Last week we looked at one of the limiting beliefs so many of you hold: there is a right way to do this. (This, meaning trial.)
Today’s limiting belief is similar but not quite the same. And that’s the belief that you have to be like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here] to win cases.
It’s soooo tempting to see the “greats” and attempt to mimic their style, thinking that they’ve somehow figured out the way to win, and if you mimic what they’re doing you can win too.
Here’s the mind-blowing truth: the reasons the “greats” are great is because they’ve learned how to let go of their limiting beliefs and just show up as their real-deal selves.
Want to know what Gerry Spence is better at than anyone else on the planet? Being Gerry Spence.
Yes, you need to have command of the law and be well versed in various trial methods and techniques. I’m not suggesting that “authenticity” is all you need at trial. But so many of you believe that if you just had [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here]’s style, personality, dare I use the word…charisma…THEN you’d have it made in the shade.
You don’t need to be anyone but yourself. Working with as many of you as I do, I cringe as I watch you attempt to scrub yourself clean of any perceived faults all while bending yourself into a pretzel in an attempt to show up like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here].
Stop. Stop the madness.
YOU ARE ENOUGH. Not only are you enough, when you attempt to be like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here] you overlook your most powerful weapon at trial: your uniqueness.
Trial is a battle over credibility. The most credible person wins. What is the foundation of credibility? Authenticity. Show up like you. Yes, keep learning and practicing. But stop believing that you have to be like [insert-famous-trial-attorney-here] to win. You don’t. You just need to be you.
Jurors are hostages, but so are you. You are a hostage of fear.
In order to conquer your fear, we need to look at some limiting beliefs that are getting in your way. Today we’re looking at a limiting belief I find SO many trial attorneys hold:
There’s a right way to do this. (This, meaning trial.)
Not a day goes by that I don’t get an email of some sort or another claiming that THEIR method is the key to winning at trial.
I see the same thing in my private work with clients: there’s always some new method clients want to use whether that’s Nick Rowley’s brutal honesty or Keith Mitnik’s Don’t Eat the Bruises or whatever else has just hit the market.
There’s nothing wrong with trying new things at trial. There’s a lot of great stuff out there that’s geared toward helping you increase your skill as a trial attorney. Taking advantage of these things isn’t the problem. The problem is the belief that there is a formula out that will teach you the ONE RIGHT WAY TO DO THIS.
Uh oh. Here comes the bad news.
It doesn’t exist.
And believing it does causes all sorts of problems.
First and foremost, it causes you stress, in addition to costing you money and time.
But more importantly, believing there is a formula trains your instincts out of you. Instincts are felt in the body, not the brain. Yes, those messages are sent to the brain from the body, allowing you the choice of whether or not to take action on those instincts, but instincts occur in the body.
Yet most trial attorneys view their body as a way to just carry their heads around. You’re not tuned into all the body wisdom because you’re so focused on all the “formulas” floating around out there instead of dipping into the wisdom you already possess.
Trial work is hard. Formulas are easy. They promise an easy fix. In addition, they give you a way out: if you fail, you can blame the method, right? It’s the method’s fault, that’s all. So then the search begins anew for the next best thing allowing you to bypass the truly hard work that trial demands: working on yourself.
Here’s what’s missing: MASTERY.
Most trial attorneys flit from one thing to another, try a method, then drop it. Then they move onto the next thing.
It takes work and practice to master a skill. You have limited time, energy and money. Instead of sampling from the buffet of choices, why not decide, once and for all, that there is no right way to do this and focus on mastering whatever it is you’re learning?
Drop the reliance on formulas. Stop chasing the shiny new thing. Focus on becoming the best you possible and mastering the skills needed along the way. This is how you’ll begin to grow your confidence and let go of your fear.
Over the past several blogs we’ve been looking at how trial threatens jurors. Today we’re going to talk about how trial threatens you as well.
Jurors are hostages yes, but you're a hostage too.
What has taken you hostage? Fear.
Fear of losing, fear of screwing up, and fear of the jurors themselves. These fears have the potential to derail you at trial.
We’ve talked about how trial threatens jurors in five areas: STATUS, CERTAINTY, AUTONOMY, RELATEDNESS and FAIRNESS. But trial also threatens YOU in these five areas.
Let’s start with STATUS. As a trial attorney, your status is in toilet. As far as the jurors are concerned, you are the reason why they are there in the first place. You’re the reason for their imprisonment. Never mind that you’d never have to be here if the other side had taken responsibility in the first place. But the jurors don't get that. They think the reason they're here is because of you.
And to add insult to injury, you're a plaintiff attorney. You are there to ask the jurors for money. Talking about money in our society is taboo; the fact that you’re asking jurors to award it, much less talk about it makes your status decrease.
Not to mention, you may screw everything up! What if you forget your opening? What if the jurors don't talk to you? Jurors are forced to speak in public, but so are you. This can threaten status.
In terms of CERTAINTY, jurors don’t have much, but neither do you. You have to decide which jurors are "good" and which jurors are “bad.” In addition, there’s no certainty about the right “method” to use. Should you stand in front of the jury like Nick Rowley and ask them to be brutally honest, or should you ask them to share their fears, by promising to share yours like Gerry Spence? Or maybe you should talk about their passions like Don Keenan. Who knows? Trial threatens your certainty in a variety of ways.
In terms of AUTONOMY, trial threatens a juror’s autonomy by forcing them to participate. But it also threatens your autonomy. How? You don't get to decide the verdict, jurors do! You have zero control over how they decide your case. It’s all in the juror’s hands.
In terms of RELATEDNESS, jurors don't know anyone; you, opposing counsel, the judge or even each other. But you also don't know the jurors. And if we’re being completely honest, maybe you don't want to know them. These people have the power to destroy your case. Many of them already view you negatively, why open yourself up to that?
Finally, in terms of FAIRNESS, being called for jury duty certainly seems unfair to most jurors, but trial can also feel unfair to you. Think about it: you've worked up your case for months, if not years, and trial requires that you deliver it into the hands of amateurs who don't have any specialized training or knowledge. That can definitely feel unfair.
Depressed yet? I hope not. I’m sharing this with you not to depress you, but to show you that you and the jurors are in the same boat.
Trial activates your threat response. For the reasons I listed above as well as a myriad of other reasons. When you stand in front of this hostile group of jurors, the natural response is to want to close up. Yet trial demands the opposite. It demands that you open up and become vulnerable.
No one gets into trial work because it's a safe, easy, bet. It's the opposite. It's difficult. It's hard to do.
In upcoming blogs I’ll help you release your fear. But until then, relax in the knowledge that you and the jurors are in the same boat. And more importantly: you hold the keys to both your freedom and the juror’s. Once you free yourself, the jury will follow.
Sari has been dubbed the "Attorney Whisperer" because of her unique ability to help attorneys communicate their real selves.