As an estate planning attorney, the ability to communicate is critical to a successful practice. Of course, an estate planning attorney must communicate effectively in writing, such as the following examples:
- Drafting documents, such as, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, deeds, etc.
- Writing letters to clients, beneficiaries, opposing counsel, etc.
- Drafting pleadings and motions
The need for an attorney to communicate well in writing is nearly universally accepted and there are courses in college and law school to help students do so. Typically, Legal Writing is a required course in the first year of law school.
The need to communicate orally is just as important to a successful estate planning attorney’s practice. Here are some examples of how an estate planning attorney communicates orally:
- Client meetings
- Networking at Bar functions
- Public or private seminars on estate planning topics
- Continuing Legal Education seminars on estate planning topics
- Court hearings on motions
While an estate planning attorney needs to communicate effectively orally, they get little training for oral communication like public speaking. They may elect to participate in Moot Court, where they learn the technical presentation skills of a courtroom. However, there are few (if any) public speaking training opportunities in law school and college.
But, in order to build a successful estate planning practice, effective public speaking is essential. There is a fallacy that people either “have the knack”…or they don’t. But, people are not born as good public speakers any more than they are born as effective writers. Public speaking is a skill which must be honed, like any other.
I spent the last several days at the Fall Summit program of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys here in San Diego. As an optional training, the Academy arranged training by Amy Mead of Heroic Public Speaking. Amy was absolutely amazing! She drew upon her formal and real world experience to provide practical tips regarding what works and what does not. She gave tips like breathing exercises and how to modulate the sound of your voice. She also gave practical tips regarding how to organize a presentation using Post It notes. She also shared what not to do, like imagining the audience naked or practicing in front of a mirror. She also shared specific, solid reasons to support her recommendations.
Amy Mead’s Heroic Public Speaking is just one route to improve your public speaking. Regardless of the method you choose to hone your public speaking skills, the ability to speak clearly and comfortably while engaging your audience is a priceless skill for any estate planning attorney.
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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