By Legal Eagle

Does anyone else hate the use of Powerpoint for legal presentations? Ok, ok, I can see that if you are an engineer or something, it might be very useful to have a presentation of how machinery works or graphs of things or how a chemical process works (or something like that). But law? It’s just a waste of time. I was a bit taken aback the other day when I was actually requested by the recipients of a presentation to provide Powerpoint slides.

Dumbfounded, I asked why on earth they would want such a thing. They looked at me narrowly and with panic in their eyes. “We won’t know where you’re going with your talk! We need to know what headings we should write,” they said.

“You mean otherwise you might have to listen?” I replied. [Yes, I’m already a grumpy old lawyer.] Tsk, tsk, tsk! Law students these days! I think they wanted slides so that they didn’t have to bother taking notes.

This took me back to the dim dark days when I was an Articled Clerk, and we were required to attend breakfast talks on different topics. I am not a morning person. Not happy to begin with.

So you’d turn up yawning to these presentations, and then someone would put on the projector screen and interminable Powerpoint slides would come up. The person would read out exactly what was on the Powerpoint slide, and then move to the next slide.

What was the point of getting up early to watch someone read out Powerpoint slides when they just could have sent them to me? I used to wonder. Sometimes I would have to attach a bulldog clip to my finger just to keep awake. Once I fell asleep anyway despite the bulldog clip. I made a resolution to never use Powerpoint for any presentation made by me.

I particularly hate Powerpoint presentations which feature dumb clipart like this:

I was astounded at the consternation that my intended lack of Powerpoint seemed to produce. I am ashamed to say that I gave into pressure and provided a Powerpoint accompaniment to my presentation. But I should stress that it was minimal. It just sketched out where I was heading with my talk, set out some of the relevant legislation, and had some of my homemade “diagrams” of factual situations of cases. I still drew the diagrams on the whiteboard anyway. Then scribbled all over them to emphasise my point.

I did not put any nasty clipart in my presentation. One has to have some principles. Instead, I put in random pictures of things: a picture of my baby, a drawing I did of a horse etc.

“Why did you put those pictures in your presentation?” I was asked.

I smiled. “No reason other than that I was bored and I hate the usual pictures that you get in Powerpoint.” I was pleased. At least I had kept their attention! Hopefully there was no need for bulldog clips.


  1. KY
    Posted August 11, 2006 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    My usual preference with lectures or seminars is to do a set of outline Powerpoint slides and then a fully written, fairly comprehensive MS-Word note to go with it. The way I see it is that students tend to be obsessed with taking notes and therefore not listen. If I give them comprehensive notes then they would either:

    1. listen; or

    2. sleep.

    I think 1. is preferable to 2. but 2. is still preferable to blindly taking notes (because then they’re still not listening and they’re tiring themselves out at the same time!).

  2. cherry ripe
    Posted August 12, 2006 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I think there was a study recently that showed that Powerpoint makes good lecturers better and bad lecturers worse!

    For my part, when I was lecturing, I found powerpoint to be a necessary evil. It easily doubled my time, but my students were so terrified of not having the powerpoint slides that I gave in. I figured that if I became a more experienced lecturer, I could then move towards abandoning the bloody things.

    I refused to publish them before class, because I felt that I was telling a narrative that needed following and building step by step. This pissed a lot of students off (I also was usually finishing them right up until class began).

    I also added baby photos and video clips, but only during the break. I found that the best thing to do is keep the slides relatively boring, and your explanations and discussions lively. It seems to draw attention back to you.

    Here’s a tip: use your slides to “signpost” rather than explain. Students feel much more comfortable with a kind of lecture geography – which topic are we on, which sub-topic and which point? And questions are good, rather than answers.

    Here’s another tip: the good students will do well no matter what you do, and the bad students won’t. You could stand on your head for an entire lecture, and the good students will continue to come and ask interesting questions. The ones in the middle might be inspired, but many won’t. Much of this depends on how your personality matches theirs. Most people are simply not instant lecturers – it is a skill that is hard-learned.

    Powerpoint is useful for young lecturers, simply because it allows students to feel more secure – just don’t end up madly typing content into slides for days on end – stick to signposts and important points.

    Hope this helps.

2 Trackbacks

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