Time for Lawyers to Work with Chief Design Officers

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Jonathan Jony Ive is being promoted to Chief Design Officer for Apple. If you read SeytLines regularly, you have noticed that I talk about Ive, Apples long-time design guru (for example here and here). Apart from Ive, Ive talked about design and legal materials a few times (for example, here). Since this is a blog about the practice of law, you might ask why Im spending so much time on design.

I believe that law is a persuasive art. As lawyers, you must persuade people to accept a viewpoint. That viewpoint could be a negotiating point in a contract, a settlement offer, or simply your advice. Today, the art of persuasion is going through a transformation in the legal industry. Lawyers are learning that visualization of data, presentations, and persuasion tools other than complex documents, all play roles in convincing clients and opponents to do what lawyers ask.

I have always thought this shunning of design a bit odd, since throughout my career Ive spent a substantial amount of time attempting to persuade people and could use all the design help I could get. I was a litigator, which meant I was always trying to persuade someone the judge, the jury, the opposing attorneys or parties, and my clients. When I became an in-house lawyer, my persuasion duties continued. I still had my clients to persuade, but the group included in the term client expanded executives, directors, shareholders were added to the list. I appeared before zoning boards, city and county commissions, groups of concerned citizens, various third-party organizations, and so on.

Most lawyers think of the written word as their second main form of persuasive art. Few would talk about presentations. I think most lawyers dont recognize how often they make presentations, which is why they dont focus on them. If you are an outside lawyer, you present each time you meet with a potential client and often when you meet with an existing client. You present when you meet with opposing counsel and when you negotiate with opposing counsel and his or her client. You do presentations to regulators, boards, and so on. Often you are presenting, but you dont use and understand the tools of a presenter. Instead, rather than taking advantage of displaying information visually, you use only spoken communication denying yourself a key persuasion tool. From my perspective, writing and presentation tools are becoming more intertwined and lawyers should get help with both.