After 2000 years, the formal system for reasoning, developed by the father of western logic, is still relevant today. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric…would assist trial advocates in most effectively arguing their position and, thereby, advocating for their clients,” according to Krista McCormack in her publication, “Ethos, Pathos, And Logos: The Benefits Of Aristotelian Rhetoric In The Courtroom” (Washington University Jurisprudence Review). McCormack states, “The advocate’s message must be accurate, factual, and legally adequate, but also absorbing, captivating, and emotionally forceful.”

Attorney Tim Caiello recently included McCormack’s research in his presentation, The Art of Persuasion, to the M&G attorney staff meeting.  Caiello provided memorable explanations and simple strategies for effectively using ethos, pathos, and logos. 

Ethos is who you are and functions to establish credibility. “Character counts”, explained Caiello. To build trust with your audience, it is vital to take the time to explain how you arrived at your point of view and why it is the just and moral view.  When assessing the ethos of an argument, Caiello provided a few key principles to consider: 

  • How reliable is the research?
  • Has the information been documented correctly?
  • Is the diction and word choice appropriate for the audience and purpose?
  • Have the documents been presented in a polished and professional manner?

Logos can be defined as what you say and the soundness of your argument. Caiello stated, “Logic Lasts”, and those that provide a clear and specific thesis with substantial evidence will “have their words lingering in the minds of the audience” even after they finish speaking. To maximize effectiveness, Caiello explained, the brief must be “logical and arranged in a well-reasoned order”. 

Lastly, pathos is how you present your words. “Passion Pulls”. Caiello conveyed this phrase with the example of the “Trial of the Century”. Pathos helps to focus the audience’s mind to your conclusion and breaks down barriers the audience may have to accept your position.  While it is important to not be overly dramatic or make the audience angry, the speaker should: 

  • Know the  audience
  • Be passionate about the topic
  • Employ strategic non verbals and communication techniques
  • Assess how the audience experiences the message

Caiello finished with the rhetorical triangle – a  clear image of the balanced use of the three principles  to achieve success.