The quality of your argument is not improved by its duration

We haven’t done a post about oral advocacy for a while.

It’s a shame, because advocacy is – or should be – an essential part of legal practice, in one form or another. I guess it’s hard (nay, impossible) to say something about it that hasn’t already been said. By someone else. Better.

So, putting aside any expectation of being fresh and original, here’s a reminder of the importance of keeping things brief.

The Elucubrator pointed to a number of well known speeches as examples of effective advocacy in one of our earlier posts. John F. Kennedy was one example given:

ask not what your country can do for you;
ask what you can do for your country.

That post was about syntax, but what struck me about each example was how the speaker kept the point they were trying to make short and simple. This was reinforced for me recently when I stumbled across the Wiki fact that Kennedy’s inaugural address (probably the most famous inaugural in presidential history) was the fourth shortest in history, running for less than 14 minutes.

(And for those curious, the longest was an hour-and-forty-five-minute speech delivered by William Henry Harrison in a blizzard in 1841. He died of pnuemonia a month later, which might explain why later presidents have kept things shorter).

It’s well known that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was spoken in just over two minutes. Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 was 17-minutes long.

If you have a point worth making, it’s rarely worth surrounding with many others that aren’t.

Leave a Reply