2023 Communication Essentials 

By Joseph Lavelle, Esq. and Maureen C. Washington, ACP, CAS 

What is one word with thirteen characters that can lead to loss or victory?  COMMUNICATION.

Thousands, maybe millions, of articles have been written that describe, define, characterize, explain, or expound on this essential durable skill. But what does this combination of five syllables, four vowels, and four consonants mean in 2023? It is the very thread that weaves together an OPPORTUNITY to effectively convey thoughts and actively listen. In turn, the parties can develop or sustain their relationship which is the nucleus of any successful collaboration or outcome. 

Since early human civilization the ability to communicate has afforded the opportunity to work and strive together to achieve common goals. More so as legal professionals, we understand  that communication is vital towards a successful outcome whether personally or professionally. However, many times this seemingly simple skill is taken for granted. With so many variations  and connotations, effective communication can be lost in translation. 

How many times has your well-meaning intention been subverted by miscommunication  or a misunderstanding? A lack of clarity can extinguish a well-meaning encounter before the task,  relationship, or endeavor has begun. Also, as attorneys (and by extension paralegals) we are taught that our job is to win – and often that leads to the misconception that every conversation or subject is a battle to be won. This makes communication that much more important because of the potential difference of a common starting point. 

As we continue to move forward into 2023 let’s consider the elements necessary to effectively convey thoughts and actively listen. 

we “[should not] communicate to be understood,” but rather “so as not to be misunderstood.”

Dr. John Lund

Generally, our Purpose for sharing thoughts or information is to inform or persuade. In 2023, let’s strive to clearly define what is hoped to be gained by you and the listener. As stated by Dr. John Lund1, we “[should not] communicate to be understood,” but rather “so as not to be misunderstood.” A clearly defined purpose will initiate the process towards successful  communication and close the doors of misunderstanding.  

As a litigation paralegal the gravity of correct documents, order, and cadence plays toward a successful presentation for the attorney. During recent trial preparations, I was required to prepare trial binders which involved over 800 pages of trial exhibits. The two-way street of clear communication lent its hand towards a complete task which greatly assisted the attorney’s presentation. 

Even though we speak, listen, translate, and digest words on a daily basis the meaning of the message can easily be lost in translation if not delivered with Tact. How we say what we say may pack more of a punch than the words themselves. Annemieke Meurs-Karels shares “that non verbal cues, perhaps more strongly than our words, “communicate the underlying message ….”2 In that vein, being mindful of our expressions, engagement, and unconscious body language goes a long way. 

Let’s face it – when someone else is talking, very often we’re not really listening to their point or concern.

Lastly, is listening important in communication? As in life in general, in the legal profession listening is not only important but may be the key to effective communication. Let’s face it – when someone else is talking, very often we’re not really listening to their point or concern. Instead, too often we quickly decide that we know their point and immediately focus our  mental energy into formulating our response. When we think about it, this really shouldn’t be that  surprising. As humans we’re hard wired to care more about our stuff – our thoughts, opinions,  rationalizations, feelings, perspectives, etc. than others. 

Listening is not always automatic – it is a skill that requires work and cultivation. This deeper, more engaged and empathetic style of listening is commonly referred to as active listening because it’s just that – active. We should strive to engage the same elements of purpose and tact while actively listening. The purpose being to hear the message with the intention to understand.  Otherwise, passive listening will send a clear message that the listener doesn’t think the other  person is important – not what you want if you are trying to effectively communicate with some  to achieve a result. 

As a trial attorney and litigator for over 30 years, it is clear that an attorney has to actively listen to their client and determine what is important to achieve an ideal outcome. For example, in a Courtroom, active listening is critical during the Voire Dire process of a jury trial. It is a gift  and an unbelievable opportunity for an attorney to communicate, connect, and build trust directly  with a potential juror. If instead, the attorney is doing most of the talking they are wasting an  opportunity to actively listen and communicate directly with the actual people who will be  determining the outcome of their client’s case. 

As we embark on the year 2023 let’s remember the opportunity gained by employing the elements for successful communications. Ebb and flow, give and take, or as Mr. Miyagi said in  Karate Kid, “Wax on wax off,” communication is a two-way street that requires a purpose and tact to effectively convey thoughts and, in turn, actively listen. 

1 Amy Rees Anderson, “Successful Business Communication: It Starts At The Beginning,” 

2Joanna York, BBC, “How ‘non-verbal communication’ is going digital,” November 8, 2022,

After practicing in the San Diego area for over 20 yeas, Joe founded Lavelle Law  Group because he sensed a need for a small personal service law firm that truly cared about their clients. A decade later and he knows it was the right thing to do as LLG has helped so many people and businesses over the years. Joe has been married for 35+ years to the same wonderful lady and they have 2 children. Joe has coached at the youth level in several sports for 20+ years and enjoys volunteering for charities such as the wonderful Challenged Athletes Foundation (based in San Diego) and Amputee  Surf. 

Joe is a AV Preeminent+ Rated lawyer and has been selected a Top San Diego Lawyer and Super Lawyer by his peers more than 10 years in a row. 

Email: joe@lavellelawgroup.com 

Website: www.Lavellelawgroup.com 

Maureen C. Washington is a litigation paralegal with Latham & Watkins –San Diego.  She is an alumna of the ABA-Approved Paralegal Program offered through the University of San Diego School of Law. Maureen’s educational journey has allowed her to obtain credentials as a California Advanced Specialist and NALA Certified and Advanced Certified Paralegal, both in discovery.

As a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and American Bar Association (ABA), Maureen’s mission is to propel the paralegal community into  the future. Currently, she serves as the San Diego Paralegal Association’s (SDPA) Bar  Liaison Director and is also a member of the SDPA NALA Liaison Committee under  the leadership of Kristine Custodio Suero, ACP. 

Email: mcw4341@outlook.com 

Website: www.maureencwashington.com