Learning from Clarence Darrow

This post discusses Clarence Darrow’s trial preparation and delivery.

Preparation. The greatest twentieth century lawyer is Clarence Darrow. In The Last Trials of Clarence Darrow, Donald McRae gives insight on how Darrow prepared for trial: As Darrow prepared for trial crumpled balls of paper were strewn across his desk “and on the floor around him as he drafted chunks of the marathon speech with which he would use … [at trial]. Darrow would speak as always without notes.” McRae teaches Darrow’s “familiar illusion of conversational ease was crafted by laborious preparation. Although he did not write out his actual speech, he polished and burnished individual passages around which he would weave his flowing pattern of words… .”  In preparing  first write out the points you want to make. Write using lines instead of punuction/Then/ read it back/ time and time again/ using your lines/ for cadence/

Internalize your message.  Internalize by imagining delivering your message in the courtroom. Imagine where you will stand.  Image looking at the jurors. From McRae we learn Clarence Darrow internalized his message before trial, then, when he got into the courtroom:  “He was flying now, the words flowing from him without a single note in his hands. They came from deep within him, from…[his] very core. .. The words fell from him in quiet murmurs and roaring cries… .” This level of advocacy can only be done from the heart after the message is internalized.

Face to Face Without Notes. Notes put a barrier between lawyer and jury. For the highest level of advocacy in relating to the jury Clarence Darrow in his “habitual way [would walk] over to the jury so they could see his face in close-up and hear his sofest words. It would as always with Darrow, sound as if he was in a private conversation with each of the men.” This can only be done without notes. Notes wed the lawyer to a plastic pre-agenda that prevents spontaneity. Clarence Darrow  talked form his heart and from his inner core. Although he knew in advance what he wanted to say the message flowed naturally in conversation when he related to the jury.

Believe in Yourself. After weeks of preparation, and believing in his case and in himself, Clarence Darrow knew he had his cause internalized and he would flow naturally: “After forty years in the courtroom, he just needed to uncork all his emotional intelligence and let it seep into the hearts and minds of [the jury he had] selected with utmost care.” In the end Darrow knew it was his preparation and belief in himself that would be his foundation. “He would rely on  a rough old mastery of sentiment and language, which no book could teach.”

(All quotes taken from Donald McRae, The Last Trials Of Clarence Darrow (2009).

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