The 'Silent But Gifted' Law Student: Transforming Anxious Public Speakers into Well-Rounded Advocates
The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, Vol. 18, p. 291, 2012
47 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2013
Date Written: 2012
The premise of this Article is that a certain cluster of students in every law school experiences severe public speaking anxiety (as contrasted with standard low-grade nerves) — whether because of childhood upbringing, adolescent or college experiences, or new environmental triggers — and needs support to gain control of this fear instead of repressing it as a perceived weakness. This Article proposes that, with the right level of awareness and a thoughtful psychological approach, law schools can, and should, develop programs to assist students in overcoming this stumbling block. To do so, law professors first must understand that it is not only confident extroverts who make strong legal advocates.
Part I of this Article urges law professors to recognize that introverted or quiet law students should not be discounted as "not lawyer material," but in fact may possess overlooked attributes, including deeper legal insights and thoughtful analyses. Part II discusses the particular effect the Socratic Method, and other on-demand public speaking events, can have on the "silent but gifted" law student. Part III explains how prodding these particular students with slogans like, "Just do it!” is not an effective long-term solution. Part IV prompts professors to consider how widespread severe public speaking anxiety may be in their particular classrooms or schools, and summarizes how certain institutions have addressed the issue to date. Part V asserts that law schools can do more, and offers cost-effective holistic solutions for helping students begin to tackle public speaking challenges, including: (a) strategies for fostering a healthy communicative classroom dynamic without sacrificing intellectual rigor, and (b) practical steps for developing "Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety" workshops.
Keywords: introvert, introverts, introversion, public speaking anxiety, Socratic Method
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By Heidi Brown