Leading Change and Supreme Court Arguments

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Leading Change and Supreme Court Arguments

I began this post on my new Facebook site, www.facebook.com/rickmaureronchange. Here is a longer version. (BTW, I hope you will join me there at this new site.)

A fine NY Times article (3/30/12) on how arguments were shaped on the health care debate this week. Although it is impossible to tell how the case will be decided, it is a widely-held belief that Justice Kennedy is the swing vote. That means that four are like to vote one way, the other four are likely to vote the other. According to the Times writer, liberty is Justice Kennedy’s “touchstone and guiding principle.” Both sides were quite explicit in connecting the dots to demonstrate to Kennedy how their argument related to liberty.

Often efforts to influence others on the value of an organizational change are painted with such very broad brush that people miss how all this relates to what’s important to them. Let’s say a stakeholder group cared about liberty; in a corporate presentation, liberty would be the fifteenth bullet point on a crowded slide. Something for everyone, and no much for anyone.

These approaches often fail to address the what’s in it for me question for various stakeholders. We could learn from the ways in which successful lawyers argue big cases.

1. These lawyers know the Supreme Court well so they know what’s like to be important to each member. Those who argue before appellate courts (one level down in the US system) know a lot about the panel of judges well before they make the argument.

2. Good lawyers hold moot courts. These are simulated arguments where colleagues blast and bolster their arguments. These may not be pretty, but they can be very helpful.

3. They craft their arguments so that the people can easy see how this change relates to what they care about.

4. They provide the depth that supports their arguments in written briefs. This can help keep spin to a minimum.

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