A Learning Moment on The Art of Conversation: Facts, Opinions and Judgment for Non-Lawyers: A Ten Commandments’ Tale

people often hate having conversations with lawyers.


because they know how to win arguments.

this blog post will assist “non-lawyers” on why lawyers win, how they too can be a “winner,” and share the “teaching moment. ”

lawyers are taught to understand the fundamentals of fact, opinion and judgment. a justice system designed to make the correct decisions require these items. in general conversation and debate, facts and opinion allow those participating or viewing to cast judgment as to who makes the “best” point or as to whether an individual makes a “point” at all.

facts are the cornerstone of law.

a fact can be as simple as an individual’s “name” or their “date of birth.”

facts can be disputed. thus, a trier of fact, i.e. judge or jury, can be employed to determine whether a fact. a fact is essentially the truth. this is why people are sworn to tell the truth when testifying.

facts can be fictions. the parties are stipulate that a particular fact is truthful and correct. the law can make presumptions that certain facts are correct. for instance, there are “cancer” presumptions for firefighters in the workers’ compensation system. if a firefighter has worked so many years with that job, they are afforded a presumption with respect to the “fact” that their cancer was work-related.

there are times when the concept of fact can be extended to a hypothetical fact. a hypothetical fact is an assumption, however, it is not a fact. hypothetical facts can be used to argue opinion.

once the facts are assembled, lawyers then take to forming opinions based upon facts. in law school, this is called “issue spoting.” law students are asked to lay out the facts and argue both sides of the case. thus, lawyers are trained to make differing opinions based upon the facts. an example of this is the fact pattern of “someone throwing a ball at another individual and striking them with the ball.” a battery cause of action may be defined as “an offensive touching.” thus, one issue to be made is whether striking someone with a ball is to be considered as a touching. the argument being that the person did not physically touch the other individual but caused another object to make the contact.”

as we can see, opinions are essentially arguments based upon the “facts” of the case. can it be argued that the “facts” fit the legal cause of action.

this leads to the issue of judgment. based upon the facts, is there an opinion that is correct or just? for instance, the example stated over concerning a thrown object is one upon which every judge would find as a touching within the legal framework. thus, there can be times when there is clearly a correct judgment. other times, judgments can be contentious and disputed as to their correctness.

thus, as a non-lawyer, remember that your opinions will be stronger if they are based upon facts. further, while individuals may have varying opinions, there are times when certain opinions far outweigh the others as being more accurate.

thus, we move to our teaching moment with ms. whoopi goldberg. she got into trouble with her denial that the holocaust’s racial element. on her program, she offered herself as the truth teller as to facts. she led her statement on the topic with something like “the truth of the matter.” she, however, did not possess the facts to assert the truth. the following is a link which discredits her fact. she perhaps attempted mere fact and opinion.

ms. goldberg then went on the colbert show to offer an opinion that the nazi’s were lying about their racial beliefs. she, however, did not offer any fact that this was the case. she also asserted that it would have taken the nazi’s some effort to find the jews to kill. ms. goldberg, in making this assertion, took a credibility hit on both fact and opinion. it is arguably intellectually dishonest for her, someone who gave herself a jewish name, to make her assertion. after all, she conveyed to the world a belief that she was jewish by there mere changing of her name.

thus, the question to ms. goldberg to answer factually is whether it really so hard to find jews in germany, and the other european countries in which the genocide occurred. likewise, ms. goldberg failed to address the fact that many jews lived together in ghettos or shtetls. so, was it really so hard to find them? would ms. goldberg have trouble finding chinese food in her city’s local chinatown?

thus, ms. goldberg’s opinions bear some shakiness to them. there were jews who secularized with german society. they may have intermarried or changed their name in doing so. thus, there was admittedly a segment of jews that could have required some searching to locate. how much effort is unknown to this writer.

in sum, use these skills to be a better conversationalist. perhaps one day you may be able to take down a lawyer at their own game.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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