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My new podcast has just posted on CAP·impact, the McGeorge  Blog on telling a compelling story. In this In Practice podcast, I discuss how telling a compelling story can help an advocate clarify points and simplify complex topics. To be able to tell these stories, an advocate’s skills are greatly enhanced by a solid grasp of how to effectively use imagery, simile, and metaphor; the podcast explains further and provides examples. I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Mary-Beth Moylan recently sat down with Judge Allison Claire, a United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California to discuss her advice to attorneys practicing in her courtroom and chambers, and in the Eastern District more generally. You can listen to this interview on CAP·impact, the McGeorge  Blog: Advocacy In Practice with Judge Allison Claire.

This is the first in a series of judicial interviews with GLS Director and Assoc. Dean for Experiential Learning Mary-Beth Moylan, so look forward to more local judicial insight to follow.

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I hope you will check out my first podcast posted today on CAP·impact, the McGeorge  Blog. In this In Practice podcast on Credibility and Ethos in Persuasion, I talk about ways advocates can bolster the ethos of their arguments, that is, strengthen their credibility with the audience and the judge, as well as some pitfalls to avoid that can undermine an advocate’s credibility.

Also, look for more GLS podcasts in the future!

On Saturday, September 27, I had the pleasure of presenting materials and leading a discussion on advanced persuasive techniques as part of our school’s Alumni Day activities. Working with alumni gives me the opportunity to engage with experienced legal writers and advocates from various areas of practice and obtain real-world feedback. I appreciate the chance to learn what kinds of persuasive techniques seasoned professionals have had great success with, and which have been less effective. This allows me to add “practice pointers” and context when I teach these concepts in the classroom.

On this day we were able to talk about the importance of credibility in legal argument, and methods to enhance an advocate’s ethos. For example, respect, candor, and zeal contribute to an advocate’s perceived moral character. These attributes can be lost or undermined by trivial errors in presentation or by use of insult or sarcasm. We seemed to be unanimous that the “adverb” method of persuasion, e.g. “clearly, obviously” is ineffective and can adversely affect credibility by emphasizing the obvious nature of something to a judge, or by perhaps understating a complex rule by calling it “obvious.”

We also talked about the value of persistence and reiteration of concepts and arguments. The audience will be fatigued by the persistence; but science indicates that that fatigued audience is more likely to be persuaded as a result. This includes pushing strong arguments over weaker, and layering in theme throughout.

Telling a good story seems crucial to all persuasive presentations; audiences are more likely to be persuaded when they feel some emotional connection to the parties or the underlying claim. We agreed that it is a skill that most litigators develop over time, as it requires more than a simple listing of the relevant facts. This connected well to our discussion on using imagery to present concepts to the audience, both in the story and in the argument. If the audience clearly understands the concepts involved, it is more likely to accept the premises being presented.

I hope that those participating were able to take away a few new techniques they might try more deliberately to include in their next brief or oral argument. I certainly feel better educated now on integrating persuasive techniques into real-world practice, and can now better present that information to my students. So win-win (I hope).


Post Written by Lindsey Blanchard

Welcome to the new school year and to McGeorge School of Law’s new Global Lawyering Skills Blog! In addition to the activities that accompany the beginning of every school year—meeting incoming students, talking to former students about their summer experiences, creating legal writing problems, and figuring out why the lights won’t work in your classroom—we hope you will add perusing our blog to your agenda!

McGeorge has a two-year legal research and writing program—Global Lawyering Skills (GLS)—that is designed to produce skilled, practice-ready graduates. We provide students with numerous hands-on learning opportunities tied to research, writing, oral advocacy, and a variety of other lawyering skills, with both a national and transnational perspective. And, we love what we do!  So, the idea for this blog is to create a forum for discussing all things legal writing-related, and to connect with others who share our passion.

In this inaugural post, the McGeorge GLS faculty would like to share an exciting piece of news—the appointment of our Director of Global Lawyering Skills, Mary-Beth Moylan, as Associate Dean for Experiential Learning. If you’re wondering what, exactly, that means, you’re not alone.  After reading the very lengthy job description, I had the same question. So, I asked Mary-Beth to tell me about her new position, now that she is eight weeks in.

While it turns out that Mary-Beth is not actually running the world, as her job description would suggest, she comes pretty close. In addition to her duties as Director of Global Lawyering Skills, Mary-Beth will now coordinate and facilitate McGeorge’s entire pool of practical skills education. In other words, she will cultivate the links between our first- and second-year Global Lawyering Skills courses; our first-year professional identity and career exploration course (The Legal Profession); our clinics, externships, and capstone experiential courses; and our mock trial and moot court competition teams to ensure that McGeorge students experience an integrated experiential curriculum.

I wondered what—given such a tall order—Mary-Beth’s greatest challenges have been so far. Not surprisingly, as with any endeavor to achieve organization-wide integration, the answer was two-fold:  first, finding the time to get up to speed on all of the different things going on in the courses and programs with which she was not previously intimately involved; and, second, breaking down the silos housing those courses and programs in order to build communication channels. That being said, overcoming those challenges will lead to what Mary-Beth perceives to be the biggest benefit to the school and the students—a cohesive program of experiential learning with a clear scaffolding of skills to support the students’ careers.  According to Mary-Beth, her ultimate goal is for our students “to have the skills they need to pursue law-related careers in our community and beyond.”

But, the school and the students are not the only groups who will benefit from Mary-Beth’s new position. Mary-Beth believes that there is always more we can do for our community, and she is particularly excited about the opportunity to systematize and increase the students’ pro bono efforts.

We will report back on the (hopefully all) triumphs and (hopefully few) tribulations as Mary-Beth forges on. In the meantime, we would like to hear about the duties, goals, and challenges of people with similar positions at other institutions. If you are interested in sharing your experiences, please send us an email!

Coming soon . . . Adrienne’s trip to Moscow!