic law library or law school career services department might consider this title, but the amount of included advertising makes it difficult to recommend, even at its relatively low price point.

As stated in the book’s introduction, this guide is intended to inform law students, pre-law candidates, and practicing lawyers interested in a lateral move about the legal career options available to them.  The book consists of interviews with lawyers from 22 different practice areas, including Antitrust, Bankruptcy, Intellectual Property, Real Estate, and Tax.  The interviews are organized alphabetically by practice area; there is also an index with the names of lawyers interviewed and another index for the firms each lawyer works for.  While the number and variety of topic areas seem appropriate, the interviewees are mostly partners from AmLaw 100 firms, which is under-representative of the legal career opportunities available in these practice areas.

The depth and specificity of the information provided varies by interview.  One to four lawyers are interviewed in each practice area, and each lawyer is asked an identical set of questions about the specifics of their practice.  The questions cover the types of clients and cases they work with, what a typical work day or work week is like, trainings and classes they would suggest to others, factors that influenced their decision to practice in their current area of law, what they like best about their current practice, and the greatest challenges they face in their practice area.  The lack of specificity is partially due to the format; all of the interviews are one to two pages, which is not enough space to allow the interviewees to thoroughly answer the questions posed.  This leads to occasionally vague answers; variations on “the best thing . . .  is the variety of the work. . . . The most challenging aspect . . . is the same as the best thing about it—the variety of the work” are common without much further explanation.  However, many of the lawyers do provide more enlightening comments about their work and experiences.  For example, a bankruptcy attorney, asked how he decided on his practice area, lists aspects of his summer jobs that he did and did not like, and he felt that financial restructuring and Chapter 11 work was the best combination of what he liked with the least amounts of the type of work he wanted to avoid. (p.17-18)   A real estate attorney explains how it was less the practice area than the type of work environment that suited her personality and career advancement opportunities that attracted her to her current firm.  (p.133-134)  This level of candidness is much more beneficial to the intended audience; it allows them to compare their own preferences and interests to those of the interviewees.

Unfortunately, while the content has the potential to be valuable, the biggest drawback of this book is actually the lack of content.  In the PDF version of the title reviewed for this post, there are 41 full-page ads for law firms, Vault.com, and other legal products, and there are 22 blank pages (one before each practice area).  In addition, there are 33 pages that are blank except for a pull quote from the preceding interview.   As a result, only a little more than 50% of the book’s pages present substantive content.  It is possible that this would be less frustrating in print, but scrolling past all of that in a PDF file made it glaringly obvious how little content there actually was.

While some of the content of this title is of interest to its target audience, the too-short interviews and over-abundance of advertising make it tough to recommend.  However, for those looking for first-hand information about practicing at top firms in the covered practice areas, this is could be a decent purchase at a low price point.

Tina Brooks is the Electronic Services Librarian at the University of Kentucky Law Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

Posted By Tina Brooks at 6/25/2013 4:26:40 PM  0 Comments