To be a successful big firm lawyer, you need to understand the art of manufactured outrage. Most successful solo attorneys have developed the skill of manufacturing outrage over years of being the little guy and overlooked for major litigation. As a big firm attorney, though, you’ll need to manufacture outrage easily and on the spot. Here are some tips to help.
Avoid trite phrasing
Lawyers are notorius for using the same words and phrases over and over, such as “without merit,” “ibid.,” or “douchebag.” Stop. If you want to make an impression, consider your audience and what they’ve likely read in the last week. Recent but not actual studies demonstrate that, within just one year of being admitted to practice, most lawyers no longer register certain legalistic and overused words. For example, you may write the following sentence:
Plaintiff’s rehashed argument about his alleged injuries is without merit and, more importantly, fails to allege a plausible compensable injury. Unable to plead any injury, Plaintiff then attempts to circumvent this requirement by complaining about defendant’s reasonable actions and somehow alleging that such actions entitle him to damages.
Most lawyers will register only this:
hashbrowns at the circus. yum.
Which works, I guess, except the case isn’t about hashbrowns and it won’t convince a judge of two things: 1) that you are right and; 2) that something really terribly awful happened to your client. Rewrite the sentence with more artful turns of phrases and some manufactured outrage.
Use key outrage words
Most masters of legal writing keep a short list of KO (or “key outrage”) words at their desk or programed into their keyboard shortcuts. Why? Because they work. And they make you feel good and important. Some example KO words include: sinister; communist; sycophantic; affront; reckless; apocalyptic; shaken to the core; and atrocity. If you are having trouble developing your own list of KO words, spend a day reading political blogs. That’ll do it.
Putting it all together
Putting this all together, and going back to our original sentence, it can be rewritten with sufficient manufactured outrage, as follows:
It’s as if plaintiff, in his complaint, has kicked defendant in the nuts, only to laugh about it. The court should not tolerate such atrocious behavior. It should dismiss plaintiff’s complaint in its entirety.
See? Concise and to the point, with sufficient manufactured outrage. Moreover, a trained lawyer who reads this will register “toasted nuts. ouch.” A far better and more precise reaction than the previous one.
So far, I’ve covered only manufactured outrage in writing. To extend manufactured outrage to the courtroom or to depositions, I’ll have advice later on the gestures, phrasing, and other actions you can take when you need to show your outrage effectively in person. Stay tuned.
Originally published June 23, 2011