What Attorneys Can Learn From Steve Jobs By Rebecca E. Neely Steve Jobs will be remembered for many things, not the least of which is the technology he conceived. Also topping the list of his talents was his penchant for public speaking. He didn’t just give a speech, he put on a show. So, what can attorneys learn from this?
Simplicity, intuition, and passion – a recent law.com article suggests that trial attorneys focus on these three things to improve their presentations and arguments. However, it seems all attorneys could benefit by infusing these qualities into their work lives. Consider what the role of an attorney is, in any capacity: to advise, to advocate, to represent, to champion. Walter Isaacson’s notes in his biography on Jobs that he often quoted Leonardo da Vinci’s maxim that “[s]implicity is the ultimate sophistication.” With the legal complexities that exist, in language, in execution, in communication, simplifying is a watch word for us all, especially attorneys. As pertains to public speaking, Jobs was a master. Neither his clothing, nor his presentations, nor his words were flashy. Instead, Jobs appeared to have mastered the concept of what to leave in, and what to leave out; remembering that what’s said, as well as what’s not said, and when, are equally valuable. The value of the pregnant pause cannot be underestimated. Jobs, wearing his black turtleneck, and presenting his minimalist slides, proved these points. Attorneys – don’t rush, edit yourself, and focus on core ideas.
Don’t become mired in details, for as well all know, that’s where the devil lies. How did Jobs appeal to peoples’ intuition? By focusing on them, as a person, versus a customer. He didn’t sell technology. He sold an experience. And he made millions. Surely this concept could be applied to the art of the argument. How? An attorney has to connect with his or her audience – the judge, the jurors, his clients, as well as the other attorneys – by presenting his client’s story, as it were, with not just clarity, but emotion, so as to relate the experience in a meaningful way. Isaacson noted in Jobs’ biography that he attempted to “put a dent in the universe.” What greater statement could be made of passion? First, anyone who is passionate about what they’re doing or saying is going to be better at it. There’s no doubt about it. However, attorneys must often present dry arguments that lack flash. Rather, the passion often lies in the attorney-client relationship, which goes back to the role of an attorney. Attorneys can find their passion as they champion his or her client’s cause, and attempt to bring about justice in an imperfect world. How’s that for a dent? “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” --Steve Jobs