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Apology redux: Doing it right (and doing it wrong)

Monday, April 5, 2010
posted by Douglas Keene

Beth Foley has a nice article on apology in the current issue of The Jury Expert. She discusses how well-known people exhibit moral hypocrisy in their pseudo-apologies and uses the examples of Eliot Spitzer (bad apology) and Tiger Woods (good apology). Beth is a great trial consultant (and a generally great person) and we like her article.

We like it especially since much of what Beth says agrees with what we’ve said on our blog regarding David LettermanTiger Woods, and, yes, even Eliot Spitzer. We’ve written a couple of papers on this issue also: one inspired by Eliot’s misadventures is downloadable from our website: Defending the Uncivil Client and The Art of Apology (all about what makes a good apology and also available to download at our website but you have to register to get to it!)

Apology is a tricky thing. You have to do it right. And ‘right’ means sincerely and genuinely—or at least appearing sincere and genuine—but, it’s better to really mean it. On CBS’s The Good Wife, Peter (played by Chris Noth) is trying really hard to show sincerity in his requests for forgiveness but we don’t know just yet if he really is sincere or playing the preacher or maybe his wife (Julianna Margulies). This television show (which is a lot of fun to watch) painfully illustrates the disconnect we all fear between what the politician shows us and what is real. As a litigator, you need all the tools possible to help your client apologize correctly (or to repair an early failure) and to present the best possible ‘face’ to a jury and the public. Read Beth’s paper and read ours too.

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