Saturday, March 31, 2018

Use Body Language to Mask Panic

Photo: Karen Neoh
Trials are often minefields, with bombs (whether large or small) exploding in your case just when you thought all was going smoothly. Your witnesses blunder, get trapped by opposing counsel, judges make decisions unfavorable to your case, etc.

But here’s the thing: no matter what is going on, you can’t let jurors know that things aren’t still going your way. And the most common way you let on, is by reacting with surprise. Not good! Jurors feel that you should know everything about the case if you are truly well-prepared, and they tend to evaluate your reaction of surprise as unprofessional. You need to find a way to mask your “Yikes!” if you are to continue to appear credible in the jurors’ eyes.

A primary way of covering your reaction to the unexpected is to use the following specific body language: simply drop your head down a little, to one side, as if thinking something over or consulting your notes. Once you’ve recovered and know where you’re going, simply raise your head, re-connect your eye focus, and resume from where you left off. Jurors will be left with the very credible impression of a lawyer who takes the time to think, rather than the unfortunate and not-credible impression of a lawyer panicking.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Use the Value Embedded in Words to Persuade

If you are to persuade jurors, you must make the case real for them. It can’t be just about facts and figures, yet if you over-dramatize events, your case loses impact. One of the secrets to bringing events to life without resorting to histrionics or melodrama, is to bring vocal color to your words. Color is literally, painting pictures with your voice.

Within any given situation you are describing there will be a few key words that need color, life. All you have to do is make the word sound like what it means. This is much less esoteric than it seems. Technically, you either stretch the word (lengthening) or shorten it. Words such as “break” or “kick” are shortened to give the vocal rendition of a blow. Words such as “abandoned” or “painful” are stretched, lengthened to give them an aspect of suffering.

The word must not however simply be lengthened or shortened. As best you can, put into the word its value. How boring can you make the word “boring” sound? How “non-compliant” can you make the word “non-compliant” sound? How “hurt” can you make the word “hurt” sound? If you really think about what you are saying, you’ll find you do this quite naturally. It is only when we speak without paying attention to the actual words we are using that we lose the dimension of color. Practice making words sound like what they mean and you’ll open up a whole new dimension of jury persuasiveness.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Motive Matters to the Success of Your Case - Always

Whether or not you believe motive is important to your case, motive is everything to jurors. In the absence of your attributing motive, the jurors will do so, and the motive they assign may not be favorable to your client.

This is particularly true in business cases, where the human heart may not seem to play as large a part. For example, a case involving copyright infringement, fraud, or breach of contract, may lead the attorney to focus too narrowly on the legal issues. They forget to bring to light the bigger human picture, yet that is the picture the jurors will focus on: Why was the copyright issued in the first place? Who invented the whatever, what did it mean to them, to their business, their life? How did these other people come to be involved? What’s the story of their connection, their hopes and dreams when they entered the relationship? Why did it fall apart? Why, why, why is a question the jurors will ask over and over.

When you answer these more human questions for the jurors, your case – and your client – become a living, breathing matter of importance to the jurors. It appeals to their hearts and minds in a way that allows them to care. Jurors must care about your client, about your interpretation of the facts, if you are to prevail. Giving them motive goes a long way towards helping jurors care.