Fluency is an honest signal. Get a guy talking about something he knows. Notice the pace he’ll use. Each person has her own style of speaking. Most of us, though, talk in a free-flowing manner when discussing something we know. If it’s something we know really well and are passionate about, we’ll talk quickly and excitedly about that. That fluency is an honest signal. So now what?
You wanna know if your associate really understands the legal issues? Or if he’s been slacking, but reviewed just enough to give a bullshit answer? Let him start giving his bullshit answer. Note the tone and pace of the conversation. Then start asking questions.
Establish a pace. Observe. This means you can’t be a phuckhead who keeps interrupting. Just listen.
Aha! How the tone will change! The pace will slow down. Long pauses. Now you know that your associate is ill-prepared.
Even if you don’t want to interrogate people, it’s a great way to see where the weaknesses are in your arguments. Let’s say you have a huge brief. The guy who wrote the brief wants to talk about the stuff he knows cold. It’s the stuff he doesn’t know cold that will kill you. How do you know what you don't know?
You can determine how much (or how little) a person knows by noting the change in tempo of the conversation. It works really well.
It even works on yourself. If you're avoiding an issue, or getting frustrated when questioned about an issue: You don't know the issue.
You can lie to yourself. But fluency is an honest signal. If you lack fluency, you lack mastery.
Always look for fluency.