The fluency of presentation in legal practice (2)

In part 1 of this series, I expatiated on the importance of “T for Think” as the first element of the ADDY’s T2RWS technique for successful legal practice.” “T2RWS” acronym mean: Think, Read, Recall, Write and Speak. I defined “fluency” loosely to mean the necessary skills required by a lawyer for successful legal practice. This series of articles aims at applying the fluency of presentation in legal practice to the ADDY’s T2RWS technique.

The lawyer’s responsibility to read is not optional. The less you read, the weaker your legal practice. Averagely, in a day, a good lawyer will read materials ranging from law reports, law textbooks, articles, cases, rulings, letters, emails, opinions, and what have you? Although reading broadly is important, reading must be prioritised to ensure that materials read are fit for purpose. Depending on how much time and the amount of work a lawyer has, determines what to read. More often than not, a lawyer may read little of no fictional materials.

In this part 2, I will tackle the “2R” of the ADDY’s T2RWS technique where “2R” mean “Read” and “Recall”.

  1. R = Read

In all professions, reading widely helps in accumulating knowledge which can be translated into wealth. The more information you have, the better your worldview which shapes your decisions in professional pursuits. Avid reading sets great professionals apart from mere mortals. Great lawyers are no exception, they read widely and that distinguishes them from other lawyers who are not fit to be referred to as their colleagues.

Law practice demands that the lawyer reads widely and in-depth. While some may read for fun and will therefore looks out for different outlook in their reading materials, lawyers read for purposes of decision making. While generally reading is good, people who read for decision making approach their reading materials differently.

Research has shown that different people at different levels of the educational ladder reads and understands their reading materials at the readability level of their educational standard. The level of educational has a correlation with one’s readability level. It is expected that the readability level of a university student be different from the student in the secondary school. Such as the readability level of different professions vary. Generally, the readability level of a lawyer is different from that of the architect.

Obviously lawyers by their professional work are expected to read more than the architect or many other professionals. This becomes a necessary evil because lawyers have to read more in order to make meaning from the text for legal solutions. It will be justifiable to say that a lawyer with more legal engagement reads more than his colleague with less engagement. I am referring specifically to reading for work solutions.

The minimum expected speed of reading for an average adult is three hundred (300) words per minute (300 wpm). However, the lawyer is expected to read at a faster rate than the minimum. And not only read at a faster rate but also to be able to understand the text accurately. The lack of accurate understanding usually shows in the output of work. The understanding sought from reading for fun is different from the understanding sought from reading for decision making.

  1. READING TECHNIQUE
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The SQ3R is the reading strategy usually used for reading and comprehension. The acronym represents Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review. It simply means the following:

Before you read, Survey the chapter. You survey the chapter by the title, headings, subheadings, images, introductory and concluding paragraphs, and summary. While surveying, it is important to question the content and highlight the salient issues.

Then the actual reading and detail reading begins by seeking answers to the issues raised during the survey. You also make a close analytical study of the material comparing previous knowledge to new knowledge and making the difference.

Because the purpose of the reading is for decision making, you begin to think aloud by asking yourself questions from what you have read and seek answers to the burning issues. In reciting, you make notes from the text; highlight important points to help easy recollection. The recitation process includes: seeing (reading), saying (thinking aloud/out loud), hearing (being audible), and writing.

Some scholars attribute effective learning to a connection between the hand and the brain, in that writing during learning sticks faster in the brain. In same manner, making notes while reading a document makes it easier for the lawyer to adduce the significant points in the document.

The final stage is to review the material you have read. You review by ensuring that you have obtained all relevant information needed for the purpose of reading. That information must be fit for purpose.

  1. READING IN DEPTH AND BREADTH         

Reading in depth gives the lawyer a grounded knowledge in a particular subject. Because different writers analyses issues from different perspectives, reading different books on the same subject gives the lawyer a deeper knowledge on the subject.

The analysis of lawyer on issues that has legal implications is different from the “lay” man’s/people’s analysis because the lawyer has greater expertise in that subject because of in depth reading on the subject. Same ways some lawyers have better knowledge on some areas of law than their colleagues because of in depth reading on those areas of law.

Amazingly in developing countries like Ghana, many lawyers try to accept cases in all areas of the law. They were told in law school that a lawyer called to the Bar in Ghana should be able to handle all cases in all aspect of the law. In their attempt to do so mainly because of monetary gains, they are not able to hold an expertise in any area of practice.

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Reading in breadth means reading widely to gain an expertise through the development of greater skills and knowledge in your area of practice. Though you might not have grounded knowledge like your colleagues who have higher expertise in other areas of the law, reading in breadth gives you a breadth of knowledge in a wide area of subjects which equips you to understand broadly what entails in those areas of law. That way, you are able to hold reasonable conversations with colleagues on those subjects. To a large extent those/that knowledge contributes in your area of expertise.

  1. R = Recall

Generally, the purpose of reading is that what is read must be recalled when it is needed. What distinguishes a good performing student from other students is among other reasons the ability to recall during examination what was learnt previously. In same manner a good lawyer is the one who can recall what was read in preparation of a case. Even when you have read for fun, the ability to recall in a conversation gives you a level of comfort to win public confidence.

The ability to recall what was read is important to ensure fluency of presentation in legal practice. Therefore to recall, a lawyer must rightly embrace the guidelines necessary for recollection. Developing a mind that is able to recollect requires an absolute focus on a niche practice. Specialisation ensures higher efficiency for peak performance.

  1. Recall for purpose

When you read for a purpose there is an intention to recollect. Reading for purpose means you necessarily need the information for decision making. The outcome of an active reading is with an intention to evaluate its content for specific needs. Those needs will not be met if it(the information read) cannot be recalled when needed.

  1. Notes taking

Taking notes while reading helps for easy recap. I have said it earlier in this article how some scholars have linked writing to memory.  Making notes for easy recognition may sometimes require that you use different colours of ink to distinguish portions of the document that requires attention.

Please not that taking notes while reading is different from highlighting with a marker. Making notes in ink is mostly recommended. In note taking, you think through what to write that evokes instant meaning and understanding whereas highlighting does not require such mental alertness.

  • Place of reading

The place of reading helps in total concentration which enhances memory astuteness. Create conducive environment for reading so as to enhance your level of retention. Choose the location that gives you the highest level of concentration. Also it is important to know your peak time when you are able to have the highest concentration.

Reading and recalling are two wings of a bird that are very important and jointly needed for fluency of presentation in legal practice.

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