6 Tips for Talking to Non-Lawyer Friends About SCOTUS

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 26, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to handing out free legal advice to friends, most lawyers have strong feelings against this, or will eventually develop them. But that doesn't mean you can't still talk to your non-lawyer friends about legal current events, or even Supreme Court cases.

However, it's pretty easy to recognize when your non-lawyer friends get that look on their faces that they have no idea what you've just said and are eyeing their way around the room looking for a way out of the conversation. It's the same one you get when you refuse to divulge confidential information about your only interesting client after that second martini. Fortunately, if you follow some of the tips below, you can at least avoid boring your friends with shop-talk about the High Court.

In casual conversation with non-lawyers, explaining basic legal concepts is just going to annoy people, even when you're talking about Supreme Court cases in the news. Yes, justices can be impeached; yes, that case didn't actually change anything; yes, that big corporation was let off the hook. Always go big picture and avoid getting into the details of the technicalities.

2. Don't Quote the Case

Listen, just because some national news story is tangentially related to what you do, that doesn't mean you need to be quoting it like it was the second Harry Potter book the day after release. Sure, if there's a few zingers, that's one thing, but you don't get Justice Kagan dropping Spider-Man references in every decision.

3. Don't Force It

You find this stuff to be absolutely fascinating, but you might not want to steer the conversation somewhere that'll force you to do all the talking. That's not a conversation, and most of your friends don't want to sit through a lecture (presumably).

4. Do Talk About the Underlying Story

People identify with stories and facts, and often the biggest SCOTUS cases have such big issues that the individual facts of a case are ignored. If you know what the actual conflict is that brought about the case, telling people about it can often really help, and actually be of interest.

5. Do Inquire About and Express Personal Opinions

When conversing with friends about cases, asking their personal opinions, or how they think a case like that should turn out, is much better than just explaining black letter law. If you just explain the law, it may appear that you're showing off to a bunch of law students how you haven't lost a step.

6. Do Engage Your Friends About Cases That Might Matter to Them

While you don't want to force your non-lawyer friends into talking about SCOTUS, if there are cases that might be of particular interest to them, don't shy away from bringing it up. To make sure you're ready for a dynamic discussion, it's a good idea to make sure you're well-versed on the most significant -- as well as the most notorious -- cases in Supreme Court history.

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