Lawyers Talking article Jan 2013 by Brian K. JohnsonI try to keep the shilling to a minimum here on the blog. But as I suspect you appreciate a good deal, I am passing one on—today only!

I became quite a fan of the work done by Brian Johnson and Marsha Hunter a few years ago. That’s when I saw a presentation of theirs at the Maricopa County Bar Association. Their topic was (and is) effective communication by lawyers.

On the blog, I have mentioned Brian to you before, and I pointed you to his complete article, which we published in Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Today, Brian and Marsha launch an online marketplace. In celebration, they are offering a bargain: 50 percent off the purchase of either of their books (available in four formats):

The Articulate Advocate: New Techniques in Persuasion for Trial LawyersRegular price: $24.99 print, $15.99 digital

The Articulate Attorney: Public Speaking for Lawyers, Second Edition Regular price: $24.99 print, $15.99 digital

Brian Johnson Marsha Hunter Articulate AdvocateBrian Johnson Marsha Hunter Articulate AttorneyAs they tell me, “The 50% discount will be given automatically; no special code required. The discount is good today only, May 14, 2014, until midnight (Central).”

Don’t say I never pointed you toward a deal. Read more (and maybe purchase) here. And then let me know how you’ve integrated their lessons into your practice.

(NB: I am not getting any benefit from sharing this news with you. No one sent me a free book or offered me a weekend in their Cabo time-share. I just think these books are helpful to practicing lawyers.)

Who doesn't cheer the First Amendment? (Well, most of us do.)

Who doesn’t cheer the First Amendment? (Well, most of us do.)

Have you heard the phrase unconference?

It’s been applied—or maybe misapplied—to almost any gathering organized by participants rather than by hosts. It’s a way to have a professional conference without all the trappings that often get in the way of true communication.

We’ve all been to an unconference, of course. When you emerge, haggard and exhausted from a hotel conference room seminar and sink with happiness into a comfortable lobby chair, and engage in the best conversation of the day with a fellow wanderer, you’re at an unconference.

When you follow up with a speaker and get her to engage on the issues facing you and your practice (unaddressed in the formal presentation), you’ve created your own unconference. You have grasped the sinews of the conference, which had been organized to the tiniest detail, and bent them to be responsive to you. When you do that, and when you and your conversant both come away richer, you’ve become an unconference aficionado.

I recall hearing about the concept at—of course—a conference a few years ago, where a Tennessee bar leader urged attendees to think creatively. And I’ve been intrigued ever since by how we all learn, really learn, what we need to learn. And that learning happens only occasionally in a seminar room.

1st Amendment Gallery SF logo

A modern logo for a traditional concept

A few weeks ago, I participated in an unconference in the back of a cab. As I shared a ride from the airport into the San Francisco NABE conference, I had a great conversation with a Bar colleague whom I only sometimes get to converse with. We work close by, but the day-to-day always takes precedence over the leisurely chat. In the cab’s enforced lethargy, I was able to gain valuable insight into his thoughts and vision for the organization.

The ensuing conference itself was great, but its high points were almost all marked by conversations like that—brief, shining moments of genuineness and clarity. Who could wish for better?

As it is Change of Venue Friday, I must share one odd view I got during that cab ride (but it’s related, I promise). As we spoke, I looked out the taxi window and was surprised to see a sign bearing a legal term. “First Amendment,” it proclaimed. But was it a dive bar, a political office, a nostalgic cry? (Its retro font immediately put me in mind of the TV show Cheers. Young readers, ask someone old what that means.)

I snapped this bad photo:

The First Amendment Gallery, San Francisco

The First Amendment Gallery, San Francisco

But it wasn’t until later that I discovered the meaning on the organization’s website:

“1AM, short for First Amendment, is a gallery dedicated to street and urban art. Monthly themed exhibitions will feature artists from San Francisco to around the world. Seeing is believing, so come witness the 1AM movement.”

Read more about them here.

And they’re on Facebook and Twitter too.

So on this Friday, when I consider conferences and the people who transform them, enjoy looking at some art of people wholly dedicated to all the enumerated rights, including that to peaceably assemble.

When I’m next in San Francisco, I know I will return to 1AM (despite the font choice).

Have a communicative weekend.

Park Howell

Park Howell, always looking up.

I sure love a good story.

That’s why, back in November, I found myself sitting in a Phoenix conference room chatting with a small group of people about how best to interest others in our story and to persuade listeners or readers to act on our story.

The conference room was at the advertising firm Park & Co., and the workshop was nimbly led by the firm’s principal, Park Howell. (He blogs here; more on that in a bit.)

He is an adept storyteller himself, and he walked the group through the steps of crafting a tale that leads readers and viewers to a conclusion. In the workshop, he used a 68-year-old video to demonstrate that “the brain is helpless to the suction of story.”

Confused? Here is how Park Howell describes it:

“In 1944, psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel created this animated film to test the brain’s compunction to create stories, even out of the most crude stimuli. Of the 114 people that watch this short film, 113 of them knitted together a story of what was happening, and only one said it was just shapes moving around a screen.”

That video and Park’s words struck a chord with me, and I think they would do the same with anyone who has ever argued to a jury. As jury consultant Dru Sherrod told us in a recent Arizona Attorney Magazine, “Jurors bring to the trial this whole lifetime of collected stored scripts. When jurors hear something in the trial that evokes a stored script, they immediately map that life experience onto the trial information.”

So we know on an intellectual level that “story model research” is correct when it instructs about the power of stories to persuade. But practice is what’s needed—and what Howell offered our small group.

park & co logoOn this Change of Venue Friday, I invite you to see more of the stories he spins in his own blog. Whether you are interested in sustainability, marketing or simply in stories well told, take a look. I’m suspecting you may opt to bookmark his insights or opt for the RSS feed.

A recent post of his reminded me that the use of the word “green” may be getting a bit green around the gills. What’s needed, he argues, are not mere catch-phrases, but “genuine stories of sustainability.” True enough, I think, for every industry, including law.

After reading that, head over to his firm’s “Backstories” page, where you can see a selection of the impressive work they have done for clients, many in the most sustainable of industries.

Have a great weekend.