Saturday, 18 April 2009

Oral v. Written Communication

I was thinking recently about just how good my communication skills are. To begin with I was just wondering how I came across to other people. A friend told me recently that she always found that I always spoke with a lot of weight. When I asked her to go into more detail, she said that if we were talking in a group and I started saying something others would have to stop talking and listen. When I said that was probably for the simple reason that we don't talk over each other, she said no - it was more than that. I think I finally got to the bottom of what she was trying to say when she concluded that I had a voice that people enjoyed listening to. I was very surprised to hear such remarks. It made me start listening to my own voice critically. When I spoke to her on another day she said I sounded different. I said that couldn't possibly be the case: since the last time we had spoken my voice hadn't changed one bit. I couldn't convince her - she said I was trying too hard now! Maybe I was, maybe I wasn't.

Anyway, now I've been thinking about the importance of oral communication skills to a barrister. The one point of comparison that I do have is with my written communication. I have always felt that my written communication - especially when arguing points in essays etc - is stronger than my oral communication. I don't believe its the case that I have the opportunity to revise my written remarks for submitting a final version. In fact I hardly ever do that. I just feel that when I put pen to paper, ideas flow more freely and in a more organised fashion. It could be that because writing takes more time, I have a little bit more time to think. I'm convinced that is not the case though.

What I want to know is if this is the case for any other wannabe barristers or practising barristers out there? Are your written communication skills better than your oral communication skills? And would you say that you are at a disadvantage to practitioners who are the opposite?

As a side issue: I asked a friend of mine who recently secured tenancy at her chambers what surprised her about a barrister's life during pupillage. Her response was that she had underestimated the importance of skeleton submissions to judges. So maybe it isn't all bad if my strengths are in my writing rather than my speech.

I know anyone reading this doesn't know how I sound but I'm interested in your opinions generally on these two forms of communication.

Thanks for your help.