Law Tips: A Professional’s Advice on Clarity, Compassion & Confidence in the Courtroom, Part 3: Great Speeches

“In addition to learning from the great legal orators, there is much to be learned from great speeches in art, politics, and business. They share many common qualities that lawyers should adopt as they develop their storytelling and engagement skills.”

It’s a pleasure to continue our Law Tips series offering words of wisdom from David Mann on the skills of storytelling for litigators. If you missed his persuasion and/or voice tips, you will want to keep paging down for those two previous blogs below. As we wind up this festival of communication, here are some illustrative examples of good speech techniques with comments from our storytelling coach:

Great Speeches

Mastery of Images. All the great speakers rely heavily on images to convey their ideas. Martin Luther King inspired generations of followers through his images of freedom, not his data on injustice. A picture truly is worth a thousand words, and remember that pictures can be painted with words too. Use images as often as facts to make a lasting impression through metaphors, analogies, and images of the future.

Mastery of Moment. Great speeches are memorable over time because of how well they exist in the present moment. When Marc Antony addresses the hostile romans in Julius Caesar, he cleverly uses a simple repetitive device to persuade them to his point of view. When President Reagan addressed the nation after the shuttle disaster, he made the moment his own through a very personal appeal.

Mastery of Style. Skilled orators know that the sound is every bit as important as the words. So they consciously use parallelism, antithesis, anaphora, and many other rhetorical devices to “package” their ideas in a way that makes far more impact that the raw idea alone ever could. President Kennedy didn’t deliver a long lecture on civil service; instead he uttered the far more potent phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

When President Obama was campaigning, he often roused audiences with a series of questions that all ended with “Yes we can.” These devices work, and all lawyers should master them if they want to be persuasive with a jury.

Rhetoric in Great Speeches

Ronald Reagan, Shuttle Disaster Speech, 1986 (excerpts)

As eulogist and fellow mourner:

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this mourner pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

As representative of America’s feelings

For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, “Give me a challenge, and I’ll meet it with joy.” They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

As a wise, caring father

And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s take-off. I know it’s hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.

Rhetoric of the rule of three, metaphor and antithesis in Shakespeare’s writing of Marc Antony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them;

The good is oft interred with their bones;

Where better to end this Law Tips series than with Shakespeare! I have enjoyed learning about storytelling from David Mann and appreciate his contributions to the Law Tips blog. His advice on communicating with clarity, compassion and confidence can serve us all well.


About our Law Tips faculty participant:
David Mann is a speaker, trainer, and professional actor/director. He has a specialized focus on persuasive presentation for lawyers, and he is on the faculty of NITA (National Institute for Trial Advocacy) and Loyola School of Law.  A professional theater artist for over two decades, David has performed or directed for many recognized theatre companies.  He has written and performed five critically acclaimed one-man shows, and he is a recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship for Storytelling.  David is a graduate of Northwestern University, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  If you have questions for David or would like to inquire about his coaching, contact him at For speaking engagements go to the Professional Education Group at


ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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