Great Strides and Small Steps- The Art of the Question

 In Practicing Law and Life

The painter has a brush. The sculptor has a hammer and chisel. The welder has a torch. An attorney has questions. The true art of being an attorney is not how fast you can draft a complaint or even how well you can write a brief or argue a point. All of it depends on the right questions being asked before any of that can happen.

When a client comes into my office for the first time, if I don’t fully understand why they are there and the critical information I need, how can I do my job? It’s a mistake for me to take all the answers for granted and not follow up with more probing questions? If I don’t ask all of the right questions at a deposition, how can I win my client’s case? If at trial I’m not telling a story through questions, how is the jury going to understand the case?

I remember the first time I took a deposition. I was so nervous. I listened to the other attorney ask questions of my client. He was good. He knew what he was doing. When the transcript arrived, I remember reading it in disbelief. My questions were full of ands, ums, so’s, and other utterances. Answers by the defendant were not complete and I did not follow up. I vowed that my next deposition transcript was never, ever, going to look like that again.

To this day I still love hearing an attorney who knows how to tell a story through questions. It’s a skill that they have honed over the years. And, it’s based on them fully understanding their client’s case- both the strengths and the weaknesses.

The ability to ask probing and enlightening questions is just as critical in my personal life. It’s ironic that this skill I know so well an attorney is hard to practice in my personal life. I don’t know what happens. I would never let a witness give an incomplete answer like I sometimes do.

The methodology I use to prepare for a deposition are not used when dealing with my self. When was the last time I sat down and wrote out the questions I was going to ask my self about understanding better who I am and what I’m trying to become?

Just the other day I was in another attorney’s office talking about questions to ask at a deposition I had later that morning. My conversation with him made all the difference. I stuck with my questions we talked about, stayed on point and made sure they were fully answered.

What if you took the same approach to asking questions of yourself that you do with your clients? You would better understand who you are, what is important to you and why. The better armed you are with this information, the better you can protect and advocate for the best life you can possibly lead.

Are there questions you avoid answering about living a more fulfilling life in the practice law and your personal life?

Share this:
Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Jason

    I definitely caution against asking questions of others in one’s personal life like one would do in a deposition. The questioner may walk away with a black eye. The world of personal interaction is filled with nuances — such as body language, tone, volume, emphasis and facial expression — that create an ebb and flow of unspoken understanding. In a deposition, in contrast, an attorney should theoretically elicit all relevant information in the spoken word so that a court reporter may capture that information on a written transcript.

  • Jim Dwyer

    I completely agree Jason. I would never suggest asking questions in the often aggressive manner that we do in a litigation setting. The post is meant to focus on questions that we ask ourselves and comparing it to the time and preparation we put into a deposition, arbitration or trial. I would never suggest asking these questions of someone else.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

Thank you for reaching out. Please let me know how I can be of service to you in finding greater meaning in your practice of law and life.