Book Report – Talk Your Way to the Top by James C. Humes

One of the things that I’m most thankful for about Oliver Law Firm library is the diversity of potential reading material. Talk Your Way to the Top is a prime example of how books that aren’t targeted at trial lawyers, or even lawyers at all, can help us better represent our clients. This book takes situations that people will encounter throughout the course of a professional life and gives tips and practical advice on how to address these situations. The title seems to imply, at least to me, that the book would be about creating shortcuts in a career or being able to “BS” your way up without actually being productive. That’s the opposite of the truth. Everything in Talk is there to be used as an aid by an already hard-working individual.

Out of the scenarios presented in the book, the first one that I thought could make me a better trial lawyer was titled, “Negotiate and Win.” Obviously, we do a lot of negotiating on behalf of our clients. We negotiate dates for depositions, we negotiate discovery requests, we negotiate recovery amounts, we negotiate a whole host of things. Humes prefaces his tips on negotiating by giving an example of a failed negotiation. When the British went to negotiate with the Nazis before WWII regarding their aggressive maneuvers, the British ended up weakening their own position and essentially guaranteeing the continent would break into war. Why did this happen? Because they were not adequately prepared. In order to effectively negotiate, you must not only know your own position inside and out, you must know your opponent’s position and motivations. This comes in particularly true for us. It is easy to look at an insurance company that is denying our client’s claim and assume the worst. We represent people who have been injured or killed in all types of truck wrecks, industrial accidents, and other horrible situations. Our clients are obviously the sympathetic party that it is easy to relate to. However, the insurance company has its own responsibilities. It has a responsibility to its shareholders and employees to be able to keep the business running and profitable. If we can understand where our opponents are coming from and what drives their negotiation tactics, then we will be much more successful in our endeavors.

I was also impressed with the information presented in the series of chapters that began with, “Cut Short Telephone Calls.” As trial lawyers, we represent all sorts of people who have been injured in any number of ways. We owe these clients a duty to perform the best work we can. As people, we are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and friends. We owe ourselves and our family quality time to enjoy life together. We also owe it to our community of Northwest Arkansas to spend time giving back. The only way to accomplish all of these things is through life balance and efficiency of work. At Oliver Law Firm, we don’t charge by the hour, so the quality of our work is much more important than the length of time it took us to complete it. This way we can focus on efficiency. Talk has an entire series of chapters about how to be more efficient and cut out time wasters without being rude or dismissive. I know that I have been caught on lengthy phone calls that had fifteen minutes or more of simple pleasantries. If we can cut out these time sucks, and others mentioned in the book, it will help us be more efficient for our clients and give us more time to spend with our families.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Talk Your Way to the Top. It was easy to read in short chunks and had some key insights that will apply directly to my practice. This was a great way to end 2017!