A Quora questioner recently asked about the importance of public speaking for future and current lawyers. I wouldn’t say public speaking skills are absolutely vital, but it is definitely helpful if you do have this skill.
Litigation vs. Transactional
It’s more important to be an effective public speaker if you intend to be a litigator. Judges and juries will expect it. Opposing counsel will be ready to pounce if you lack confidence or if you constantly slip up when making your arguments in court. It is a high-stress environment and you need to be comfortable not only presenting your case but being able to think on your feet when being challenged by your judge.
But beyond this, lawyers still need to be effective communicators in smaller meetings with clients and other attorneys. This isn’t “public speaking” per se. Still, the crux of legal practice is representing your client, and you cannot solely do this through the written word. Even if you’re a transactional attorney, you’ll need to be cognizant of your client’s intentions and articulate them to other parties and attorneys. You’ll need to present a confident front even if you’re feeling nervous inside. That said, you won’t need to be the next Saul Goodman to succeed. Effective communication, no matter how “smooth,” is what really matters.
Improving Your Public Speaking
Anyone looking to improve their presentation or public speaking skills should look at joining a local Toastmasters club. For those that don’t know, Toastmasters is an organization that helps members become more confident, effective public speakers. It also provides members with chances to develop leadership skills. That said, I found the public speaking opportunities to be the most valuable. Another way to improve your public speaking skills is to take a Dale Carnegie course. While these courses are expensive, Warren Buffett has been an outspoken endorser of Carnegie courses, saying that his degree from his Carnegie course was “the most important degree I have.”