Like most attorneys, Pat Vital has more than a few things on her mind. When am I due in court? Where are my notes for the cross-examination? How am I going to remember the points of my closing argument?
On any given day, Vital, a family attorney, could be preparing for a trial, strategizing the marketing of her solo practice and interacting with her clients through various media, all while juggling personal obligations and the needs of loved ones with her efforts to maintain a healthy quality of life and positive outlook.
There’s rarely a moment when Vital isn’t being bombarded with facts and particulars, or isn’t required to store and process a wealth of data related to a variety of matters.
She’s not alone. As the nearly 800 members of the Chattanooga Bar Association can attest, the legal profession is information intensive, whether one is a litigator or a transactional attorney. Unfortunately, law schools don’t offer memory management courses, leaving lawyers to devise their own techniques for keeping the stack of information that continually grows taller in their brain from toppling over.
With this in mind, Vital was one of the first Chattanooga attorneys to sign up for an upcoming seminar she says she believes will help her win the memory battle: “Making your case with a better memory” featuring Paul Mellor, president of Success Links, a memory training company.
A finalist in the 2008 USA Memory Championship, Mellor has spent the last 14 years training lawyers and other professionals to improve their lives by strengthening their memory. He’s written extensively on memory improvement, conducted seminars at bar associations throughout the U.S. and says everyone can enhance their brainpower.
“I talk with people who say, ‘I’m getting old,’ or ‘I’m bad with names.’ But they can remember where they were when 9/11 happened or when JFK was assassinated,” Mellor points out. “If they can remember that, why can’t they remember someone’s name or a shopping list?”
Mellor explains people can use easy-to-learn memory-empowering techniques. “When people try to remember information, they usually stack it. For example, they make a list of things. But a stack eventually falls over,” he says. “I teach people how to link information. To remember something new, I connect it to something I already know. That takes stress off my brain.”
As a simple demonstration, Mellor connects the first five presidents of the United States to anchors he’s already created. Using mental pictures of a washing machine, apples, a chef’s hat, mud and money, he’s able to remember the names of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.
This is child’s play compared to some of the demonstrations Mellor does during his seminars. At a recent workshop at a police academy, he had a participant scribble a 40-digit number on a dry erase board. A few minutes later, Mellor was able to recite the entire string frontwards and backwards and was even able to skip every other number.
During other seminars, Mellor has remembered the names of over 90 people in less than 15 minutes and recalled the exact order of a shuffled deck of playing cards after less than a three-and-a-half-minute review.
“When I start a seminar, I want to build credibility. But by the end of the day, I’ve shown everyone in the room how to do the same things,” he says. “It’s not about me pulling a rabbit out of my hat; it’s about learning the right techniques. Everything I do in the beginning, they’re able to do at the end.”
Mellor says the techniques he teaches can help an attorney think quickly and clearly without fumbling for notes, recall facts and figures from research and interviews when arguing a case in court and recall important information about a jury and use it to win cases.
“Imagine saying to a client who’s come into your office, ‘Hello, Mrs. Henderson. This is what you’re dealing with, here’s our game plan, and I need this, this and this,” he says. “Or, during a deposition, recalling that Sheila said she ran off the road and into a neighbor’s tree, and remembering the page number on which her statement is recorded.”
Mellor was living in Richmond, Virginia, and working in the insurance business when he became interested in the subject of memory. While browsing a local library for a speech topic, he found a book he remembered his mother reading when he was a teenager: “The Memory Book” by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. He pulled the book off the shelf, started reading and was fascinated.
“I’d always thought people were born with either a good or a bad memory,” he continues. “So, I gave a brief talk on memory at the Toastmasters Club, and that sparked a real passion in me.”
Mellor initially spoke to the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs in Richmond. One thing led to another, and he quit his day job and started speaking on memory full time. To date, he’s given seminars in nearly every state, published dozens of booklets and launched a website that’s taking his message to the masses.
Mellor says he does forget something from time to time, as he’s only human, but that at 59 years old, his memory is better than when he was 16. “At 97, my father drives the library van and is very active. My mother is doing well at 93, so I have good genes,” he acknowledges. “But I truly believe memory improves with age.”
Mellor presented a seminar titled “Memory Mastery for Lawyers” to the CBA in 2011. The world has changed since then, with smart phones and other high-tech devices creating more distractions and serving as a memory crutch.
“People tell me they don’t know their mother’s phone number; their phone just calls her when they say, ‘Call mom,’” Mellow says. “We’re less reliant on memory than we used to be.”
Mellor says it’s time for people to begin using their brains again to remember things. “The ancient Greeks and Romans depended on their memory because they didn’t have pen and paper,” he says. “Memory was important many years ago, and it’s still important today. Your phone is not always going to bail you out.”
Mellor will present “Making your case with a better memory” Thursday, Oct. 11 at Baker Donelson. Registration begins in the Community Room on the 19th floor of the Republic Center at 1 p.m., and the seminar will last from 1:15-4:30 p.m. The cost is $115 for CBA members and $150 for non-members. Attorneys who complete the seminar will earn three hours of DUAL CLE credit.
Vital is looking forward to learning the techniques she says will make a difference in her practice.
“As attorneys in potentially high-stress roles, we all can gain positive input from CLEs focused on memory enhancement, training and improvement,” she says. “Plus, let’s not leave out the impact stress and the aging process can have on our memories. I’m always eager to gain CLEs while at the same time being exposed to immediately useful learning.”