I am a lawyer, so I have been naturally and necessarily interested in what lawyers say. For many years, I have also been interested in why we say what we say, and how we say it. It turns out that lawyers (including me), whether we realize it or not, use rhetorical tools that have been known and used for thousands of years. Legal rhetoric is not just a practical craft; it is also a classical discipline.
In the course I teach, “Legal Rhetoric,” we study specific cases, including Cicero’s defense of Milo after he allegedly beat a rival to death; John Adams’ defense of the British soldiers who shot American patriots in the Boston Massacre; Daniel Webster’s defense of the Union while it was being torn apart by slavery; and Margaret Thatcher’s evisceration of the opposition on the day she left the British House of Commons. But, we also study the rhetorical tools that Cicero, Adams, Webster, Thatcher, and all masters of legal rhetoric employ, as well as the rhetorical theory that underpins everything