Lawyers are concerned that the overuse of technology in law firms means that some young lawyers are not practiced at verbalising their ideas.
Theodora Ahilas, principal and director at Maurice Blackburn, believes that because young lawyers are in the habit of typing and retyping their ideas, they are not learning and practicing the skills needed to explain themselves verbally.
“This generation of graduates and younger lawyers verbalise their ideas and thoughts by putting it on the screen – by typing. They are fantastic in print, but when you question them on their documents, in some instances, they fall short of being able to articulate their position,” she said.
Kirk Warwick, senior associate at Norton Rose Fulbright, agrees. “As a lawyer, you’re going to be confronted with situations where you’ve got clients or opponents on the other side of the table, you’re running negotiations, you’re in court and the judge wants you to address a particular issue,” he said.
“I do think [emailing] is a skill that is being utilised to the detriment of being able to really corral thoughts and deliver your ideas verbally and think on the fly.”
Recent testing conducted by BigHand and Nuance Communications revealed that the younger generation of lawyers have strong written communication skills, but are less-effective when it comes to expressing themselves orally.
The Hon. Justice Michael Kirby, retired Justice of the High Court of Australia, believes that verbal communication skills are integral to the practice of any lawyer.
“Younger people are losing the art of speaking to each other via the telephone. They text. Even when they are in the same place! Even when they are in the same room! It’s ridiculous! Oral communication and the way in which we can put things over not only by words, but by gestures, by a look, by a raised eyebrow, by actions – this is the way we really communicate with each other and we see the whole message, the whole context, and that makes for better understanding,” he said.