Unlawyerly words

I know people fear death less than they fear public speaking. However, there is no getting around it when you’re a lawyer and especially if you are a trial lawyer. I know that somebody is going to post some comment about how they know of some guy with a weird specialty where all they do is sit in a little cubicle all day and review paperwork. If that’s truly what they do, then it sounds like a fate worse than death. But hey, to each their own. The rest of us lawyers are going to talk to clients, Judges, juries, our friends at work, the people making our coffee in the morning, you name it.

Don’t use crutch words. Stop being annoying. It actually hurts to hear somebody trying to talk to me and every fifth word is “um.” Or, like actually, they honestly say “obviously” all the time. I suppose it is what it is, which means it’s pointless. No actually it means you watch too much ESPN where they interview the dummies who say “it is what it is” all the time as some kind of idiotic sports slang for “I don’t know what else to say because I can’t read or spell.”

Crutch words are habitual phrases we inject into our speech as a way of filling gaps or helping bridge blank spots. Sometimes I think young lawyers pick up some of these because they try to give their thoughts serious meaning. They believe it sort of accentuates what they say as they convey their thoughts in speech. Most of the time the crutch words are annoying and make them sound like broken records. Or worse, they sound like they’re heavily lacking confidence in themselves. It’s especially bad if the crutch words make no sense like “literally” or are used in the wrong context like “synergy” or “quantum.” And the all time worst way is to say the crutch word “um” to fill space over and over like you’re worried if you let in a gap the other side will jump in and start talking. You aren’t going to lose a talking contest in court if you leave a brief gap between your sentences.

I suppose I don’t really care if you say this stuff at work. It bugs the heck out of our legal secretaries but they’re going to get their own revenge when they’re finally fed up with you. God have mercy on you when that happens. I feel a little bad for the people at the coffee shop but they put up with you saying “but at the end of the day” all the time because they want your twenty-five cent tip. I suppose some day they’re going to get their revenge, too.

It’s the Judges that I’m worried about. They hate lawyers who say “there are thousands of reasons” for something or who say “well basically” all the time. And if the Judges don’t like to listen to you then the clients start getting upset. You have probably already figured out by now that associate attorneys live and die by the all-mighty billable hour. As soon as we figure out you’ve killed off your time in front of the Judges you’re done with bringing in money. Maybe you could go be a blogger.

In the mean time, here is my list of things I can’t stand hearing lawyers say. There are so many bad ones that I’ve separated them into sections for easy comprehension. If you figure out you’re prone to saying one of them, write it down or something to remind yourself. Put it on a sticky note so you can train yourself to stop. Please.

-Samuel Owen

© Samuel Owen 2012. All rights reserved. Please read important notices and disclaimers by clicking here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s