Knowledge Is Power
Clients — whether they are criminal defendants or civil litigants — rarely get immediate gratification from the American justice system. It's not set up for that. In fact it's not set up to gratify anyone other than, perhaps, the more extreme masochists and irrationality-fetishists.
So when I can give my clients something that empowers them in an immediately apparent way, I jump at it. That's why one of my favorite things to do with a client before a deposition (or before the very rare interview with government officials, something I almost never permit) is to train them how to recognize and then ignore interrogation techniques. The results are immediate and gratifying. I've had clients burst into delighted laughter when an opposing attorney uses a deposition technique I've taught them to spot. (This has the side benefit of eviscerating the opposing counsel's self-confidence, especially if they are the blustering type.) It's immediately useful knowledge, and knowledge is powerful, and clients love to feel they have a little power in the brutal legal process. Very few things I do increase client's confidence in themselves (and in me) as quickly.
This works in areas other than law. A couple of weeks ago, whilst vacationing in Sedona, I lost my temper rather abruptly and explicitly with a time-share salesman who accosted us on the main street. I was reminded of this incident by today's interesting story on NPR about the science behind sales techniques. If I had been able to put names to the manipulative techniques the time-share dude was using on us, I might have felt more powerful, and therefore reacted in a more becoming manner. There are a number of sites out there that document and name such techniques — some pro, some anti-, some neutral. Here's one I found. Perhaps readers can suggest others. Remember: knowledge is power. Recognizing manipulative techniques others are trained to use upon you empowers you to think critically about them.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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