By Edward Romero – January 15, 2013
Many skills are needed for trial work. One that is often overlooked is the art of listening. As the late Dean Rusk reportedly said, “the best way to persuade people is with your ears—by listening to them.” This is good advice from a former lawyer, Rhodes Scholar, and the longest-serving United States secretary of state after Cordell Hull.
Like peeling an onion, understanding a case often consists of exposing multiple layers of long-forgotten facts that, when revealed, can be distressing, embarrassing, and emotionally painful. No one enjoys revealing secrets, especially those that are humiliating or that can lead to social stigma or imprisonment. Yet, a trial lawyer must do just that: glean from reluctant clients intimate and unpleasant facts that are needed to represent them properly. This is achieved by developing trust, and the best way to do this is by listening. People with legal problems want to talk. And the more they talk, the easier it becomes for them to disclose secrets and reveal confidences that have remained hidden, sometimes for years. In so doing, a client will develop confidence in his or her attorney, not because of the attorney’s experience in the subject matter, but because the attorney has taken the time to understand the client’s concerns and listen to the client’s fears. The attorney has become a confidant and, in so doing, has developed a trust with a client that might otherwise have taken a long time to develop
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