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5 Communication Lessons From Larry King

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on December 20, 2016 12:57 PM

Much of a lawyer's job is communicating, with clients, with courts, and with colleagues. But we're not always as great at convey our message, establishing a rapport, or convincing others as we'd like to be.

That's where Larry King comes in. When it comes to communication, few can outshine King. He's in the sixth decade of his journalism career, he hosted nightly interviews on CNN for 35 years, and he still keeps it up, with three regular talk shows. The man knows how to talk to people. And he's got some tips for you, which he laid out in a recent interview with Entrepreneur magazine.

1. Say Yes to Every Opportunity

If you want to improve your communication skill, you can't be a shrinking violet. In an interview with Kelsey Humphreys, King advises those who want a career in communications to take every opportunity available to them. That advice works for lawyers, too. So jump on every chance to give a speech, interview interns, speak to the community, or negotiate with others. Each opportunity is a new chance to improve.

2. Know Your Role

You've got to know what your role is in any context, King says. What's appropriate when speaking with others in one setting will shift in another. If you're speaking on a panel to law students or new lawyers, for example, you'll largely be focused on discussing your own experiences and stories. If you're meeting a client (or interviewing a major figure, in King's case) you'll need to focus on drawing out their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

3. Take a Genuine Interest

When communicating with others, you don't want to appear like you're just going through the motions. You need to demonstrate real interest. "You have to be curious," King says.

4. Focus on the Present

Good communication requires you to focus on the present moment. When interviewing, King makes a point to tune out what's in the past or the future and focus on the now. "Tune out yesterday's interview. That's over," he says. "Tune out tomorrow's interview, that's still to come."

That advice is true for legal professionals, too. Whether you're in a meeting, at court, or in negotiations, you need to focus on what's going on right then, rather than getting distracted by baggage from the past or worrying about what's coming next. Those concerns should inform your communication, but they shouldn't distract from it.

5. Do What Feels Right

You can't force yourself to be something you're not, whether it's a brilliant attorney or a master communicator. King says he knew his profession was right for him when he first interviewed Bobby Darin in 1958. "I felt a groove, something clicked there," he says.

Everyone, he suggests, needs to find a similar groove. "No matter what industry you're in, if you're happy, don't leave," King says. "Don't do something just for money and trust your instincts."

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