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7 Inspiring TED Talks for Your Legal Career

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 16, 2015 11:19 AM

Discovery got you down? Have you been chewed out by a partner after working the whole weekend? Would you rather stay in bed all day? Sounds like you could use some inspiration.

Thankfully, TED Talks -- those quick combos of smart thinking, great storytelling, and PowerPoint mastery -- specialize in inspiration. Here are seven of our favorites that can remind you why you became a lawyer, how you can work for justice, and how you can use your skills to persuade and inspire others.

1. The Clues to a Great Story

Lawyers are storytellers, whether we're speaking to clients, colleagues, or juries. Great lawyers are great storytellers, able to create a narrative that captivates and convinces their audience. In this TED Talk, the filmmaker Andrew Stanton (the guy who brought you 'Toy Story' and 'WALL-E') breaks down the elements of storytelling -- starting from the "happily ever after" and working back to "once upon a time."

2. The Common Structure of Great Communicators

There are stories and then there are presentations. In this talk, Nancy Duarte looks at the form of the presentation itself, breaking down shared structures used by great communicators when presenting information to others. It's hardly a tutorial on PowerPoint, however. Instead, Duarte picks apart some of the best presentations of modern times, from Steve Jobs to Martin Luther King.

3. Challenge Your Biases, America. Make Fairer Laws

Speaking of fairy tales, Alice Beatrice Jones almost had one herself. A chambermaid in the mid-1920's, Jones was courted, seduced and married by a New York aristocrat, Leonard Rhinelander. And then Rhinelander sought an annulment, on the basis that Jones "misrepresented" her race to Rhinelander. Legal scholar Angela Onwuachi-Willig takes that divorce as the jumping off point for this TED Talk examining the ways race and gender impact the law and its application.

4. How to Stop Torture

You don't have to be in Guantanamo Bay to get tortured. In fact, torture is shockingly common, even in "functioning" judicial systems, according to Karen Tse. Tse's TED Talk focuses on areas where it's still an everyday practice to torture prisoners and discusses ways the international legal community can act to end such practices.

5. How Juries Are Fooled by Statistics

More interesting than inspiring, perhaps, this TED Talk by Oxford mathematician Peter Donnelly surveys the mistakes people make when trying to make sense out of statistics. What does it mean when a test is 99 percent accurate? When one out of 10,000 people could have committed the murder? Donnelly takes common errors and looks at how they impact criminal trials, with often devastating results.

6. Why Eyewitnesses Get it Wrong

Five people see the same crime, yet all five report different stories. None of them is lying -- they are simply filling the gaps in their memory, often unconsciously. In this talk, forensic psychologist Scott Fraser looks at how people remember crimes and how witnesses with the best of intentions often get things wrong.

7. Chimps Have Feelings and Thoughts. They Should Also Have Rights

Chimps, one of our closest evolutionary relatives, have extraordinary minds and cognitive abilities. Those abilities, attorney Steve Wise argues, should entitle them to basic legal rights. Sound far fetched? It's not. Not only has Spain granted basic protections to some primates, but a New York trial court acknowledged that, given society's evolving mores, chimps could soon achieve basic legal personhood.

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