Posted Jul 21, 2008 11:33 pm CDT
A renowned longtime trial lawyer, Gerry Spence probably knows his way around the courtroom as well as anyone. But, until recently, the 80-year-old was only vaguely aware of the blogosphere.
Now, however, he has his own blog, seeing it as the best way to complete his life’s work of educating others about the important things he has learned in the course of a career spent striving to represent ordinary people in their quest for justice. As in the courtroom, he sees interaction with his listeners as critical to the persuasive process. But, unlike the courtroom, blogging is a brave new world to Spence that he isn’t yet quite sure how to deal with.
For jurors, he tells ABAJournal.com in a telephone interview today, the trial process is akin to being lost deep in the woods. They must decide which of two strangers–the lawyers in the case, of course–they trust to lead them out of the darkness into the light. The winning lawyer, Spence believes, generally prevails because he shows himself to be trustworthy by putting his cards on the table and honestly addressing all of the key issues in the case, both positive and negative.
But the blogging world, in sharp contrast to the formalized courtroom setting, offers few parameters. Almost any topic can be addressed–Spence, at this point, is still unsure about what topics he may focus on–and, it seems, his initial choice of slavery is too serious for many people to feel comfortable engaging in a dialog about it. “I may jump around a bit and find out if there’s something that they want to talk about that I want to talk about as well,” he says.
Even with the benefit of the courtroom and litigation structure that a trial offers, a lawyer attempting to focus on the issues in a complex case and offer a straightforward, clear argument is “like a worm trying to find its way out of a bowl of spaghetti,” Spence says. His wife of 38 years, by contrast, has a gift for getting straight to the heart of the matter, he finds.
” ‘Oh!’ she’ll say, ‘That’s a case about … ’ whatever it is. ‘Oh! The issue is … ’ whatever it is. She sees it very clearly,” he recounts. “It always amazes me.”
For more of Spence’s thoughts on life and the law, read his brand-new blog
ABAJournal.com: “Famed Trial Lawyer Gerry Spence: My New Blog Frightens Me”