Making Your (Power)Point: An Introductory Guide to Digital Presentation Design for Lawyers

18 Legal Comm. & Rhetoric 81 (2021)

51 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2021

See all articles by Jonah Perlin

Jonah Perlin

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: November 18, 2021

Abstract

Information once conveyed in writing through memos, letters, and emails or orally delivered in meetings and speeches presented without demonstratives is now increasingly (and sometimes exclusively) delivered using digital presentations created in software programs like PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides. Yet too many lawyers still do not see digital presentations as a distinct genre of legal communication that can and must be learned. Instead, many believe that creating effective digital presentations requires little more than copying-and-pasting paragraphs of text from a legal document onto slides or translating complex legal analyses into a series of one-to-two-word, business-speak bullet points. Worse, many lawyers continue to see the creation of digital presentations not as a “content task” requiring legal expertise but instead as a purely “design task” that should be delegated to junior attorneys and paralegals or, if they can afford it, outsourced to professional designers that specifically service legal clients.

The reality is that lawyers across the profession are regularly expected to communicate using digital presentations. But those lawyers who want to succeed at this task—and law professors who want to teach law students how to do it—lack sufficient introductory materials to do so. The purpose of this article is to provide that introduction. It focuses on what legal presentations should look like but also when lawyers should use digital presentations, why they should use them, and the process for how they can make them better.

The article first considers why digital presentations are an increasingly important and uniquely effective communication tool for lawyers despite the many critiques of the genre from inside and outside the legal community. Second, it offers a start-to-finish, six-step workflow for any lawyer faced with the task of creating a digital presentation. This section relies on sources from the robust and evolving academic literature on visual rhetoric in the law. Critically, it also introduces and relies heavily upon the voices of presentation design experts from outside the legal community. Although the advice and approach they offer is neither specific to legal audiences nor articulated in uniquely legal idioms, it is targeted at an audience of non-designers asked to share technical knowledge in digital presentation form. This makes their advice particularly valuable to lawyers who simply do not know how to create digital presentations or who generally know how to create digital presentations but also know that they can do the task better, faster, and with far less frustration. Third, it concludes by offering some suggestions for the future study and practice of the genre of legal presentations.

Keywords: Presentation, PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, Visual Lawyering

Suggested Citation

Perlin, Jonah, Making Your (Power)Point: An Introductory Guide to Digital Presentation Design for Lawyers (November 18, 2021). 18 Legal Comm. & Rhetoric 81 (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3966576

Jonah Perlin (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001

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