The Art of Persuasion

by Joshua Kahn


image by Flickr user x1brett

Spring semester means it’s time to for first years to write persuasive briefs for RWA and second years to craft oral arguments in Litigation.  Both require a heaping cup of persuasive ability, a skill that is totally different from simply knowing the law.  Not only that, but persuasion is one of the cornerstone skills for practicing attorneys.

Clearly, we’ve chosen a profession that demands persuasiveness—but that’s a skill they don’t teach you in Torts, Evidence or CivPro.  RWA shows you some examples of persuasive legal writing, and litigation throws you right into the pool, but neither really breaks down how to make a convincing argument.

So where can you learn how to communicate persuasively?  If you weren’t born with a silver tongue can you pick up the skill?

The GSU library system has a number of helpful tools for learning persuasion.  Even if you don’t have time to read them now, consider at least placing them on your summer reading list:

The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotlethe classic work on persuasion and still deeply relevant today.  The law library has a translation at PA3893 .R3 1991

Thank You for Arguing : What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion – an excellent guide to the various tools of persuasion that essentially teaches classic rhetoric in a conversational, modern tone.

How to Win Every Argument : The Use and Abuse of Logic – a good guide to the various smoke and mirrors you often hear in arguments.

John Quincy Adams: Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory: Delivered to the Classes of Senior and Junior Sophisters in Harvard University (1810) – A series of classes by given by John Quincy Adams a decade before he was elected President of the United States.  They’re considered a classic guide to persuasion and are online for free here.

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