Communication in Law

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Laurie James: 1st Assistant District Attorney

The Track to Law

Laurie James is the 1st Assistant District Attorney to John Belton, District Attorney for the Third Judicial District, in Lincoln and Union parishes. Laurie received a law degree from Louisiana State University Law Center. Laurie said the field of law interested her “Because I thought it combined academic studies with practical application.” In particular, the field of criminal justice was appealing because it involves the use of discretion within a system of law.

Different Hats Worn

This career consists of many responsibilities that keep Laurie busy. Laurie believes that oral communication is used most often in her role. She supervises the prosecutorial work of eleven excellent Assistant District Attorneys on a daily basis. Also, Laurie oversees the administration of the financial responsibilities and obligations of the office of the District Attorney. Laurie performs community outreach to help educate the public about the role of the District Attorney. Earlier in her career Laurie spent time arguing cases in court. However, Laurie stated that only a small amount of her time is now spent in the courtroom where she prosecutes some high-level felony offenses.

Written Communication

Written communication is a skill that is vital to the role of an Assistant District Attorney. Written communication takes just over 40% of her time. It can range from composing employee manuals to motions to be filed with the court. Laurie also stated that written correspondence, such as emails and letters, takes up a majority of her day. One of the biggest communication challenges faced in the workplace is the written communications where attorneys are writing briefs in support of the state’s position in criminal matters.

Communication Adaptation

One skill Laurie finds to be critical to accomplish written communication at work is specificity of language in legal documents. There are many terms in the law field that are not used on a daily basis. Laurie believes she is fortunate in that most of the people she deals with are well informed in this field. Most often, as 1st Assistant District Attorney she is dealing with other working professionals and support personnel in the legal field. However, on occasion, she is with people who have less familiarity with the language of the profession. In this situation she tries to keep it simple and give them opportunities to ask as many questions as they need.

Recognition of Effective Communication and Pitfalls

Every day, Laurie believes that she does not communicate effectively. It is very easy to know what you think is most important to convey; however, this may not be the same for the audience. Laurie believes at times she is not sensitive enough to see if her information is being perceived well by the audience. Laurie said, “I find that my mouth gets ahead of my brain and I am not as effective as I would like to be.” Laurie avoids this miscommunication in the workplace by pausing to give her answer. When it is possible, she asks for time to consider her response. This allows her to collect her thoughts and better frame a response that can be clearly understood.

Changes in Communication

Laurie has been working in the legal profession over 20 years now. She believes that technology is changing the way that the attorneys deliver their written communication. Emails have drastically cut down the amount of time attorneys spend in written correspondence. Word processors also make it possible to cut and paste documents, when in the past attorneys typed every word for a case. Technological advancements have definitely proved to be beneficial for the legal field.

Final Argument

Both oral and written communications are central in the area of law. Laurie stated, “My work requires me to clearly give instructions and to write persuasively.” Written preparation is key to clear communication for the 1st Assistant District Attorney.

Hannah Whitten, Guest Blogger

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