On November 19, 1863, at the battlefield in Gettysburg, Edward Everett, former President of Harvard, a distinguished public servant, and certainly one of the most renowned orators of the day, spoke for two hours before Lincoln took the dais. Lincoln spoke for two minutes, uttering but 272 words. Nothing is remembered of Everett’s dedication, but Lincoln’s few words beginning with “Four score and seven years ago…” became immortal. The next day, Everett wrote to Lincoln, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”
Recalling Lincoln’s two minute address is my segue to stressing the importance of the “Elevator Version” of your case in litigation. Most elevator trips in Manhattan office buildings take about two minutes. And in those two minutes, you should be able to explain why you should win your case or achieve the outcome your client wants.
Most busy judges and harried mediators want an Elevator Version of your case. So, the best preparation for an argument or indeed any client discussion is to distill your case to two minutes – – a story and a conclusion that can be told during an elevator ride.
With the essence of your case distilled to an elevator ride, all that follows, the details, the nitty gritty, the legal precedent, will unfold nicely because you have done the hard work of making something that seems complex, quite simple.
As an aside, I do not advocate discussing cases or anything else on public elevators. But you get the idea.
And that’s it for this This and That. And if you have any thoughts on brevity in argument, please call or email Dennis.