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Cardinal Rules of Advocacy

Judge Douglas Lavine claims there are certain recurring, core principles of persuasion that can be studied and when mastered lead to successful advocacy. Lavine's unique interdisciplinary approach will help all lawyers win cases and avoid serious errors.
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Judge Douglas Lavine claims there are certain recurring, core principles of persuasion that can be studied, and when mastered lead to successful advocacy. Lavine's unique interdisciplinary approach draws from history, literature, psychology, drama, religion, and the law to discuss the fundamental principles of effective persuasion that will help all lawyers win cases and avoid serious errors.

Whether just starting to practice law, or a practitioner of many years, you will find Cardinal Rules of Advocacy to be a thought-provoking exploration that will reignite the recognition that advocacy has a noble history and is, at its highest and best, not just a job - but an art form.


"Cardinal Rules of Advocacy is more than a primer on how an attorney can become a better advocate, even a better lawyer. Because of Judge Lavine's erudition, because of his integrity, and, yes, because of the wisdom that shines through it, this is a moral book with a profoundly moral message on how the reader himself can become a better person."

       — Robert Satter, Connecticut Bar Journal

"Cardinal Rules of Advocacy presents the fundamental principles of persuasion in a clear and easy to understand format. . . This is a highly recommended read for anyone who needs to persuade others."

       — Winner 2003 Readers Preference Editor's Choice Awards for Rhetoric and Influence

Authors / Contributors

Table of Contents



About the Author


Chapter One: The Necessity of Properly Identifying Your Audience and Tailoring Your Arguments to Its Needs

A. Abraham Argues with God: A Paradigm of Knowing Your Audience
B. Just Who Is Your Audience, Anyway?
C. Tailoring the Argument to the Audience: One Argument Does Not Fit All Audiences and Situations
D. Ferreting Out Hidden and False Assumptions
E. Recognizing the Influence of Group Affiliations
F. Knowing the Audience's General Needs
G. Understanding Reasons Lying Beneath Attitudes
H. Understanding the Audience's Conflicting Interests
I. Building Bridges to the Audience
J. Begin by Identifying Areas of Agreement with Your Audience
K. Abraham's Advocacy Revisited
Musings and Exercises

Chapter Two: The Need to Establish and Enhance One's Integrity and Credibility
A. Credibility, Credibility, Credibility
B. A Critical Insight: Changed Attitudes are Self-Induced
C. Good Advocacy—Honest and Respectful
D. Key Components of Integrity
E. Influence of Credibility on Persuasiveness
F. Bricks and Wheelbarrows
G. Trustworthy and Untrustworthy Sources
H. George Romney's "Brainwashing" Statement; Gary Hart's Debacle
I. First Impressions Tend to Last
J. Reputation
K. "Irrelevant" Factors and Credibility
L. Common Practices Which Can Diminish or Enhance Credibility
Musings and Exercises

Chapter Three: The Necessity to Think Creatively and Rigorously in Advance of Trial
A. Building a Cathedral
B. The Most Important Activity an Advocate Can Engage In: Thinking
C. Total Immersion: A Necessity in Promoting Creative and Rigorous Thinking
D. Proper Study of Mankind
E. Barriers to Creative Thinking
F. Simple Strategies for Promoting Expansive Thinking
G. The Need for Rigorous, Logical Analysis
H. Barriers to Rigorous Legal Analysis
I. True and Valid Arguments
J. Fallacies
Musings and Exercises

Chapter Four: The Importance of Total Preparation
A. Total Preparation: the Framework
B. The Overarching Importance of Mastering the Facts of Your Case
C. Knowledge of Controlling Legal Principles
D. Importance of Knowing the Procedural History, and Pleadings, in Your Case
E. Importance of Knowing Your Adversary's Arguments
F. Importance of Knowing What Relief You Want
G. The Art of Interviewing
H. Creatively Seeking Out Sources of Information
I. Elements Analysis
J. Investigative Plan
K. Method of Proof
L. Evidentiary Analysis
M. Motions in Limine
N. Pretrial Briefs
O. Trial Notebook
P. Other Aids to Preparation
Musings and Exercises

Chapter Five: The Need to Frame the Issues Compellingly in Favor of Your Client
A. Framing the Issue: A Neglected Art
B. Why Framing Matters: Changing the Audience's Mind-Set
C. Evaluating the Burden of Proceeding and the Burden of Proof
D. Masters at Work
E. Mortals at Work
F. Numerous Ways to Frame an Issue
G. Conclusion: Elements of Effective Issue Statements
Exercises and Musings

Chapter Six: The Importance of Answering Questions Directly and Persuasively and Posing Questions Effectively in Argument
A. Questions: The Doorway to the Mind
B. The Importance of Listening
C. Reframing Questions from the Bench as Opportunities, Not Intrusions
D. Common Reasons Judges Ask Questions
E. Right and Wrong Ways to Answer Questions That Seek to Elicit Information
F. Examples Taken from Argument in the United States Supreme Court
G. The Effective Use of Questions in Argument
H. Ronald Reagan's Question
I. Cicero's Famous Question
J. Daniel Webster in the Knapp Case
K. Clarence Darrow in the Leopold and Loeb Case
Exercises and Musings

Chapter Seven: The Need to Focus the Audience's Attention on Key Themes
A. Importance of Having a Super-Objective
B. Purposes Served by the Development and Elaboration of a Theme
C. The Simplicity of a Theme
D. What is the Core?
E. Gaining the Audience's Attention
F. Primacy-Recency Debate
G. Order Within a Series
H. Making Too Many Legal Arguments
I. Creative Repetition throughout the Proceedings
J. Closings: Finishing with Flair
Musings and Exercises

Chapter Eight: The Importance of Using Language Precisely and Persuasively
A. The primary Importance of Words in Advocacy
B. Reframing our Relationship with Words
C. Legal Language Has Special Attributes
D. Attributes of Persuasive, Understandable Speech
E. Techniques for Bridging the Gap Between Legal Language and the Audience
F. Importance of Simplicity in Speaking and Writing
G. Planning, Writing, Rewriting, and Rehearsing
Musings and Exercises

Chapter Nine: The Need to Behave Professionally, Civilly, and Observe Proper Etiquette in Court
A. Introduction
B. Why Is It Important to Understand Basic Professional Requirements and Norms of Behavior?
C. Rude or Discourteous Behavior Toward Anyone--Including Court Staff—Is Unacceptable
D. Required Courtroom Behaviors
Musings and Exercises